PARIS: Fake fur and authentic celebrities got all the attention at Jean Paul Gaultier's fall-winter collection, while Elie's Saab couture reached creative heights by channeling Chinese mysticism during the final day of fall-winter 2019 couture displays.
Amid mysterious clouds of Persian blue mist, Elie Saab fashioned up a standout couture collection Wednesday using the symbolism of China.
The Lebanese designer reimagined traditional Chinese drawings through embroideries with sequins, paillettes and sparkle that depicted fauna and flora; elements, the house said, that represent powerful protective spirits in Eastern legend.
"Nature, through mystical creatures and divine characters, sparked the curiosity of the designer, inspiring him to translate them into his very own art," it added.
Long diaphanous tulle, velvet and chiffon trains brought a magical romance to Saab's bread-and-butter silhouette of sexy, cinched waist gowns. Models with decorated tiaras walked to Asian traditional music.
There was some sophisticated and thoughtful fashion designs amid the show production — for instance, the famed Chinese traditional dress, the Cheongsam, was reimagined in a light tuxedo-style with a provocatively open bust.
SUSTAINABILITY IN FASHION
The fashion industry can be a polluting one, as it puts a myriad of people on airplanes across the world for fashion seasons that promote clothes to be discarded as soon as they become passe.
But there are some moments of ecological reflection.
One initiative at Elie Saab had front row editors impressed.
This season, there were no program notes on the seats, ones which often comprise wads of thick, color-printed photos and detailed texts, and often end up in the trash as soon as the critics have finished their reviews.
In their place Wednesday was a giant — and mysterious — barcode on each invitation.
It provoked bemusement from invitees. Each guest was instructed by Saab's staff to hover their phone camera over the barcode, and then an option automatically appeared to load up the notes electronically to a web browser, saving plenty of trees in the process.
Sheikha Alyazia’s ‘mishmash’ of ancient and modern
Inside the Emirati artist’s inaugural solo exhibition in London, ‘I Met a Traveler From an Antique Land’
Updated 23 July 2019
LONDON: You are searching for treasure. Several potential locations are marked with an ‘x’ on your map. You move methodically from site to site, always to be met with disappointment — never striking gold. Are you, in following trails set by others, missing the treasure ‘hidden’ in plain view?
This is one of the conundrums posed in the artworks of Sheikha Alyazia Bint Nahyan Al-Nahyan, whose inaugural solo exhibition in London presented a thought-provoking range of work fusing the ancient past with modern life.
Her “Mishmash Trails” featured cave-like shapes cut in marble, with the treasure taking the form of imagined ancient eastern coins, reflecting Arab, Roman and Phoenician influences. She described the coins, embedded in the marble, as symbolic of the great treasures buried in secret locations that were sought out and fought over by many.
Al-Nahyan named her exhibition — held at Pi Artworks from June 25 to July 7 — with the opening line of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous poem “Ozymandias”: “I met a traveler from an antique land.” (Ozymandias is the Greek name for the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II.)
The poem, published in 1818, imagines a meeting between the narrator and a traveller who describes a ruined statue lying in the desert. The description of the statue is a meditation on the fragility of human power and on the effects of time: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings/Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!/Nothing beside remains: round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
“Maybe a positive thing from looking to the past is that it proves it is only human to repeat the mistake and the lesson,” Al-Nahyan told Arab News. “Studying the past is a realization of human nature, individually or in groups, right or wrong. This natural feeling of connectivity is something I usually aim for.”
There is humor in some of her work — particularly the depictions of old commercial airline advertisements from the 1950s and 60s with ancient figures superimposed in the frames. They certainly give the viewer pause for thought about how much our world has changed in the short time since air travel became widely available.
The exhibition’s curator, Janet Rady, said of Al-Nahyan: “She has been practicing art from a very young age and is self-taught. She is incredibly talented, and you see this in the wide range of her work, which uses all sorts of different media. I can’t necessarily call her a pop artist or a collage artist or an installation artist; she is in fact all of these things, but it is the concept behind her work — connecting the past with the present — which is important.”
The UAE’s UK ambassador, Mansoor Abulhoul, was present at the opening and he particularly admired Al-Nahyan’s works based on the classic wooden board game Carrom paired with a modern video game.
“I first played Carrom with my cousins as a boy, and she has combined it with modern computer games, which is very creative,” he said. He pointed out that her innovative work ties in well with the dynamic of the UAE.
“Next year we have EXPO 2020, with its theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ It’s very much about our roots and how we take them forward, how we develop the mind and global cooperation,” he said.
The exhibition included a short clip from Al-Nahyan’s upcoming film “Athel,” written by Al-Nahyan’s sister, Sheikha Shamsa. It centers on a strange encounter in the desert between a pre-Islamic poet and a modern-day TV presenter. “Athel” is set for release later this year and stars Hala Shiha and Mansour Al-Fili.
“The idea behind it all is taken from the tradition of Arabic poetry — its wisdom and, sometimes, risks,” Al-Nahyan explained. “And ending with a realization of one tribal law putting redemption and family before all.” She added that there are some “light-hearted” moments in the film too.
Arabic poetry is an ongoing inspiration for Al-Nahyan’s work, adding another layer of meaning to many of her pieces.
“The Arabic language is poetic, and Arabs and other cultures around the world have documented their lives through poetry,” she said. “So, for example, when tackling the topic of what is considered treasure, we found different meanings in various verses. Like when (pre-Islamic poet) Zuhair Bin Abi Salma refers to glory as the only true treasure.”
There is a much to absorb and reflect on in this exhibition which opens windows into many facets of Arab history and culture and poses universal questions about humanity and what constitutes real treasure.