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Carlos Miele Fall 2012 Show — Inspired by the Gauchas of Rio Grande do Sul

Designer Carlos Miele tends to look to his native Brazil for inspiration — and this season was no exception. But, instead of focusing on the work of Brazilian painters, musicians, and architects, or drawing from the alluring beaches and azure waters of Río de Janeiro, he chose a more rustic backdrop: the inhabitants of the pampas (the wide plains area) of Rio Grande do Sul. More specifically, Miele looked to the area’s gauchos, cowboy-like horsemen responsible for tending to the cattle, carving out nomadic lifestyles and living off the land in every regard. Traditionally, gauchos don bombachas (wide pantaloon-style trousers made of sturdy cotton and tapered at the ankle by a single button closure), wool ponchos to keep them warm during brisk days, flat brim hats with chin straps to shield them from the sun’s rays, and wide leather belts. Miele, then, embarked on a journey of cattle region, with classic gaucha flavor coded into the genetic material of the majority of his creations.

Ponchos, pantaloons, and jumpsuits abounded, as did black cowboy hats (original gaucho toppers), wide leather belts, medallions, hammered gold stud details, and leather fringe. Some models, for example, strutted down the runway in sandy beige or taupe-tinged grey jumpsuits with cropped pants that widened and ballooned along the thighs, then tapered below the knee with lacing along the sides, and buttoned-up tops with square flap pockets and scrunched-up elbow-length sleeves. These jumpsuits were adorned with wide leather belts featuring hammered gold studs, black gaucho hats, and fur stoles draped over their shoulders, resembling newly-skinned animal pelts (as shown above, fourth from top). Others wore these pants with sheer, button-up, long-sleeved blouses (as shown after the jump) or topped off with heavy, black or camel-colored wool ponchos featuring the traditional V-shaped neckline and the long pieces of fringe dangling from the arm openings, along with bands of geometric interweaving at the sleeves to resemble the embroideries of the region (as with the look shown third from top, which features an accentuated waistline thanks to the addition of a wide tan leather belt with hammered golden studs). There was even a fur poncho (shown second from top) that managed to capture the rural, folkloric overtones of the gaucho theme while also exuding elegance and conveying a sense of movement thanks to the cut of the piece.

But, while the fur poncho was a particularly triumphant look within the Brazilian cowgirl paradigm, most looks felt too distant from what’s at the core of the Carlos Miele aesthetic: cocktail dresses and evening gowns that exude sensuality and femininity, with curve-hugging silhouettes, expert technical work, and vivacious color palettes that speak to the designer’s Latin American heritage.

As the show unfolded, guests started to see more of these glamorous looks but, sadly, the most exquisite gowns seemed out of place in such a cattle country-themed show, giving the collection a slightly disjointed feel.

Sure, some dresses seemed like a natural progression from the poncho-and-pantaloon looks thanks to the use of draped leather fringe as an overlay — take, for example, a printed one-shoulder cocktail dress with an asymmetrical neckline and black leather fringe draped from one side of the bodice to the other, each strand positioned to follow the same angle as that of the neckline (as shown last above). Another dress, one with a chevron-like black-and-white pattern, also featured leather fringe draping from one shoulder to the other and from one hip to the next, but this one was adorned with a medallion-covered leather belt (as shown after the jump). Other more voluminous frocks were sprinkled with South American charm via the incorporation of bolero jackets (most certainly one of the show’s standout elements). In fact, the matador-flavored finale look (shown at top) involved a romantic, floor-length black gown with a tiered ruffled skirt featuring layers of tulle and a fitted bodice with a slight “V” neckline, topped off with a black bolero jacket featuring rows of metal studs running down the length of the cap sleeves.

But finale gown aside, Miele’s show-stopping evening gowns — including a floor-length, body-hugging frock with a geometric, mosaic-like, magenta-and-gold print (shown fifth from top) and a wrap-around gown with a V-shaped neckline, a cream column skirt, and an undulating overlay of draped silk chiffon in a foliage-inspired print incorporating yellow, camel, cream, and black tones (shown sixth from top) — seemed like a better fit for another collection.

Overall, while Miele’s pieces proved how well-rounded he is in all facets of design and construction, we were left yearning for more of his dreamy dresses and gowns, hoping he’d focused less on ponchos and cropped pants and, instead, showered us with feminine silhouettes that showed a reverence to the female form.

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