Guests arrived yesterday afternoon to the Mona Bismarck American Center in Paris to discover a counterpoint, not devoid of irony, between the sumptuous hotel particulier décor, the champagne and the celebrities (Dita Von Teese and Michelle Rodriguez sat next to each other) in the surroundings, and the actual inspiration behind Ulyana Sergeenko’s sixth haute couture collection. Communal Apartments in the USSR aren’t generally associated with glamour, yet the Kazakhstan-born designer presented her own dramatic, glitzy version of living conditions under Marxism-Leninism: there were long hems, lampshade volumes and soft fabrics like velvet and satin for the once grandes dames, ex-owners of the 10-room homes they now shared with peasants dressed in traditional motifs - one black-and-white dress with a lace panel representing a squirrel paired with a fur bonnet stood out - factory workers in simple chunky knits and KGB officers in two-piece suits.
But the festive spirit was still there, explored through a series of naïf draped or plissé dresses covered in embroidered and printed confetti, and not-so innocent boudoir pieces in embroidered pale blue silk and peach crêpe. A bejewelled babydoll dress worn with a velvet-and-fur ice-cream cone bag had a whiff of Mikhail Bulgakov to it. Flower embroideries in a burgundy jacket-and-skirt ensemble turned the model into a poupée russe. But that’s where Sergeenko’s talent lies: in thoroughly exploring Russian imagery, and almost (if not quite) giving it a humorous twist.