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Young Again

Vionnet Celebrates a Rebirth at 100

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Toni Garrn and Karlie Kloss   
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Anyone looking for a divining rod to the ups and downs of fashion's heritage houses would do well to keep an eye on Pamela Golbin: It seems that every time the chief fashion curator of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs stages an exhibition, a house is reborn. She did Schiaparelli back in 2004. And the blockbuster Madeleine Vionnet: Puriste de la Mode three years ago was proof that the name still holds serious firepower 100 years on. "It's hard to remain indifferent when you're looking at perfection," Golbin remarked last night at the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild during the cocktail that celebrated the house's centennial. That perfection is what the house sought to channel with its new demi-couture line, separate entirely from the collection shown on the ready-to-wear runway on Friday, which debuted at the black-tie affair.

" 'Daunted' does not even begin to express how I feel! I'm literally shaking," exclaimed Vionnet's new co-owner, Goga Ashkenazi, as she greeted guests including Karlie Kloss, Anja Rubik, Dolores Chaplin, Ne-Yo, and Natalia Vodianova. Ashkenazi, who left her family in London and took up residence in Milan to tackle this project, said that she had stayed up until all hours the night before styling the collection, her best friend/mentor Eva Cavalli at her side. "I was always top of my class in sewing as a girl. Now I am on the floor, cutting and sewing, trying to learn as much as I can—I'm loving it. I feel like I was born to do this."

After the runway presentation of 20 looks designed by the in-house team, a film homage to modern dance pioneer (and Vionnet contemporary) Isadora Duncan underscored the label's return to its roots, and a performance by singer Lianne La Havas rounded out the evening. Vionnet has been no stranger to turbulence in recent years, and whether the fashion alchemy takes hold in its second century remains a question of time. Noted La Chambre Syndicale's Didier Grumbach, "It's never just a matter of talent—there's loads of talent out there. You also need lots and lots of positive energy."

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