India. At the Marchesa show today, you didn't need a PhD in South Asian studies to guess that designers Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman had the land of sitars, Bollywood, and saris on their minds this season. And who could blame them? There are rich sartorial traditions in India, and as Chapman pointed out after the show, a key one—sumptuous hand-embroidery—is already in the Marchesa DNA. The reference made a surprisingly easy fit with Marchesa's red-carpet maximalism.
And this collection was pretty over-the-top, even for Marchesa. Craig and Chapman's approach to design has pretty much always been, Why use a key when ten sticks of dynamite will open the door just fine? And here they had a whole new vocabulary of embellishment to play with—elaborate threadwork, sari draping, fringe. Lots of fringe. India also provided them an eloquent palette, loveliest in looks of chartreuse, peacock, bordeaux, or eggplant tones tipped with gold. And when Craig and Chapman integrated those elements into their own aesthetic—rather than merely aping the Bollywood look straight—they conjured some knockouts: for instance, a strapless bordeaux-color dress with a hand-painted gold border, or a stunning sculptured sari gown.
Some of the looks here were a little off, though. Granted, Marchesa traffics in dream moments, but that doesn't give them a pass for overcooked gowns impossible to walk in, and it doesn't entirely explain loony conceits such as full-length tulle skirts worn over bedazzled shorts. (The latter looked cool for a second, but then you thought: Hey, wait—that's ridiculous. And the spell wore off.) The main issue here, though, was that Craig and Chapman's friendly obsession with India entailed too much mimicry and not enough interpretation.