The Chambre Syndicale, the French authority that controls which designers can show during couture week, invited the Lebanese-born designer Elie Saab to show among its exclusive ranks this year. That means Saab was presenting his wares in the most competitive, heavily scrutinized fashion arena, where the trophies aren’t necessarily awarded for commercial success, but for the highest standards of handwork, combined with astonishing feats of imagination.
By those measures, Elie Saab’s dresses fell short. Short by the tape measure, too. This was a one-note show about very, very abbreviated, glittery dressing that repeated itself in a mind-numbingly repetitive parade. There were small sheer dresses with a side trail and maybe a chiffon caftan on top, tight-bodiced long dresses, and bodices cut with slashed chiffon pants beneath, but nothing that could interrupt the view of maximum nakedness. There were coin beltscoin bras evenamong it all, but no amount of festooning could obscure the crudeness of the spangled handwork, which was particularly jarring in a week when the embroidery experts of Paris have surpassed themselves elsewhere.
A few furs suggested that maybe the designer’s muse could occasionally feel the chill, thus exposed. One floor-length cardigan, which began with mesh at the shoulders and progressed into fur at the hem, looked his nearest stab at couture-type thinking. Saab has been fortunate in having his name elevated by Halle Berry’s choice of Oscar dresses. She might have a tough time picking something from this lineup, though; with its unrelieved bareness and monotony, this collection verged more on red light than red carpet.