In his debut collection for Spring-Summer 2024, Alain Paul approaches dressmaking through the principles of ballet central to his formative understanding of clothes. Staged at the Théâtre du Châtelet, it is structured according to the institution’s three dress codes – arrival, rehearsal, premiere – as a technical exploration of the movements that transform the ballet wardrobe from austere to intriguing. The collection, La Première, echoes the minimal deconstruction embodied by the aesthetics of Pina Bausch, Merce Cunningham and_Martha Graham.
Focusing on the articles of clothing scrupulously studied by designers at the beginning of their training – the tailored jacket and the tailored pencil skirt – it projects in dressmaking the ethos of contemporary ballet: demonstrating through discipline a respect for the classic craft before deconstructing and abstracting it. The repetition at the core of ballet is observed in a collection constructed through evolving concentrations around essential ideas. Conjuring the toe of ballet slippers, moulded leather ankle boots and sling-back shoe worn throughout create the illusion of the foot bone deformation familiar to dancers.
L’Arrivée, the first act, reflects on the civilian tailored wardrobe of the performer, whose physicality is never off-duty. Through iteration, an elongated tailored jacket sculpted to evoke the arched shoulder posture and clavicular indentation native to ballet movement gradually transforms into a dress. The silhouette is echoed in the shoulders of a trench coat, which morphs into a skirt. Look by look, a pencil skirt moves around the body, travels into a top and transforms into a dress and a poplin shirt, before mutating with the tailored shoulder shape in a sleeveless red shirt.
La Répétition, the second act, interprets the justaucorps emblematic to ballet training. Reinterpreted through tailoring, the linings of rehearsal trousers spill out over the waistband to evoke the notion of an integrated skirt or cummerbund. The technique evolves in trousers with looped elastic bands informed by dance belts, and in basculer skirts nodding at Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre du Printemps from 1975. A single red dress combined from two – one fixed, one draped – emulates the pièce de résistance of that staging. The silhouette intensifies in cupro separates, layered and twisted in line with physical impact.
La Première, the third act, re-imagines the collection’s motifs through amplified savoir-faire in a stage-inspired wardrobe. Translucent tulle draped around the torso recalls the movements of the performance, demonstrated in a gown, a caped dress, and a top draped like the gesture of pulling one’s t-shirts over the head to cool off. The arched shoulder posture and clavicular indentation of the tailoring is interpreted in boned denim and leather silhouettes. The pencil skirt top emerges in crin-structured denim and as gowns in silk duchesse.