Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo sent their Spring/Summer 2016 couture collection down the runway on Monday during couture week in Paris. As WWD noted in its review, “The collection oscillated between dazzling ball gowns and sassy, deluxe lingerie. A series of corseted bustier, evoking Fifties pinup glamour were softened by breezy silk chiffon night robes or luscious opera coats.” The bustier/robe combo of which WWD’s columnist, Paulina Szmydke, writes was best exemplified in Look No. 27 (above, right) of the Ralph & Russi collection, and if, by chance, it looked familiar, that is because we have seen it before. Budding couturier Ulyana Sergeenko has showed a similar look.
In a collection inspired by the Orient Express, Sergeenko, a bona fide street style star and couture collector, who launched her own collection in 2012, showed the same bustier/robe look. The puzzling element is: She showed it years a couple of seasons prior to Ralph and Russo. To be specific, Sergeenko’s take on bedroom dressing hit the runway as part of her Spring/Summer 2014 couture collection.
As Vogue’s Nicole Phelps noted in her January 2014 review of Sergeenko’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection, the Russian designer prides herself for the “made-in-Russia workmanship of the clothes” and the collections she shows are often the physical embodiment of “Russian fairy tales.” Not surprisingly, the references upon which Sergeenko relies so heavily come straight from her homeland; she currently resides in Russia.
With this in mind, Sergeenko’s couture collections, just like those of her peers, are often heavily tied to the silhouettes and constructs of historical garments. The same can be said for Christian Dior couture, for instance, which has extensive archives, that Raf Simons (and John Galliano before him and Gianfranco Ferré before him and so on) scoured through to complete his couture collections for the house in recent seasons.
I say this because I think it is more difficult – given the gravity of the practice of couture and the extensive amount of research and reference that goes into collections of this type – to point a finger and call someone out for copying when we are speaking of haute couture. Only so much can achieved and labeled as truly innovative and new in fashion, especially when you consider how much has already been done and shown on the runway in the past. And yet, we are faced with this eerie similarity, which is almost certainly – in both instances – based on a vintage design and styling. So, I suppose the question we are left with is: Who did it better?