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The Versailles Dress

When I was living in Singapore a few years ago, there was an exhibition by a photographer, whose name I have sadly forgotten, but whose black and white images of the topiary trees wrapped in burlap in winter in Versailles have stayed with me for years.

These photographs, astonishingly beautiful, sculptural and ethereal made a lasting impression on me. Taken in close up they looked like goddesses draped in flowing robes.

And when you saw rows and rows of these burlapped trees and bushes it was as if they had been cast in a Greek odyssey. Incredibly powerful…

I tried, unsuccessfully, to find said photographer but I did find the attached image online that is quite similar.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself at a textile fair excitedly but unhurriedly sifting through fabric swatches for my summer collection.

I zeroed in on a stand where all the fabric was from Lithuania – unbleached cottons and linens all in shades of white, off white and ecru. Heaven for a designer who is uninterested in patterns and loud fabrics!

Letting my hands linger over the sensuous, earthy fabric, I suddenly thought of those images from Versailles – row after row of trees hidden tantalisingly under their burlap sheaths awaiting their Spring awakening.

I bought meters of that unbleached, raw and natural fabric and created my own homage to the trees of Versailles. I wanted to re-create the feeling I had from those photographs – the rawness, the earthiness, the unfinished edges of the burlap.

The result is The Versailles Dress. Created in layers that overlap, it swings, it hints at, it drapes the body, the low back enhances the sculpture of a woman’s shoulders – the delicate bones reminiscent of the branches of trees.

It is not a conventional dress, but it is incredibly sensual.

Karina Zabihi

September 2019

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