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Tête-à-tête with talent at the IM show wowing Paris

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Madame et Monsieur, the time has finally come to lift the lid on all the secrets behind the Back to Couture graduate show hosted by Istituto Marangoni Paris. The first Istituto Marangoni catwalk in the city of lights since the pandemic, the Back to Couture event celebrated the school’s top 10 graduating students from 2022 and a long-awaited comeback of physical fashion shows.

The name was not unintentional, as it describes the connection to Parisian Haute Couture’s roots. Held in the marvellous Opera Ballroom at the Intercontinental Paris LeGrand Hotel in the Ville lumière, the event was an extraordinary opportunity for ten selected young graduates. We caught up with two of them, who presented their collection in front of their tutors, mentors and industry professionals in a unique fashion show oozing 19th-century-like grandeur. Let’s discover what hit the catwalk under soft lighting and the models’ red-lipped make-up and sleek hairdos.

 

Istituto Marangoni Paris graduate designer Bella Diaz on her collection “The Divine Femme”, celebrating the beauty and strength of her ultimate muse – women

The first talent we met was Bella Diaz, who designed “The Divine Femme” collection to embody women’s boundless and relentless energy. While discussing her flattering, brightly coloured silhouettes, hand-bedazzled finishing, whimsical trims and glittering accessories, she stated she aimed to celebrate the beauty and strength of her ultimate muse – women.

Bella Diaz backstage with a model

Istituto Marangoni Paris graduate Bella Diaz backstage with a model

Where was your head at while you were designing your graduate collection?
This collection celebrates women and their divine femininity, bringing to life the inner goddess within each of them. My goal as a designer is to create collections that make people smile and pieces that evoke pure happiness and celebration. Life is beautiful, and women are powerful, and I simply try to represent that in my designs. Especially in this collection – being my graduate collection – it was clear that I had to go the extra mile. Therefore, my motto during development was: ‘When I think it’s enough, let’s add more.” Working every day and every night on my collection: this is what I passionately enjoyed. Of course, my artist’s eye keeps telling me, “I could have done this, added more of that,” but I know deep within that this is my best work so far. This collection represents a big part of myself; it has been very personal. Since I was a little girl, my eye has always gravitated towards colour, sparkle and volume, yet adding all those elements into a balanced and coherent collection was my biggest challenge. My beautiful country, Guatemala, and the traditional clothes of the people there definitely inspired the colour palette. The concept was developed from an initial question: “Is God a woman?” but I felt this was a little too narrow, so I proposed a vision that found a goddess within each woman. This resulted in a powerful and glamorous collection worthy of a modern goddess. The silhouettes remained feminine and elegant, yet strong and confident while considering my style. 

A model wearing a look by Bella Diaz

A model wearing a look by Bella Diaz

How did you feel when you heard you would be one of the 10 students to present at the Istituto Marangoni graduate show in Paris?
When I received the most anxiously awaited email of the year and read my name was in, I was so eager and proud to have the opportunity to share my work on a broader platform. It was the moment I had dreamed of since I was 8 when I learnt to sew. Winning was not the goal for me, but to put all my ideas down on paper and bring them to life, and then stand in front of the judges knowing with all my heart that I did it all myself.

Bella Diaz's creations celebrate women and their divine femininity

Bella Diaz's creations celebrate women and their divine femininity


A few looks by Istituto Marangoni alumna Bella Diaz

What were the most exciting and most challenging moments during the process?
When discussing the greatest moments, I cannot but mention the quality time I spent with my classmates: talented people who inspired me more and more every day. We all have different styles, lives, tastes and opinions, and that was the best thing for me. Whenever I felt stuck or like I couldn’t think of a new design, I would pick the brain of the person whose style I felt was opposite to mine to start thinking differently. Then I could approach the problem from a different perspective. The most complicated part was to make choices. After nine months of creation, design and development, choosing becomes tricky because maybe you spent eight hours on manipulation and decided to choose the one piece that took you no more than 30 minutes. I wanted to add everything and more, or at least as much as possible. But I only had two hands, and I knew I wanted to complete my collection using the skills and knowledge I had learned during my time at Istituto Marangoni.  

Bella Diaz during an interview right after the show

Bella Diaz during an interview following the Istituto Marangoni fashion show in Paris, titled Back to Couture 

Tell us about your impressions of the show.
Everything went beyond our expectations. The other students selected are incredibly talented, and it was an absolute honour to represent not only Istituto Marangoni Paris’ top-notch education but also my country, Guatemala. 

A model wearing a look by Bella Diaz

A model wearing a look by Bella Diaz 

Bella Diaz backstage with one of her creations

Bella Diaz backstage with one of her creations

 

Alumna Sara Sowins discusses deadstock fabrics, classical tailoring, circular pattern cutting and the manipulation of silk and latex from “Romanticism”, her graduate collection at Istituto Marangoni Paris

Once you have the opportunity to experience the “Romanticism” collection by Istituto Marangoni Paris alumna Sara Sowins you realise you are in front of a new kind of romanticism. With a focus on local craftsmanship and a carbon-neutral footprint to drive fashion into the future, Sowins’ graduate collection features deadstock fabrics, classical tailoring, circular pattern cutting, recycled metal and leather details, as well as knitted fabrics and silk and latex manipulations.

Model wearing a creation by Sara Sowins

Istituto Marangoni Paris graduate Sara Sowins backstage with a model

What movie storyline was happening in your mind while designing your collection for the Istituto Marangoni’s Back to Couture show in Paris?
Looking back, now that it has been a few months since finishing the year and the show, I think I can compare the process to having a child. While I don’t know what that feels like exactly, I can say the collection was incredibly personal and took all of my time, energy, and brain space for a year. I grew along with it as it started in one direction and twisted into another and finally reached where it ended; the collection grows into something by itself further than what you imagined before. There is an intimate relationship between the creator and the creation, whether your subject is personal or not. My collection started from a very personal phenomenon I observed in my life. I based the progression of the looks on the trajectory of my relationships, where I tend to romanticise people and then become disappointed. But when I look at it now, and as I realised during the show, the collection does retain a personal side, but it is also quite relevant in discussing today’s culture and society as a reference to Romanticism, the 18th-century movement demanding a return to nature and a search for the true sublime. I believe that while there is a cultural push or desire towards futuristic technological advancements, a future where we return to nature is necessary if we want to survive. There are murmurs of that in the Zeitgeist. 

Sara Sowin's collection was based on the trajectory of her relationships

Sara Sowins' collection was based on the trajectory of her relationships

How did you feel when you heard you would be one of the 10 students to present at the Istituto Marangoni graduate show in Paris?
Of course, it was flattering but mostly a relief to be picked among the 10. It was relieving to hear that perhaps something I made or talked about touched the jury enough and that people other than my teachers appreciated my work during the year. Regardless, I think I would have been satisfied with my work.

Sara Sowins' collection was based on the trajectory of her relationships

Looks from Istituto Marangoni alumna Sara Sowins'graduate collection 

What were the most exciting and most challenging moments during that process?
The most special moments throughout the process were when I had to create a toile or complete hours of research and then almost come up for air for a second to consider, “Wow, I made that,” or “This all is connecting so well, I am really onto something here.” These are the kinds of things a jury will never understand, nor would anyone really grasp the gravity or profoundness of your work from 10 minutes on the catwalk. Like many of those chosen among the 10, I draped, drafted, and sewed all the garments myself. I knew every flaw, every satisfying topstitch, and every corner of every piece. The time complications of making everything myself made the year incredibly stressful. But in the end, it is an immense reward to see your garments on beautiful models who give them life and to see the reactions of people observing your work for the first time. Perhaps this is something I miss a lot during the creative process; you become so used to your work that you have no idea if it is good, uninteresting, or shocking – it just becomes natural.

Model wearing a creation by Sara Sowins

Model wearing a creation by Sara Sowins

Tell us about your impressions of the show.
Seeing someone react to it for the first time is the most rewarding part of a presentation. Then there is the time behind the show’s curtain, where madness and hysteria take over in a cramped, beautiful space. Of course, things that had never broken or torn suddenly do! But there’s a quick moment where everything somehow comes together, and it did despite some chaos. It was a pleasure, a dream I never realised could be possible. Our show was indeed what one would desire for a Parisian fashion show, and I am so grateful to have been a part of it. 

Model wearing a creation by Sara Sowins

A model waiting backstage wearing a Sara Sowins creation

Sara Sowins during an interview backstage
Sara Sowins during an interview following the Istituto Marangoni Back to Couture show in Paris

 

 

Elizaveta Ostanina
Editorial team, Paris 
School
PARIS
Course
Programme
postgraduate-Master's Degrees • Master's Courses