“It’s a glamorous woman taking a voyage through the Eastern republics of the former Soviet Union, like Turkmenistan, Khazhstan and Ouzbekistan,” explained Ulyana Sergeenko in her temporary showroom in Paris, as her team bustled around models to make the final fittings for her Summer 2014 couture show. “She’s looking for adventure, and for fun.” On the wall, portraits of Marlene Dietriech and glamorous train travels were juxtaposed with the paintings of Russian painter Nicholas Roerich, portraits of aristocratic males and traditional imagery of the region.
The inside of the Espace Cambon was re-imagined as the cabin of a long-haul train, ready to whisk Sergeenko’s ever glamorous audience away. What was most striking was how many had adopted variations on the street style Czarina’s favorite looks: the ankle length full skirt, turbans and flowery headgear, the dramatic flair in everything.
While her more voluminous dresses – inspired by the shape of cotton flowers, she said during the preview – were very much something that her fandom will love but wouldn’t translate well, her eye for a contemporary silhouette best came forward in fluid layered silhouettes. Still, the craftsmanship is worth giving the collection a good look. A striped silk dress looks like a print, but is actually painstakingly composed of strips of fabric. The quilting on an emerald crop bustier features the luck-bringing birds, beloved in many Eastern European cultures. For that little camera-ready touch, minute suitcases and embroidered bed-roll clutches were the accessory du jour. A pair of masculine looks – companions or coolies, the jury’s still out – offered a counterpoint to her succession of femme fatales.
All in all, there is a progression here that speaks Sergeenko has a superb eye for styling, that is plenty evident now with folkloric elements taking a backseat, and is able to translate this increasingly well into a collection that shows a coherent adherence to her first love: beautiful, striking things that make good use of heirloom craftsmanship. And for this alone, Sergeenko’s work deserves its airtime.