A few days ago it was announced that the New York City Ballet Fall Gala will feature costumes created by Dries Van Noten, Narciso Rodriguez, Jason Wu and Rosie Assoulin.
There is nothing new about this collaboration since the fashion gala program started around 2012, turning in the last few years into an opportunity for fashion designers to try and come up with innovative costumes for the NYCB performances. Yet fashionistas nowadays have more than just one chance a year to spot costumes by fashion designers during opera and dance performances.
Tomorrow, for example, at Paris' Opéra Bastille Karl Lagerfeld's set and costumes will debut in George Balanchine's "Brahms-Schönberg Quartet".
Though the premiere will perfectly coincide with the opening of Paris Haute Couture Week, the inspiration for the costumes didn't come strictly from fashion, but from Brahms' music and from an art and architecture reference – the Vienna Secession.
According to press releases, details from paintings by Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann inspired the black and white suede waistcoats of the men and the hats and headdresses made by the millinery workshop at the Opéra Bastille.
But, rather than random geometrical patterns by Moser and Hoffman, the checkered motif integrated in some costumes calls to mind Moser's chair for the 18th Secessions Exhibit and the Entrance Hall of the Purkersdorf Sanatorium (1903).
Looking a bit better at the tutus for the female dancers with their black and white striped corsets in velvet and satin and romantic frothy tulle that fades from black to white, images of textile and fashion designer Emilie Louise Flöge, lover and muse of Gustav Klimt, clad in a long black and white gown come to mind.
The set features an ancient palace immersed in the mist (the black and white tutus with tulle fading from black to white seem to evoke the effects of the mist) and grey drapes hanging down to the floor, a set that hints at the declining grandeur of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Karl Lagerfeld isn’t the first couturier invited to collaborate with the Paris Opera Ballet: past collaboration included Yves Saint-Laurent for Roland Petit's "Notre-Dame de Paris", Christian Lacroix for Balanchine's "Le Palais de cristal" and Blanca Li's "Sheherazada".
The performance is part of a double bill, "Justin Peck / Balanchine", featuring another ballet that may prove interesting for fashionistas - "Entre chien et loup".
Choreographed by Justin Peck, the piece features minimalist and modernist costumes by Mary Katrantzou (who worked with Peck in 2014 on the costumes for the NYCB's "Belles-Lettres") and sets by conceptual artist John Baldessari.
For the occasion the colourful dots that Baldessari often places over the faces of his subjects were turned into masks offering coour-coded identities to the dancers, or chances to the audience to play a join the dots game as the performers move around the stage.
Though the styles of the costumes included in "Justin Peck / Balanchine" are radically different, they could be seen as being influenced by the same combination of art and architecture.
This season the Opéra Bastille has strenghthened its connections with fashion: its costume workshop has collaborated indeed with Iris Van Herpen ("Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward", choreographed by Benjamin Millepied), Gareth Pugh ("Alea Sands" by Wayne McGregor; and in September he will work on Francesco Cavalli's opera "Eliogabalo") and Alessandro Sartori ("La Nuit s'achève" by Benjamin Millepied).
Bad news for superficial fashionistas then: the time may have come for them to start studying their librettos and learn more about their pas de deux and grands jetés, if they genuinely want to keep up with the "fashion designer as costume creator" trend.
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