One of the most entertaining things one has the pleasure of doing during haute couture is observing the comings and goings of the 1% while waiting for shows to start. The particular percentage within the 1% present at Ulyana Sergeenko shows is particularly enjoyable to look at. Hints of bling are present everywhere (as one journalist duly remarked upon arriving to the venue, the famous Lycée Henri IV, 'It’s all about beautifully presented breasts here') and yet there’s more to Ulyana’s fans than just that: there’s a narrative and a deeply personal sense of aesthetics. And it’s also the case with the designer.
Yesterday’s show was her most narrative to date. An evocative zither soundtrack referenced Carol Reed’s The Third Man, and that was exactly the collection’s mood: not fully film noir, not fully post-war Eastern European spy, but somewhere in between. Who would guess the mixture would look so good? The first look – a boxy black cashmere coat with a fur collar and a pistol-shaped brooch – immediately set the tone, and the narrative developed from there. There were the Ninotchkas, in their slender skirt suits and their strict berets. The Gildas, all bustier dresses and long satin gloves. The Lauras (remember Gene Tierney in the legendary 1944 movie by Otto Preminger?) in slightly sweeter gingham organza dresses with bow details. And, of course, the Joan Crawfords and Bette Davies, all shoulder-pads and forties references. But, even if the Russian designer has proved she could be a glorious costume designer in Hollywood, this was more than just costume. The fur coats further decorated with fur bows, the classic red-carpet bias-cut gowns, the practical, masculine-inspired jackets and trousers and the day dresses made for a quite timeless collection with just the right twist of excess to appeal to her very particular breed of connoisseur clients and fans.