>> IN THE LOOKING GLASS —The portfolio — and some outtakes — Ellen von Unwerth photographed in her makeshift studio backstage at couture last month is finally up. Moments like Tanya Dziahileva in Armani Prive standing next to Anna Piaggi or a fish face-pink braided topknot combination at Lacroix were captured just seconds before the models were whisked off by handlers, to be stripped down and taken to their next show. [The Moment, NYT]
>> Chanel and Dior may go full-out with couture presentations, but Donatella Versace prefers to do private appointments in January for Atelier Versace. A gown from her pleat-centric Fall 2008 collection made it to the Oscars on Marisa Tomei last weekend, and now that that's over, it's time for the big reveal: Spring 2009. The collection, modeled by Georgina Stojiljkovic, who seems to be Donatella's favorite couture model, focuses on ruffled red carpet-ready gowns, with a couple of whorled cut-out confections thrown in for good measure. Sketches included.
>> THE MODELIZER —Myf Shepherd just finished out her first couture week ever, and it sounds like quite the caper. She was not only mistaken for Olga Sherer backstage at Dior — they look nothing alike — but she developed a case of sore tongue after eating too many figs backstage at Chanel. [Fashion Schmashion]
>> INSIDER WIRE —During Spring 2009 couture last week, The New York Times Magazine traveled to each backstage with Ellen von Unwerth and a mini-studio, capturing "quick and dirty tableaux vivants" that will appear in the Sunday Magazine in weeks to come. Editor Alix Browne recounts her experience in the chaotic backstage world — watching the hairstylists at Christian Lacroix suspend the heavy earrings with ribbons worked into the hair; having Giorgio Armani drag their equipment, yelling “What is wrong with you people? Do I have to do everything myself around here?”; and hearing Myf Shepherd exclaim, "I'm not Olga, I'm Myf!" [The Moment]
>> Jean Paul Gaultier always has a trick up his sleeve for his runway shows — think Coco Rocha's iconic Irish dancing opener — and this time, it was all about the closer. Ines de la Fressange, 51-year-old French supermodel who in the '80s became the first model to sign an exclusive modeling contract — hers was with Chanel — finished out the appropriately '80s-inspired show in a slinky black gown and ivory tuxedo jacket. The audience cheered her the whole way down the runway, and she turned to wave at old friends. Gaultier, for his part, was so excited about her appearance that he "chased the former supermodel down the runway and practically wrestled her to the ground during the final moments of the show, catching her just before she fell." De la Fressange called it a one-off occasion, admitting that she was nervous backstage "surrounded by all those sexy little things."
>> When Valentino Garavani released a statement categorically denying that he had anything to do with the design of his former accessory designers's first collection for the label, perhaps it was because he knew what was going to come down the runway today.
As Valentino and partner Giancarlo Giammetti sat front row, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli sent out a collection that looked as though Valentino could have designed it himself; it was pure homage. Not to say that that didn't leave something to be wanted — there was no hint of the new designers' personalities, as if they still wished to be the invisible accessory designers, and this suggestion was reiterated by the fact that the show's programs had neither Chiuri's nor Piccioli's names listed. I, for one, am missing the categorically ousted Alessandra Facchinetti — her couture was fresh, sumptuous — unlike this collection — and with character.
>> Givenchy's couture revenue increased a whopping 80 percent last year — with another 20 percent increase forecasted for 2009 — and collections like this prove how it's done. Mummy-wrapped shoes, rose petals covering both the runway and a print on two strappy bondage gowns, and a continued interest in chains, carried over from Fall 2008 ready-to-wear, carried forward the evolution of Riccardo Tisci's romantic gothic branding at the house. And those veils — interestingly enough, the majority of Givenchy couture customers are based in the Middle East — so perhaps the head coverings were a nod to those ladies? Catherine McNeil showed up sans the crutches than she was sporting earlier this month; All that was missing were two of the house's current faces — Mariacarla Boscono, Lakshmi Menon, where are you?
>> Karl Lagerfeld recently proclaimed "bling is over. I call it 'the new modesty.'" His Chanel couture collection was certainly pared down compared to seasons past, from the smaller venue to the colorless palette and egalitarian inspiration: paper. Appearances may be deceiving, however; Karl still has no financial constraints at Chanel: "We have no budget, we do what we want and throwing money out the window brings money back in through the front door. The bottom line is that I don’t deal with the bottom line."
The couture collection is still, in his words, "for the very rich" — "not for the nouveau riche." And as for the change of venue from the usual imposing Grand Palais to a smaller former bank near the house's headquarters — the switch was only made because the Palais was unavailable, not for budgetary reasons. They must be doing something right — girls are already falling all over the clothes; literally, in the case of Alexandra Tomlinson, who took a tumble on the Chanel runway.
>> INSIDER WIRE —Chanel's Spring 2009 couture collection doesn't debut until tomorrow morning, but Cathy Horyn went by the atelier and has a few hints about what we can expect to see. Freja Beha Erichsen has been chosen as the couture bride, and will wear a pants ensemble with white paper headdress and a train "that swept across half the studio floor." Everything in the collection is white, or black and white, and centers around Karl Lagerfeld's favorite thing — paper (even though he apparently had a Kindle on his desk). The silhouette is "as modern as can be — short and trim — with a sharpness to the lines that evokes cut paper." And the girls will be decorated with flowers, hair ornaments, and little caps, all made out of paper. [On the Runway]