More Couture: You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet



Unapologetically over the top, On Aura Tout Vu (You Think You’ve Seen It All) has been on my “next-time” list for far too long.  Lady Gaga is a fan, so I showed up. The ethereal “Fishing For Compliments” show, held under the trees in Paris’s Palais Royal gardens was of a piece, completely on its own wavelength and technically masterful. Designers Livia Stoianova and Yassen V. Samouilov went deep sea diving for brilliant fish scale hourglass dresses accessorized with fat fish bags, sea monster stiletto sandals, and black caviar coats. From its origins as a production company for accessories, embroidery, buttons and decor for Christian Dior, Givenchy and others, On Aura Tout Vu has branched out into accessories, clothes, design and, most recently, makeup and scent. A bag of OATV’s bath pearls for Paris’s storied fragrance house Caron was on each seat.  It felt like Busby Berkeley was at the helm here. Lace and silk stripe column dresses were second-skin and sinuous, worn with a sea monster armband to remind us that dressing up should be fun. And the siren at the end wearing an undersea flying saucer skirt over a lace mini was incandescent.
All the talk was that Jean Paul Gaultier had revisited his Parisian Arletty roots for this glamour puss show. But the only woman who came to my mind while watching models sashay by, their gold cigarette holders out to there, was that Parisian fashion treasure, stylist Catherine Baba, who channels Yves Saint Laurent in his opium heyday, Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Crawford, and assorted 20s and 30s cinematic divas for her personal look. From the trench with the voluminous back drape, Gaultier passed through Schiaparelli territory, merry widow LBDs, satin cocktail plunge front wraps and ended up with Dita Von Teese to promote his new lingerie collection with La Perla. That’s when it dawned on me why Jean Charles de Castelbajac was sitting front row center with his son Count Louis-Marie de Castelbajac, Von Teese’s current beau. Dita stripped out of her tailored suit in a flash to reveal a black ribcage bustier and one of the most awesome waist to hip ratios in the world. The bride who strolled down the runway playing her own wedding march on the violin didn’t have a chance.

Which brings us to the new Valentino, now under the direction of Val’s former right hands Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli. Valentino approves and so do I. What I don’t understand is why these two talents, who are effectively appealing to a younger clientele (the daughters of the women Valentino has catered to until now), are attracting so much criticism from the press.  The clothes for their “The Dark Side of First Love” collection are fragile, heartbreakingly complex, light as a feather and obsessively luxurious. This is Valentino, after all. The simple baby doll A-line shapes, transparent, bedecked with bows, one surreally styled like a birdcage, are only for very, very young women with tons, tons of money. In other words, by the time the wedding invitations go out, this wardrobe will be history. But what’s more alluring than the ephemeral and when you consider that Chiuri and Piccioli have been part of Valentino for years and can easily switch their design frame back to grown-ups, why shouldn’t Valentino trip the light fantastic for a while?