PFW: ELIE SAAB A/W 2017

Elie Saab A/W 17

What Dior was to blue yesterday, Elie Saab is to violet today, though to perhaps a slightly lesser degree. At least Saab spent a little more time playing with violet’s warm half, blue, with some white, and didn’t shy from the black. At the same time, though, his preference for the color of iris in spring was dominant and he expressed that in many lovely ways.

For example, there were some very lovely versions of the flower one models’ necks for the first few images, and they continued coming up throughout the collection as embroideries and embellishments in different forms. Changes in fabric accented the soft texture of the flower and give the dresses a 3D effect that stood out quite nicely.

At the same time, though, Saab throws in some extreme change of pace number done all in leather and tulle that don’t feel as though they’re from the same designer let alone the same collection. The ensembles are attractive and even desirable and it emphasizes how very different Saab’s woman can be from one moment to the next. We tend to think of Saab as primarily a red carpet designer, but he proves that he can provide some muscle elsewhere, also.

Right from the start, cameras were snapping for the opening floral pieces. The deep violet, lavender, and purple wove subtle hues through tea-length dresses perfect for those special early-evening occasions. Note in the picture below not only the flowers on the sleeve, but the “bars” down the front and at the waist resembling a window frame. One is looking out at the garden, an implication that one can look but not touch.

We get a hint, however, that there is a darker, rougher-edged presence in the garden when Saab breaks with the link of violet and gives us this studded black leather jacket and tulle skirt. Midst all the florals, this ensemble has a sinister feel to it, rather like the first sound of a deep leitmotif in a ballet.

He quickly returns right back to the violet, and in this section delivers a highlight of the whole collection with this full-length brushed wool coat with crushed velvet over-stitched along the sleeves.

Saab could have easily continued along this line for the rest of the collection and no one would have complained. There are plenty of soft, delicate, feminine looks yet to come. But no, he insists on punctuating the steady stream of violet with a pseudo-military bad-ass look with a wool jacket with velvet lacing and tight black leather pants decorated with studs.

He continues this pattern for a while, with the distance between the violet and the black growing shorter until we see one right after the other. Once he feels that he’s explored that juxtaposition sufficiently, he shifts to blue lace and fur, a must softer aesthetic and just a touch brighter.

Accompanying the lace dresses, however, are crystal studded stockings which maintain the harder vibe inspired by the previous leather. If there’s a problem with these looks it is that he apparently couldn’t find decent shoes to match.

When Elie finally does return to the violet, it is a much light and brighter hue with a greater emphasis on some lovely prints on gowns and dresses that feel much like a floating garden coming down the runway. In this cape-centric season, Saab’s version is one of the most delicate we’ve seen with applique butterflies and embroidered lines create a vision of fantasy where everything is perfect, or at least very close.

The collection only gets all the more ornate with touches of fur and feathers and an increasing reliance on lace. Saab eventually transitions to black ensembles that I’m sure we’ll see on various red carpets through the next awards season. Throughout, he maintains the floral motif and often finds ways to work in just a little bit of an edge.

While we always expect Elie to deliver beautiful gowns, it is the “surprise” pieces that really shine in this collection. This feels very much as if Saab is testing the waters for expanding his appeal, which would not be a bad move. The leather pieces we see here are definitely going to open the brand to a much younger audience than he normally draws. A little extra business is never a bad thing.

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