Butterflies floating from a dress onto a video screen: Frank Sorbier reached for the high-tech future of haute couture in Paris yesterday with a visually-gorgeous retelling of a dark fairytale.
Sorbier took as his cue the 17th-century French fairytale "Donkeyskin", about a widowed king set on marrying his own daughter, who escapes his clutches only by demanding a series of impossible gowns, the colour of the sky, moon or sun.
"The idea was to tell a story. And this was a good place to start!" the designer told AFP backstage.
For his avant-gardist autumn-winter collection, Sorbier cut just two dresses, a low-cut white ball gown worn on stage by his princess, and the sculptural black dress and pointed headdress of sorceress.
As the curtain rose in the Paris theatre hosting the show, his black magician called forth computer generated images onto the folds of the princess' dress and a giant screen behind her.
Setting the scene, a candle chandelier flickers on the princess' gown, before a surrealist image of a castle perched on a rock in the sky.
Images of the aurora borealis, of morning dew or underwater reeds undulating on her dress evoke the princess' fragile beauty, and the warped desire it arouses in her father whose image looms behind on screen.
When the king manages to produce the extravagant gowns, the princess has no choice but to flee, disguised in a donkeyskin, an escape suggested through imagery of the open road.
She finds refuge working in the kitchens of a royal farm, evoked by a dress of exquisite stucco motifs, set against a dreary domestic backdrop.
For the happy ending, when she wins the love of a royal prince, a beating heart appears on a blood red gown, giving way to a white dress with iridescent butterflies fluttering up and away, into the blue sky beyond.
"The collection is a bridge between the past, the present and what the future could be," explained Sorbier, who teamed up with the software giant Intel for the high-tech side of the project.
"It's about how with a little imagination you can bring together two worlds that are diametrically opposed," he said. "And it is about how we can take haute couture into the future to ensure it survives."
To wrap up the show, Sorbier sent forth 19 looks from his past collections, meant to illustrate the timeless nature of couture, the models joining the fairytale characters on stage, before breaking into a little dance.