Soft Opening

Pierre Balmain FFW 2013

If you were to attend the opening show of a film festival, what would you have expected to see? Perhaps expectations were already there: big and the best—headlined by a marquee-name director, whose picture had probably already won numerous awards in the festival circuit or well-loved by critics all over. At the end of the screening, whether with tears in your eyes or warmth in your heart or both, you were enthralled, inspired, and challenged, and wanted more. The film had engaged your capacity to laugh, to feel, and to marvel.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of the opening show of Fashion Week 2013 (actually, more than seven days, and is, in fact, an amalgamation of previously three fashion weeks: Men’s, Women’s and Couture). If fashion cannot be compared to films, then at least, like a movie, it can entertain. Pierre Balmain kicked off this year’s event with as much delight as an atrium show of the opening of a shopping mall.

To venture further, it is vital to first note that this is a Pierre Balmain show, not Balmain. Is there a difference? The dissimilarity is like jet beads and iron-on crystals. Pierre Balmain, despite the full name, is, in fact, a “young line” (read: diffusion), put together and distributed by the Italian manufacturer Ittierre SpA, a business that identifies itself as “the leader in the development of young lines, jeans wear, contemporary, prêt-à-porter of high range”. What was shown earlier this evening was, therefore, not the collection designed by Olivier Rousteing, who took over from Christophe Decarnin when the latter parted with the house in April 2011 (and now rumoured to be assisting Kanye West revive the rapper’s failed eponymous label). Ittierre SpA is the licensed company behind such secondary lines such as C’N’C and Galliano, just two labels in a roster that has no retail superstars.

Not all who attended the show at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre had knowledge of this brand discrepancy. The guests—many dressed for Instagram—came expecting a Paris-worthy assault. Forty-five minutes late, the show opened with an abstract print blouse and skinny pants, laced down the front of the legs. Your heartbeat did not accelerate. Next came a man’s bleached-to-almost-white denim jacket and equally pale jeans. Your shoulders drooped. By the time the crumpled gold evening dress with the un-pressed seam on the front slit appeared near the end, you have sunk in the chair. The presentation of about 30 outfits that appeared to be pulled from the shop floor was characterised by a leitmotiv of ordinariness. There wasn’t even a styling ruse, no attempt at distorting your perception of what these designs were: bland. Compounded by the weak choice of models, these could be clothes from any of the units on B2 of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

A good fashion show, not just an opening show, should have the power to arouse as you absorb, seduce as you succumb, enchant as you enjoy. According to the marketing material issued by organiser Fidé Fashion Weeks, it will be a season of “captivating shows”. For a start, the promise was not a plump one.

Fashion Week 2013 is staged at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre Hall F from 9 to 19 October

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