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article imageSialelli puts new life into Lanvin on Paris catwalk

By Fiachra GIBBONS (AFP)     Feb 27, 2019 in Lifestyle

Lanvin is back. After going through four designers in four years, the oldest Paris couture house stormed back in style Wednesday with the debut show from new young French creator Bruno Sialelli.

The little-known 31-year-old, whose appointment last month surprised many, lit up the third day of Paris fashion week with an impressive and eclectic collection.

With Hollywood stars Uma Thurman and Asia Argento in the front row alongside Chinese-Korean singer Meng Meiqi, and supermodels Kaia Gerber -- the 17-year-old daughter of Cindy Crawford -- and Gigi Hadid on the runway, the brand's new Chinese owners, Fosun, clearly wanted to make a splash.

Sialelli obliged by sending out Hadid braless in a sheer top under a pearl pink coat that sent social media and the tabloids into a whirl.

For some observers this was a return to form for Lanvin  which has struggled in recent years
For some observers this was a return to form for Lanvin, which has struggled in recent years
Philippe LOPEZ, AFP

But his debut amid the medieval and Roman artefacts of the French capital's newly renovated Cluny Museum was much more about clothes than clickbait.

There was poetry aplenty in his dreamy co-ed mix of folkloric fishermen's tops tied with leather straps, duffle coats and silk scarf dresses.

The former costume maker at the Marseille Opera threaded a child-like wonder into his clothes with prints of Saint George and the dragon and Babar the Elephant taken from a children's storybooks.

Text from fairytales also made an appearance on boots and bags, with Sialelli, who previously work for Balenciaga and Loewe, festooning a series of sheer tops and dresses with a pack of embroidering foxes.

Vogue's Suzy Menkes, the doyenne of fashion critics, was instantly won over.

- 'Fabulous start' -

"What a fabulous start!" she told her followers on Instagram.

"Fresh from Loewe menswear, Bruno Sialelli makes an instant mark at Lanvin," she said. "Colours, mediaeval inspirations for an imaginative but wearable Lanvin show... with colourful coats galore."

Godfrey Deeny of Fashion Network was also won over, calling it a "sensational debut".

"The more I think about it, the more I like it," he told AFP.

Several top fashion writers were won over by Bruno Sialelli's first show for Lanvin
Several top fashion writers were won over by Bruno Sialelli's first show for Lanvin
Philippe LOPEZ, AFP

"After several false starts (for Lanvin), this collection, and show, was a significant fashion statement," he later wrote.

"Whoever said the Chinese couldn't manage a great luxury brand now should be quiet. Fosun chose a savvy senior executive who had the guts to select an unknown young designer and the result was a great debut in Paris' most famous ruin," Deeny added, referring to the fact that the museum was once a Roman baths.

But another heavyweight critic, the New York Times' Vanessa Friedman, was far less convinced.

"There were so many plotlines going on, it was a little hard to follow," she said, bemoaning Sialelli's lack of clarity.

"There were lots of influences from other brands you might or might not recognise -- though not so many that seemed connected to Lanvin's own history, which is too bad," she added.

- Flemish master Van Noten -

Fosun, a conglomerate which also owns French resorts operator Club Med, snapped up Lanvin, the oldest continuously operated French label, last year when it had lost direction and was leaking money.

The turmoil at the house began in 2015 with the departure of star designer Alber Elbaz after a 14-year run during which time the brand became a favourite of the fashion set.

The next year the company recorded its first loss in a decade.

Sialelli told reporters backstage that he had gone back into the house's archives and discovered that its founder Jeanne Lanvin was something of an explorer.

Which is why he called the show "Mystic Pilgrims" and why he ranged so wide in his influences from the British Pre-Raphaelite painters to the Aztecs and Breton fishermen.

For a house in desperate need of a big hug, he said he chose the Babar prints because "for every French person who has grown up with Babar, he is hugely reassuring".

Belgium designer Dries Van Noten's show was in part inspired by flowers from his own garden
Belgium designer Dries Van Noten's show was in part inspired by flowers from his own garden

Nothing short of genius is what is routinely expected of the Belgium designer Dries Van Noten and that is what he delivered yet again Wednesday.

The "king of prints" took a quote from a Gertrude Stein poem -- "a rose is a rose is a rose" -- as the starting point of his autumn winter women's collection, which began with a line of grey, faintly pinstriped suits inspired by men's tailoring from 1950s, before bursting into his rich trademark colours.

Van Noten photographed flowers in his own garden for the dazzling prints in duck egg blue, powdery mauve, fawn, neon orange, oxblood and imperial yellow.

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