Darkness fell on Carolina Herrera’s Fall 2009 runway as a single spotlight followed the first model who sauntered out in an armor of copper. Classical music filled New York’s Bryant Park Tent venue as the Venezuelan matriarch set the stage for her dramatically romantic collection. As evidenced by many shelter titles, there is an undeniable synergy between fashion and interior design—more often than not, with the former influencing the latter, so it’s a rather fitting paradox that this collection was inspired by 1700’s architectural elements. Mrs. Herrera gilded the fashion lily with swaths of the malleable metallic hue, unveiling 34 looks that intertwined form and function with an underlying tone of poise, power, and permanence—perhaps to weather this precariously pecuniary period.
Everything she touches turns to gold, or shall I say copper. Congruent directions and themes laid the groundwork for a collection with sculpted silhouettes, powerful pantones, the most tactile of textures, and daring design details. Overall, there was less ornamentation mirroring that of the architectural period referenced, favoring instead a restrained luxury. “I think fashion should be very powerful. When there is an economic crisis and social crisis, it’s the only way that women have to express themselves with optimism. This is a collection for that…” shared Carolina Herrera backstage.
A sense of power makes us feel like we’re in control while world economies seem to be on the verge of collapse. All women want to feel special and pretty—no matter what our bank balances may be—adding a bit of glamour while eschewing ornate beadwork and paillettes in favor of a texturized collection with luxurious raised wovens is not only a modern interpretation but it’s respectful, mindful, and sensitive. Although copper still shimmers, it feels less ostentatious than its stannic siblings gold and silver. This collection allows the customer to hold her head high, no matter how far retail stocks have plummeted finding strength and resolve, trusting that things will get better, our nation will recover and just because we’re in a financial downtown, that’s no excuse for a lack of inspired looks; in fact, now is the time when designers need to be more creative and innovative than ever! And by extension, consumers however prudently, should continue to support this visionary talent with meaningful purchases.
Just as 18th century Britain was the scene of a strong reaction against the self-indulgence of baroque architecture, replacing the frivolous and fancy with the clear-cut classical lines of Palladio, Americans now find themselves revolting against the widespread excess and greed which ran rampant towards the turn of the millennium. French neoclassical architect Étienne-Louis Boullée was a visionary whose work greatly inspired contemporary architects and is still influential today. His work was characterized by the removal of all unnecessary embellishment, inflating geometric forms to a huge scale and repeating elements such as columns in huge ranges.
Cupric materials have a historical significance dating back to the early Roman civilizations. The uncompounded metal often utilized for its constancy, withstands corrosion and forms a green patina with age. The Statue of Liberty is one of the greatest examples of copper work. Copper has had a great presence in decorative art, architectural ornaments, and sculptures. Traditionally, the initial cost of copper was high, but it’s far more economical when prorated over a longer lifespan. Once again, this architectural concept translates to fashion, especially when you consider the value of a key purchase with a classic silhouette in sumptuous fabrics—an item that you’ll reach for again and again for years to come. After all, an investment piece hardly feels like a splurge when it’s amortized over two or three seasons (and beyond…)
Personally, there is a great interplay between my décor and wardrobe; I am consistently attracted to the unique and special. My home is filled with flea market finds, estate and auction lots, and yard-sale treasures. I am all about the details! In my décor, I gravitate towards crown moldings, pocket doors, niches, a tufted back, a carved arm or nail heads. In my wardrobe, you’ll find origami folds, pleats, ruffles, bows, romantic prints, and most of all versatile and convertible separates. Whether a piece costs $15 or $1500, there is an emotional attachment or investment because I (try to) only purchase elements I love and that intrinsically resonate with me. If you do that, you will never tire of an object and you will always find new ways to display it in your home or incorporate it into your ensemble. That eclectic aesthetic is the basis for my fashion self-expression, layering high and low pieces that are bold and avant-garde, making an impactful individualist’s statement. I take the same approach with my décor as I do in fashion, with found objects, vintage pieces, and one-of-a-kind separates that are somewhat deconstructed, architectural, and [almost] always maintain an exquisitely adventurous subtext!
Only Carolina Herrera could elevate a typically urban youthful separate like the legging and inject it with an unsurpassed cosmopolitan sophistication. My favorite looks from this collection include: a forest mink cropped jacket with caviar silk tulle corset and copper lace embroidered pants; the copper lace embroidered dress; a forest green organza fils coupe dress with copper rose appliqué sleeve; the smoke organza jacquard strapless gown with ruffle and braided pleat detail; a smoke and copper tweed coat with caviar cashmere turtleneck and copper belt; the caviar striped mohair organza gown; a smoke and caviar jacquard criss cross gown; and the cassis silk cotton floral fils coupe gown.
The presentation incorporated a graphic story, which has been more prevalent across ready-to-wear collections in recent seasons, but not the predictable black and white, rather the direction was more artistic with painterly brushstrokes; herein, the female form acted as a canvas where rich tones: cassis (aubergine), forest, and lapis were counterbalanced by smoke, caviar, and copper. Just as architects and interior design experts layer moldings, colors, and textures to add depth and visual interest or to create scale, Carolina Herrera chose reflective jacquard, lace, silk, mohair, suede, and a reoccurring floral motif to create proportion. The decorative nuances sourced from 18th century architectural details were cast in copper for the hardware used in belts, shoes, and hairclips.
Architectural details, more specifically asymmetry, remained a constant for Fall 2009, but this adaptation felt modern, elegant, and sophisticated—never ubiquitous. These garments molded and shaped the body, creating a silhouette that followed womanly curves while lengthening and strengthening the physique. The design construction concentrated on an elongated waist with corsets, slim trousers, and narrow skirts, undoubtedly a subliminal message to shore up an inner strength and hopefulness and presumably to shore up the economy. Just as copper is often utilized for support, here it served as the collection’s principal foundation—a wardrobe building block, if you will. I felt that the use of copper was more than a key factor; the collection subconsciously showcased the metal as a metaphor in all its forms, representing not only ornamental, structural, and architectural elements, but also as a vital component, a mineral, which is strong, lasting, durable and in a sense gives both physical and moral support to its wearer.
Images provided courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Newsgroup.
For more information please visit, http://www.carolinaherrera.com/