Zuhair Murad showed his Fall ready-to-wear collection as a presentation against a backdrop of naked branches studded with bloodred roses. Sure, it made for dramatic photos, but when your reputation is so inextricably linked to the red carpet, why not just roll one out and put the dresses in their natural environment?
Murad was intent on conveying the message of "Gothic Renaissance," which he said included flowers painted by Jan van Eyck (never mind that the fifteenth-century Flemish artist is better known for his portrait of a turbaned man or a married couple named Arnolfini). Art history quibbles aside, jewel-toned flowers were at the heart of this collection, whether as elaborate sequined motifs or as printed clusters on a satin minidress. They were most interesting, however, on brocade tuxedo pants traced down the sides with black jersey and paired with a diaphanous chiffon blouse. It's easy to forget that Murad can—and does—do more than fancy frocks.
Add him to the long list of designers showing eveningwear with high necks, long sleeves, and lean silhouettes (as if in compromise, Murad exposed a plot of skin from the back or used panels of black polka-dot tulle for transparency). So to his credit, he's picking up on a prevailing look and not just putting out glamour for glamour's sake.
Murad had already explored bold, embellished florals in his Fall '13 Couture collection, and one of those dresses ended up on Kristen Stewart last September. On one hand, she's an unlikely ambassador for the brand. But Murad explained that this collection was all about the split personality: white guipure lace versus black leather, angel versus demon. Fashion doesn't need to be so binary, though. It can make as strong a statement by exploring the middle ground.