Closing the Adelaide Fashion Festival presented by Mercedes Benz on Sunday 23 October, Paolo Sebastian has presented two collections, his Autumn / Winter 2016-17 collection Gilded Wings which was launched in Paris in July 2016, as well as the world premiere of his Spring / Summer 2017 collection.
Broadcast to a world wide audience, with international star Coco Rocha taking to the runway, the anticipation of this home town spectacle had seen tickets sell out over a month in advance. It would be fair to say that an expectation for a billing to exceed the dramatic Paris runway of July had also been placed upon this evening as is accustomed when Adelaide welcomes this calibre of international fanfare.
The setting of the runway was fresh cut grass and beautiful Australian wildflowers; an evolution to the story of the Gilded Wings collection. The woodland faery romance was to play out first, but in this new setting immediately you could see that designer Paul Vasileff had written the coming chapter of his most recent opus.
To revisit the Gilded Wings collection first was to create a deliberate contrast so we could understand where the story began. Returning to the winter woodland, we were reminded of just how skerricks of sunlight piercing the leaves reveal the life in all parts of the forest; beading mirrors the veins of leaves, structured stitching the textures of bark and spider webs and the shimmering of beaded trains against the low light shimmered as if droplets of morning dew resting along blades of grass. The romance of the winter is set against a slightly foreboding backdrop; as if the love is battling the natural low ebb of the season but still flickers through like a flame in the cold. Colours of grey, lavender, soft blues and champagnes juxtapose the deep browns of the woodland backdrop, where you look to the distance but cannot quite see what is ahead. Each piece, each model is a beacon of light that might offer safety and familiarity and an instant rush of endorphins breaking the streak of adrenaline born from our innate fears of the dark. These are very human emotions evoked, and they transcend the detail of the individual designs to reflect the depth of what Vasileff’s is attempting to share in his collection.
Lead by Coco Rocha, the only model who would sport short hair on the catwalk signifying her lead role, the collection was brought into new focus from its Paris debut. The low lighting created mysterious silhouettes of each model as they deliberately walked through the meadow, as if the occasion was the first Spring dusk emerging from the winter. The detail of each piece has been noted before, but in this context, especially for those works which emphasised the veins of leaves and the texture of bark in their beading, it was a reminder of how sunlight reveals the life force of each natural element of the forest.
Punctuating the middle of the evening was a featurette of the Gilded Wings launch in Paris, as filmed by Black Youth Productions. While it told the story from Paul’s first hand perspective, what it really highlighted was how textural the Paolo Sebastian aesthetic is. The cobblestones and the latticework upon the balconies of Paris; the gold trim embellishments of the Victorian interior paneling and the herringbone wood floors of the mansion; seeing the photo shoot for Gilded Wings live and how the sunlight, the pine needles, the bark and the colours of the seasons all played against the story of Vasileff’s works. Unwittingly it demonstrates how rich the imagined world of his fairy tales are. These are real settings and the gowns are the heroines fated to share their tales of love.
So, to the debut of the Wildflower Spring / Summer 2017 collection.
And immediately we felt a breath of fresh air. The brightened yellow lighting pierced more like a rich summer evening and it was clear that a waif-like whimsy would replace our woodland faeries of the previous season. Where the lighting would play of the beading of the previous collection, here the fabrics, the layering of sheer textures, the use of lace and the subtle stitching of flowers and leaf motifs to contrast became the focus.
Floor length gowns played more with the lines of the hips and gravity from the waist as opposed to trail of the trains drawing the eye. Fabrics were suitably lighter, layered sheer and wrapped in styles which accentuated natural feminine body lines; below the shoulder blades, low plunging from the neck, resting against the collarbone and the fall of the shoulders. Sleeves were a welcome addition, with again sheer fabrics in a bishop sleeve style cut with falling flower chain embellishments appearing much like flowers dancing in a light breeze. Buttoning was featured at the front of some garments, which was unseen in Gilded Wings, reflecting a laid back and almost distinctly Australian summer feel.
While we inhaled for the deeply emotive and dramatic Gilded Wings, we were allowed an exhale and to bask in the sun light for the Widlflower collection. Softer pinks, blue bells, soft reds and whites against the fresh green grass instantly evoke a smile, a sigh, a drop of the shoulders in the sunlight. Seasonally, this collection is arresting because the pleasures of Spring and Summer are simpler than winter; offered in the joys of nature. Vasileff shared these characteristics subtly, playfully and masterfully. Again, the detail is paramount to the story, but it is a story as illuminated as Gilded Wings.
Photography by Vueey Le Photography
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