NEW YORK, Feb 15, 2009 / FW/ — It’s another rainy day in the port town of Cherbourg, France. Seen from above, the only color against the city’s gray-and-dun cobblestones is the circular tops of umbrellas that pass by in a choreographed parade of pinks, blues, yellows and reds.
The opening sequence of the famous 1964 film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg sets the tone for the rest of this colorful tale of innocence lost—and for Verrier’s Fall/Winter 2009 collection. It is a tribute to the feminine mystique of the film’s heroine, Geneviève, played with awkward adolescent allure by 21-year-old Catherine Deneuve.
Director Jacques Demy artfully merges the film’s colorful set design with the clothing worn by his characters. The sharp, sleek dresses worn by Geneviève’s mother are echoed in her apartment’s pink-and-black striped wallpaper. By contrast, the blue floral pattern of Geneviève’s girlish bedroom reappears in the guise of a baby-blue virginal frock she wears in the first half of the film.
Verrier’s Fall/Winter 2009 collection references the delightfully designed film in high-waisted dresses, skirts and pants that celebrate French-influenced femininity in colors that have jumped off the walls of Cherbourg’s cinematic setting. Circular motifs that are reminiscent of umbrellas dance across dresses, making an appearance in one black duchess satin shift via Swarovski crystal “flower bombs” at heart and hip, and in another bright-red polka dot jacquard that offers sweetly sophisticated three-quarter-length, above-the-knee proportions.
Geneviève’s nascent womanhood is further celebrated in pink and blue chiffon blouses whose sheerness reveal just enough of the body to hint at an emergent sexuality while silver-lined ruffles serve to conceal the heart of the matter. Ruffles continue to play front and center with varying effects; one high-necked silk taffeta day dress in demure rose is all innocence, while a short black crinkle chiffon evening dress implies the kind of experience that might make a virgin blush.
Innocence and experience are not this season’s only contrast, however. The collection’s ruffles, frills and crystal accents are highlighted by distinctly military-style simplicity in jackets and coats constructed of hearty wool, leather and mink. Like Demy’s setting of his multihued story against the dull backdrop of Cherbourg, such layering of frilly confection beneath straight-edged outerwear only serves to enhance the complexity—and contradiction—inherent in substantive style.
Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week