Bringing fashion houses back from the grave is not an easy task. Especially given today’s Insta-landscape of surface-level distraction. It’s only really a niche audience who will ever recall certain heritage house rules anyway, and whether they can or should be adhered to, to make them relevant once more, is another story. But one can try. And Goga Ashkenazi, the Kazakh-Russian businesswoman, is certainly doing that at Vionnet.
The Vionnet Fall/Winter 2017 ready-to-wear show in Milan (by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION)
“I tried to interpret Vionnet in my earlier career in a more rigid way because I thought the patterns were of more importance but then realised fluidity is something really important for us,” said an enthusiastic Ashkenazi after the show, which made its debut in Milan this season, usually showing in Paris. “Today we are a made in Italy brand, everything you see here in made here. Of course we have a moral centre in Paris, we are Vionnet Paris, but I feel very at home in Milan and this time everything just flowed, I couldn’t be happier.”
It is a slightly odd one, the move, but for Ashkenazi, who moved to Milan for the brand, it made sense personally and professionally. “Vionnet used to work with Italian artists and the culture and art of Italy and France are intertwined,” she reasoned.
At Vionnet, the idea of intertwining is one she’s exploring. Because we all know Vionnet for its bias cuts and its draping, goddess gowns. It’s a DNA that is as specific as red carpet dressing, except here it’s not about sequins and shine. So how to make the brand modern? Ashkenazi added flashes of neon. “Our classical dresses with a touch of today,” she described. And there were jeans and shearling jackets and a shirt dress among the line-up too. “A break in the styles, the modern world,” she said. But it’s tricky. Because those pieces without context, without those dresses framing them, the setting of a show, could be by any label and thus their role a little defunct. Of course you’d be corrected on that when it comes to their technical construction. “The shearling coats, even the jeans, are cut on the bias, so there is a fluidity, those shearling coats are very modern,” pointed out Ashkenazi.
But, really, Vionnet is to most a dress kind of brand. It was interesting to see these additions among the collection, which clearly can’t waver all that much from the Vionnet classics. That would indeed be wrong and without them the brand would lose its raison d’etre. But whether these daywear wardrobe pieces of today it entirely work, not sure. But there’s no denying the gowns are high octane and the technical know-how that’s gone into them is special.
Birds of paradise inspired the collection and Ashkenazi made the link between their glamour and power to modern women of today. “Self-confident each one [the birds], each one a character of a lady that moves together in step with modernity.” Cue those neon flashes and the addition of the aforementioned wardrobe pieces. “It’s all meant to be unusual and classic and exotic and of course respecting our beautiful history.”