July 03, 2007
Elie Saab's show was a silver-screen moment that felt like a feature-length movie played on an unending loop. It was a collection of 55 mostly silver and gray evening dresses, with a bit of black for good measure, done with Deco spangles, strapless corsetry, and much reiteration in the one-shouldered goddess/sari department. While there's nothing wrong, per se, with taking a narrow field and exploring it in depth, this performance seemed more like catalog than couture. Where Saab went wrong was in contravening an unwritten code that distinguishes couturiers from merely serviceable dressmakers. That is, every single outfit should be special in its own right, and make a woman feel that, if she chooses it, she will stand out from fellow clients who might also turn up on the same evening. No matter how much slaved-over beading, pleating, and other minute handwork went into this collection, the onslaught of repetition thoroughly undermined it. There is a place for high glamour, even a role for design that is not too challenging, in couture. But to take Saab's movie reference to its logical conclusion, he would do well to learn that a compelling story is far better told when the extraneous footage hits the cutting-room floor.