One of the most exciting things of being a fashion designer is the chance to travel the world and the relevance that influences from other cultures has for your work. For example, it’s always refreshing to see how traditional costumes can serve as sources of inspiration for contemporary creations; when the designer imbues those inspirations with his/her own imagery and makes them part of his/her world, something magic happens. This is the case of spectacular India-inspired collections by Alexander McQueen (fall 2008) and Hermés in the era of Jean-Paul Gaultier (spring 2008). Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman has chosen the same source of inspiration for the spring 2013 collection, but it shows that the risk of falling into the traps of “costume-y” garments is just around the corner. The collection walks the fine line dividing fashion from traditional costumes. Some dresses seen on the catwalk were impressive for their colours, workmanship and shapes, but the general idea I’ve got is that the source of inspiration overwhelmed the designer’s personal view of fashion. For this reason, I think the result is disappointing.
The intricate embroideries on tulle and beaded embellishments are a trademark of the brand and represent a connection with previous Marchesa collections, especially if paired to fringes or pleated chiffon.
The same intricate embroideries (in gold, this time) can be found as contrasting details on burgundy and dark ruby chiffon dresses with asymmetrical hems. These two dresses are spectacular: the contrast between deep red hues and gold is sublime, and so is the gold trim which emphasizes the peculiar shape of the skirts.
The same rich red shades can be found in the dresses above, where the themes of pleated tulle and fringes recur. The dress on the right, in particular, is amazing because fringes are applied on beaded tulle: the result is extremely elegant and sophisticated. As for the dress on the left, here we can notice the introduction of an Indian-inspired theme: golden bands, the Marchesa version of the traditional zari, a thread of fine gold used as brocade in saris. I love this dress, because the nod to Indian culture is subtle.
The same theme is introduced in the white strapless dress on the left, where gold bands embellish the bodice, the below-the-knee skirt and the skirt overlay. Red and gold brocade has been used for the one-shoulder dress on the right, a nice version of the sari. There are other outfits in the collection which push the reference a bit too far: it’s the case of the choli/long skirt combos, which look a bit too casual and out of place with the rest of the collection.
The one-shoulder dress is another Marchesa trademark: they have lost their “goddess” quality but refer to Indian traditions once again. The beautiful gold paisley-like embroidered trims embellish chiffon deep blue and aubergine numbers with asymmetrical hems.
I’m not a fan of midriff-baring clothes but the tulle and lace dress on the left is the only one seen on the runway that I actually like. The choli/pencil skirt combination and the draped overlay is a clear reference to saris, but the ensemble strangely manages not to look costume-y. Moreover, the dusty shade of blue used here adds a touch of romanticism. The same inspiration can be found in the second dress, where draped blue tulle is paired to gold lace underlay.
Hayden Panettiere was the first celebrity who wore a dress from this collection on the red carpet. She wore the sari-like blue tulle dress when she attended the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 23rd, 2012. She completed the dress with Giuseppe Zanotti gold sculpted wedge sandals, a Judith Leiber gold metal clutch and Harry Winston diamond jewellery. She looked flawless.
The idea of white tulle on lace underlay has been used in Marchesa collections many times: the translucent/transparent effect is sublime, as if light pierced through a thick blanket of dark clouds. This is the reason why I think the dress on the left is utterly spectacular, with its flowy skirt and embellished short-sleeved bodice. This effect is a bit subtler in the second dress, where a pair of gold lace leggings  serve as underlay; in this case, the decoration on the bodice reminds of Indian traditional jewellery.
How many times have we seen this dress on the runway? Not exactly the same, of course, but something similar. Many times for sure, yet the classic ballgown (strapless bodice, heavy embellishments, dramatic long skirt) never fails to impress. This time, Chapman opted for the beautiful contrast between gold lace appliqués and deep blue satin. It looked amazing on Jourdan Dunn, but I’m sure it will become a showstopper on the red carpet, the final (and primary) destination of Marchesa collections.
I loved the make-up and hairstyle seen on the models. The make-up was another homage to Indian culture, with the heavy khol lines emphasizing the lower lash-lines and the application of gold leaves around the tear ducts, in contrast with neutral lips. The braided, centre-parted hairstyles were lovely, as well.
Jewellery and clutch bags were in tune with the clothes: they featured gold materials and heavy embellishments, including the trademark crystal clasp that can be found in most of Marchesa evening bags. The golden snakeskin clutch with crystal line decorations is my favourite, but the oval clutch with red fringes is beautiful, too.
Last but not least, a close-up on the shoes. Christian Louboutin has surpassed himself this time, because he created amazing flat sandals which will surely become a hit. Gold and crystal decorations can be found in this model, but on high-heeled shoes, too. I’m glad he has given us something different from the boring satin peep-toe pumps we have seen million times on hundreds of catwalks around the world.
What do you think of the collection? Despite the presence of impressive dresses, the feeling I get is the lack of drama, which is a pity, because I’ve always thought Marchesa dresses are made of such stuff as dreams are made on, but this spring 2013 collection shows I was wrong.
 Georgina Chapman tends to focus on dresses and not on trousers, which is totally logical. I really think she should really leave trousers aside, it’s just not her cup of tea, as the tragic combination of fringed top and lace Capri pants – included in this collection – shows.