Illustrations: Paris’ Contrasting Couture Shows

Two distinctly different inspirations seemed to emerge from the spring/summer ’11 couture collections in Paris: the natural world and the future of technology. Fashion is often a barometer for the world we live in, so perhaps these two divergent creative directions reflect the conflict between “Mother Nature” and man-made technology.

Elie Saab and Valentino were at the forefront of the “Naturalists” movement for s/s ’11. Both houses offered neutral/cosmetic color palettes in varying shades of ecru, nude, tan, taupe, greige and dusty rose. Transparency was also a major theme, applied in a demure manner that was more sensual than sexy. Flora, a classic symbol of spring, was also a key motif interpreted in countless ways: printed on panels of chiffon, sculpted into tailored jackets and appliqued on evening dresses. Elie Saab’s standout blush colored dress was like a wearable garden, embroidered from décolletage to hem in three-dimensional, lace blooms.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Futurists” Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy and Armani Prive showed collections referencing robotics with high-tech fabrications and finishes. Tisci acknowledged robot toys as one of the inspirations, and the entire collection was white with pops of shocking color, including citron, tangerine and chartreuse. He also embroidered a glossy, neon pink robot face across the back of a structured bolero, which was shown over a 21st century kimono with origami pleating and a skirt of ostrich feathers and organza. At Armani Prive, inter-galactic glamazons wore fabrics engineered with metal threads that gleamed like Star Wars‘ C-3PO. Mr Armani also scored the accessory of the season with a flying saucer-shaped metal head piece created by master milliner Philip Treacy.