Haute couture isn't a right, it's a privilege - both for the clients, and for the couturiers themselves. The right to call yourself an haut couturier is handed out by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture - a little willy-nilly these days, thanks to relaxing of the sometimes-choking rules and restrictions which govern couture (after all, everyone needs a litle breathing-space, non). One of those rules, however, was that designers must employ a minimum of twenty workers split between ateliers devoted to le tailleur, and le flou. 'Tailleur' is fairly self-explanatory, but 'flou' is French for soft - and essentially refers to anything that isn't tailored, from blouses, to bustiers, to ballgowns.
There's a point to that preamble: guess which atelier Elie Saab overlooked? In fact, guess which season Elie Saab seems to have never heard of? It would be Autumn/Winter, and for 2011 his clients are going to be extremely cold indeed. Then again, judging by this collection, Saab's ladies rarely emerge from their boudoirs before seven in the evening, and only then if they have a gala to go to. With Elie Saab, you're always going to the ball. It's the concept of going anywhere else that's the problem.
This collection opened with a floaty, sequin-sprinkled tulle gown in pale blue. Forty looks later, it closed with pretty much the same. The latter had a veil, just so you knew it was the bride and had to dutifully applaud. In between the blue and bride was something old, and not very much new. Some of it felt a bit borrowed, too - there were shades of gossamer Galliano gowns and Karl Lagerfeld's finest line in paillette-strewn prettiness, not least the swinging mini-dresses like chic tutus. But there was nothing else - no coats, no suits, god forbid no trousers (they have been in short supply all week, actually).
This was Saab playing to his strengths, and those of haute couture. A billion sequins don't embroider themselves, after all, and the fact that each and every number came strewn with glitter no doubt made for some eye-popping production statistics. It will also crank up some great sales: there was nothing here that wasn't breathtakingly lovely, but after a time the overload of sweetness began to make your back teeth ache. And once you'd seen one (or even half-a-dozen) of these terribly sweet little tulle nothings, did Saab really need to hammer his point home quite so thoroughly? Ultimately, for all the painstaking labour involved in its creation, this collection was less one-note, than nothing of note.