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The Globe and Mail

Saab brings his Hollywood haute style to the Paris runway

Style reporter Amy Verner is covering the major shows at Paris Couture Fashion Week this week. Follow her on Twitter @amyverner.


The Designer

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Elie Saab had been designing dresses for 20 years and then one day in 2002, an actress named Halle Berry wore one of his gowns to the Oscars (it helped that she won the Best Actress award that year) and he's been a go-to guy for red carpet frocks ever since. Primarily based in Lebanon, he was invited to be a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 2003.

The Show

Press notes explained the Urban Reverie message as one of shimmering reflections set off by a city's architectural lines. "The Elie Saab woman is as evanescent as a dream, a vision of lightness draped in tulle, silk chiffon and lace." In plainer speak, the collection played out like a stunning red carpet special, sans Joan Rivers.

The Statement

It is a testament to Saab's understanding of embellishment that so much beading and sparkle could look so light. Indeed, the elves in his Milan and Paris workshops must have to be incredibly patient. Each dress – most were long, some were knee-length – appeared more modern fairy-tale than the next, and gave the impression of a goddess emerging from a lake of crystals. A watery spectrum of hues – from icy blue to night-swimming navy – plus earthy chestnut brown (flattering for all complexions) offered a restrained counterpoint to all the shine. Ditto the band of velvet encircling many waists, which also helped denote that this was, indeed, a fall collection.

The Effect

Holy ethereal. When dresses featured embroidered boleros to create an upper-back detail, the models looked as if they would take off into flight; when there were trains, invariably boasting clusters of paillettes, the models appeared to glide down the runway. For Saab, it seems that exposed backs are the most elegant of erogenous zones.

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The Takeaway

There is no doubt that these dresses will end up on a who's who of starlets over the coming months. They are designed to dazzle while minimizing any risk of Worst Dressed infamy. So when Rivers et al ask actresses the critical, nail-biting question, "Who are you wearing?" the name Elie Saab will shine forth from their lips.

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