DC Style Factory at Alliance Francaise: ‘Beyond the Little Black Dress’
Photo Credit: Emmanuelle Choussy Studio
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hosting a fashion show by Alliance Francaise DC — Beyond the Little Black Dress. The event celebrated emerging female French and American designers, reviving the cultural organization’s long tradition of presenting the latest couture trends. First Lady Jackie Kennedy’s mother, Janet Lee Bouvier, organized fashion events with the Alliance, working with the wife of the then French Ambassador to the United States.
Alliance Francaise Executive Director Sarah Diligenti welcoming the crowd. Photo credit: William P. Simmons, Jr.
Photo credit: Ben Droz for Washington Life
The evening explored a world beyond the iconic garment that Coco Chanel made ubiquitous – the little black dress. During the course of the evening, five inspiring French and American artists and designers took the audience beyond this style classic and into a fantasy world. A world where fashion is discarded newspapers that come alive as clothing art. The decadence and romance of burlesque inspires corset couture. Artwork by a renowned award-winning colorist comes alive in breathtaking gowns. Lingerie is a fashion statement. And, finally, modern, wearable clothing has the luxury and detail of a couturier.
Artists and couturiers have long collaborated on color to create personal style and brand identity. Larissa Noury, from Montmartre, France, is the president and founder of the Colour-Space-Culture International Association. She has PhDs in Arts and Architcture from Bordeaux and Saint Petersburg, respectively. Mme. Noury is a colorist whose dreamlike works have been compared to Monet. .Her stunning hand-painted gown creations floated across the stage one by one, works of art that demonstrate the centuries-long love affair between fashion and the art of color. This collection was a collaboration between Nory and former Dior and YSL designer, Jean-Marie Pujol.
Photo credit: Camera Habashian of MOST Magazine
Isabelle Alvarez-Tausch is an artist and eco-fashion designer. She hails from Fraize, in the Vosges region of France. With a Swiss husband working for the World Bank she has lived in Ecuador, Nicaragua and currently resides in the Ukraine. She lived for five years in DC and while here, she started a clothing line using recycled materials in an effort to educate people about consumerism and waste. Her “Obamania” Collection in 2013, which used posters from the Obama campaign to create dresses and gowns, was an overnight sensation. Her collection at Beyond the Little Black Dress drew gasps from the crowd. We are talking dresses made out of small doll heads, stuffed animals and rubber gloves — all discarded materials. I couldn’t resist remarking to the crowd that no one there would EVER look at their kids’ stuffed animals the same again.
Photos credit: Cameron Habahsian for MOST Magazine
Christelle Cenatiempo Jorda, a native of Montpellier, had just started law school in 2005 when she decided to design a few burlesque-inspired pieces “just for fun.” Despite having a political science degree, her passion for designing and creating fashion soon won out. Mme. Jorda’s Titelle — a line of handmade, custom corsets and weddings dresses — was born. In 2010, her husband received a job offer in Los Angeles. The young couple took a chance and Christelle soon set up a workshop in L.A.and got to work. Her corsets – worn by men and women – have since been featured at LA Fashion Week and Art Walk. Christelle is inspired by old techniques and details. Her belief is that true luxury lives in original and unique creations.
In Christelle’s world, corsets are not just for women either. Men don corsets like vests. Her waist-defining (or defying) creations graced the stage that evening in vivid colors and textures. It felt like I had been transported to another time and place where corset couture reigns.
Photo credit: Cameron Habashian for MORE Magaazine
The temperature in the room definitely skyrocketed when the Le Bustiere collection hit the catwalk. Stephanie Jacek opened Le Bustiere boutique in Adam’s Morgan two years ago. She was working in the healthcare field and was frustrated by the selection of lingerie at local shops. She couldn’t find pieces that fit well and that were fun to wear. Two years later, as owner of Le Bustiere, she is offering the DC woman the highest level of quality and style in lingerie. Her pieces are fun, sophisticated and sexy. Her belief is that the right piece of lingerie makes all the difference. As each model came down the runway in one eye-popping lingerie look after another, it was hard to deny her sentiment.
Gohar Beaver has been designing since she was 10. After finishing work at fashion design school, she met her husband and moved to the United States. They became business partners, launching their brand Ayvazyan Couture de Beauvoir – or AB Couture for short. The bohemian-inspired line featured at the fashion show included pieces from the team’s recently launched bridal line. The entrance of the designer’s daughter with model, Ms. United States, drew a sigh from the crowd followed by applause.
I was thrilled to host an event that introduced me to artists and designers that I know I will be keeping an eye on. I mean…an evening filled with bustiers, men in corsets, and doll-head dresses? How can that not be fun? Plus, I got to wear my go-to cocktail event look — my black tux — AND hang with my girl Jessica.