Trust a Slavic soul to romanticize even the darkest, dreariest periods of their history, as was the case at Ulyana Sergeenko today. As guests - featuring as always, a veritable yearbook of fashion's power players - filed into one of the many rooms in the river-level of the Palais de Tokyo, they were treated to a monumental swan, all harsh edges and seemingly hacked out of the surrounding concrete in the manner of Eastern European steel statuary. Although it may feel out of place with the eventual outcome of the Soviet era, the story the Russian designer told encapsulated the hopes of evolution and dreams for a better future that the revolution carried. Of course, in the context of couture, where dresses can cost more than an average employee makes in a year, egalitarian notions are laughable.
Uprising peasants and stark lines of propaganda art... Bare-chested (alright, clad in sheer tulle) and proud like incarnations of the nation... Workers' overalls reinvented in wheat embroidered silks and a leather coat that looked right out of the approved wardrobe of some secret police... Why not? Sergeenko needs not make any apology for the fantasy world she and her fellow style Czarinas indulge in. But learning her métier by emulating the designs she favors and the couturiers she admires, Sergeenko sometimes falls squarely into a pastiche of couture as it was in the time of Lacroix and Galliano.
No doubt is the craftsmanship still as exquisite as ever, as Sergeenko is always eager to showcase the heritage skills of her homeland, and that's not hard to see in the beautiful transition of colors and materials - oh, those terrific coats at the opening -, or on a smaller scale, in the inlaid clutches inspired by the granite mosaics of the Moscow metro. And the cuts are her most realist yet, dresses cut close to the body for a femme fatale effect or trousers fit to conquer any society event. But the apparent schizophrenia of body proud evening gowns and happy Socialist notions left the audience quite discombobulated. Perhaps the reason why her finale was met with a very light smattering of applause? That said, it wasn't hard to imagine some of these outfits cut back into ready-to-wear capsules for her retailers around the world. Those fuzzy sweaters and trousers, for example, could do quite well on retail racks.