In every couture collection, Ulyana Sergeenko tells a story. This time, it was a reimagining of a ride on the Orient Express. Sergeenko's new heroine not only crossed borders (the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), but also, in a manner of speaking, cross-dressed, borrowing clothes from the men she met on her travels and mixing them with her own more feminine attire. "She could be a movie star," Sergeenko said, "but shes definitely a femme fatale."
It's the kind of trip that John Galliano would've once taken us on at Dior. He was a virtuoso, and Sergeenko is a couture arriviste, but damned if she isn't determined. The train car set and sound effects…the all-star hair and makeup team of Orlando Pita and Pat McGrath…the tubeteika-inspired hats made by milliner Stephen Jones…and especially the made-in-Russia workmanship of the clothes. At a preview a couple of days before the show, Sergeenko was keen to point out the hand-painted beaded fringe suspended from the back of a silk chemisier gown, or the way the stripes on a sheath weren't a print but rather intarsias of narrow bands of silk. It was impressive stuff in close-up, as were the hand-embroidered cotton buds (a nod to Kazakhstans major crop) that decorated many of the looks.
With Raf Simons ensconced at Dior and Karl Lagerfeld putting sneakers on the Chanel catwalk, couture has taken on a more modern tone, and Sergeenko's destination-oriented approach starts to look old-fashioned. That said, she's worked hard to lighten up her constructions since her debut four seasons ago. She's still at the beginning of her couture journey.