Bouchra Jarrar and Giambattista Valli (his second season), shooting stars of the Paris Couture last month, created collections total polar opposites of one another.
While Jarrar created modern streamlined tailored clothes perfect for the corporate client, Valli explored the notion of frou frou taken to extremes with a density of printed silk organza ruffled and draped.
How were these visions realized? Everything is hand-finished and labor-intensive, from manipulation of the fabric to the sewing of special sequins.
In the workrooms of a couture atelier in Paris, there are two separate workshops, each specializing in either masculine tailoring termed tailluer, or feminine ruffles, draping and beadwork called flou. They observe strict techniques and finishing; the school of tailluer uses traditional menswear fabrics like plaid wool gaberdine, checkered Harris tweeds, pinstriped felt sewn top-stiched or saddle-stitched.
Suits, blazers, pants and trench coats are the finished products for women who are in touch with their masculine side.
Jarrar triumphed employing this to execute wearable, functional day-to-night pieces. Plenty of terrific trousers, the one garment that puts a woman on equal standing with a man. It puts her in the same league as her female contemporaries Phoebe Philo and Stella McCartney. She has built-in understanding of lifestyle and sense of appropriateness, and it’s a pleasure to watch her blossom.
Jarrar refused the position of design director of Schiaparelli.
Born in Cannes to Moroccan parents, Jarrar mastered her sewing skills at age 12 by watching and copying her mother. She joined the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Appliqués de Duperré in Paris in 1991, after which she was appointed studio director at Balenciaga in 1996.
Jarrar held this position until 2006, going on to work with Christian Lacroix until 2009.
Jarrar launched her own label during Paris haute couture week in July 2010.
In the sewing rooms of flou are flowing chiffons cut in double bias, jerseys draped like in ancient Greek statues. Flower prints, beadwork, shirring, ball gowns for the red carpet—this is Ali Baba’s cave of wonders inhabited by Giambattista Valli, who went full force into volume with dresses featuring so much density that they looked like the fabric version of topiaries.
Dresses with rose-covered floral prints with literally suffocating ruffles piled high and heavy on shoulders covering the models’ faces.
Many critics dissed his over-the-top embellished gowns as not proper for these times of bankrupt countries and austerity chic. But the 2,000 clients of couture left in the world could care less.
So sharpen your dress sense, do you prefer tailluer simplicity or extravagant feminine flou. Stare at these visual pegs. Examine your closet and see if you have both. You can mix and match them, ruffled blouse with tailored pants is yin-and-yang harmony. Consider three things—the appropriate getup for the occasion, the weather and your own taste. Finish it off with the right shoes, bag and jewelry.