There's nothing more encouraging than a fashion match made in heaven: it seems Vionnet may have just such a hit on their hands, judging by the first Autumn/Winter collection by new designers Barbara and Lucia Croce. Their conceit? To go back to the foundations of the house: expertise of cut, superb fabric, and Madeleine Vionnet's timeless declaration that she sought to dress a body, not construct a dress.
In a season of peplums, corsetry and all manner of dressy constructions, that feels like a breath of fresh air. As does the Vionnet collection, based around subtle contrasts of texture and colour, opacities and transparencies, and touches of the tridimensional. Where other houses have peplums, Vionnet has fabric folded about the hips, adding detail without bulk. When others offer patchworked, multicoloured furs, Vionnet use intarsio techniques to inlay long-haired fox into sheared beaver or to give an ombre effect to marmoset. And, of course, Vionnet has the edge when it comes to the lingerie-look dresses so many other labels are picking up on. The lightness of Vionnet's legendary geometric drapes (simple squares of fabric allowed to fall about the body) was applied to stand-out leather pieces that, from a distance, could be mistaken for silk.
It's striking how in-synch it all seems with the Vionnet tradition, when even a tailored evening blazer and trousers have a sinous drape to them, jacket folding open into a vent from hem to nape, and trousers billowing and semi-translucent. But the Croces are sensible, working women after all - those transparent trews came with entirely opaque linings, making them utterly wearable for the everyday. That was the feeling behind even the grandest of these dresses - and the fact the sisters themselves sport their pieces with considerable style on a daily basis makes them their own best advertisement. Harking back to Madame Madeleine's edict, it looks like the new Vionnet will be dressing very many bodies indeed.