"What did you see in the collection?" fired back an exhilarated Alexandre Vauthier after his show, answering the customary thematic question with one of his own. There was, in that case, a wildness to these silky silhouettes on which the lights slithered, from the very first forest green eel-skin dress and subsequent crocodile skin skirt to a sparkling saharienne playsuit and the heady-scent of moussy tuberose — as always by buddy Francis Kurkdjian — being pumped out in the venue. This was a safari of sorts, perhaps, an adventure in new territories that he was eager to reach.
"I went back to the fundamentals of my work, in a very instinctive manner. Backs were more intricate, the cuts all that more precise," he offered after being tackled by a whirlwind of white fur, his long-time friend Emmanuelle Seigner. What Vauthier is doing every season is exploring sensuality, and how that body-awareness is expressed. If the silhouettes feel more Tom Ford than Donatella Versace, it's from the tailoring. How else would he have achieved that glorious tuxedo dress? His clothes reflect that in all their skin-baring, thigh-revealing, chest-uncovering glory. Grasping his signatures, he delved into the familiar: lingerie-style bodices, strategically placed cutouts and construction. "I wanted to challenge my own work methods, work out new volumes, use new materials," the designer said.
On the evidence of this collection, his aesthetic certainly seems to benefit greatly from these experiments. From afar, it's all about the scarcity of fabric, but it would be forgetting that the couturier's most singular pursuit is technique. Couture serves as a playground to road-test new skills and materials. Again on the eel-skin: usually reserved for small leather goods, it can't be ironed. There is no doubt some redevelopment of that will appear in his ready-to-wear shortly. Transparent constructs of panels and inserts — throwbacks to his time as artistic director at La Perla — appeared in various forms, each more intricate than the last, and were inherited from the research done for his previous couture. Beyond these considerations, the evolution that is most palpable here is the streamlining that Vauthier operated in conceiving this collection. Layers weren't piled on; a geometric cut-out frock was topped nonchalantly with a light jacket. A glistening raincoat suggested sultriness, rather than displaying it.
Still, there are those who will reduce him to a purveyor of abbreviated frocks. But that would be ignoring that he can't be reduced to a deep V-neck and sheer panels when his razor-sharp jackets are as sought after as the Holy Grail. Through the necessary trajectory adjustments of his career, he has scarcely lost a bold face name. Rihanna, Bey and Seigner have followed through. In this new chapter, there is no doubt that more will follow, perhaps as soon as the Grammys. On his sweatshirt, a varsity A was emblazoned. A for Alexandre, but also for A-game, which was definitely what the newly minted Grand Couturier showed tonight.