PFW: ELIE SAAB S/S 2016

Elie Saab S/S16
Elie Saab S/S16

There was a track suit on the Elie Saab runway.

No, I’m not kidding. Let’s pause and let that sink in a moment. A track suit. I went back and triple-checked just to make sure I wasn’t somehow misinterpreting what I saw. Granted, the styling is a little odd: a floral print chiffon blouse with a black bolo tie. But the stripes down the side, the elastic gather at the ankles, the utilitarian silhouette, and zipper up the front all say track suit. Did we accidentally walk into the wrong show? Nope, this is the correct one. Apparently Saab is feeling a little more casual in his attitudes about spring.

Now, once that shock wears off a bit, we can look at the entire collection and, 1. be grateful there was only one such heart-stopping surprise in this show, and 2. rest comfortably that even when taking a more casual turn Saab still keeps his clothes very refined, very elegant, and very much out of the average person’s price range. This is still a luxury label and even if one is not in the market for a red carpet gown there is still a hefty price to be paid.

Looks in this collection can be divided into three categories: floral print, horizontal color blocking, and lace. Sometimes he mixes elements, which isn’t a bad thing, but those elementary themes run throughout the collection, including most of the gowns. Daywear dresses in the floral print are all styled with some manner of long-ribboned tie at the neck. Fortunately, the opening piece is the only time he goes top to bottom with the print, though. Even though the flowers are large, the print is still busy enough to be visually overwhelming.

Color blocked pieces are much easier on the eyes, moving from blue to pink to red separated by black and white stripes. These flow more easily, evenly, and quite honestly have the kind of innocence and simplicity about them that we might find the President’s daughters wearing. There’s nothing complicated, nothing opulent, just clean lines and beautiful styling.

Lace, of course, is where things get a bit more daring and this season Elie has chosen a lace pattern with a repeating target pattern. Yes, just like the store, which is also French. That circular pattern sets up some interesting visuals. The silhouettes on the lace pieces tend to run more full, flowing, with plenty of fabric moving around as one walks. This creates some surprising visual effects that may have observers rubbing their eyes, not certain of what they’re seeing. Nothing risquè, mind you, just not what one’s eyes are likely to expect.

Along the way, there are a few pieces with small laser cutouts, and one white dress with some appliqued texture. Those are nice, but don’t stand out as do the other pieces. To some extent, they almost felt like added filler.

While the gowns are beautiful, the daywear is really where the action is this season. Saab uses that casual jacket more than once, though it’s certainly not as shocking when done in floral print. There are a surprising number of pantsuits in this collection as well, including some shorts suits that look incredibly smart. I’m not sure the occasional choice of gladiator sandals is the best option, the pieces look better with more simple footwear, but there are enough cute pieces here to cover a whole summer’s worth of lawn parties.

Elie Saab is always going to be known most for his elegant gowns, but once again this season he reminds us he does daywear, too, and does it very well.

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