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April 20 2014

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Balmain + Valentino + Kawakubo = ?

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Olivier Saillard, the newly appointed director of Paris’ Palais Galliera, the city’s fashion museum, has made his absurdist fashion performances something of a seasonal tradition during Couture week. They’ve ranged from presentations of the fictitious archives of a mythical couture house to a reading of “Shopping” poetry; this season, he mounted his most ambitious—a mix-and-match fashion show, “Morceaux Choisis”—with the help of his students from Geneva’s Haute École d’Art et Design.

Over the course of a term, Saillard taught his pupils to become “fashion detectives using style forensics to discover the origins of contemporary looks.” In other words? Identify fashion signatures—the Gaultier cone bra, the Valentino ruffle, Christophe Decarnin’s threadbare military looks for Balmain—and create them as toiles (muslin samples). Then, for a crowd that included Christian Lacroix and Suzy Menkes at the Rue du Mail shop yesterday, Saillard and his students assembled them—all at once—on a willing guinea pig/model, the wasp-waisted former YSL couture model Violeta Sanchez. Onto Sanchez were piled Comme des Garçons-inspired lumps and bumps, Westwood-ish hourglass jackets, fashion jokes inspired by “Martin Marginal.” Le professeur composed and recited show notes-as-narration. (“Impressionist redingote found at Martine C’est Si Bon, on a freelance contract for an unlimited time span,” went one, a tribute to the host, Martine Sitbon.)

“Fashion pundits have increasingly used the term DNA to describe a label’s design roots,” Saillard explained before the show. “This has turned fashion reporting into an almost forensic activity and the danger is that when a brand tries too hard to express its DNA, the style often falls in a rut.” No fear of that here.

Photo: Vincent Lappartient

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