A second act is a dance between elucidation and escalation. Expressed through the storytelling of choreography, it develops an established arrangement while reiterating a core composition. In his sophomore collection for Fall-Winter 2024, Alain Paul refines and elaborates the ballet-centric approach to dressmaking illustrated in his debut show. Returning to the Théâtre du Châtelet, the proposition reinforces the intriguing austerity and minimal deconstruction embodied by the nascent codes of the brand. In the process, new layers– both figurative and material – unfold in an evolving wardrobe founded in a trans-seasonal and genre-defying attitude to dressing.

Proposing an alternative idea of staples, the justaucorps of the dancer’s rehearsal wardrobe create the base layer for the collection. Interpreted with high or scooped necks, the bodies materialise in black, white and pink lycra or velvet with illustrative shoulder lines as a framework for the silhouette. Featured in their purest form, the justaucorps gradually shape-shift into cascading peplum tops and long dresses. The warm-up trousers emblematic to dance training are constructed with a high waist in crin imbued with the impression of coming undone; a gesture inspired by the movements of ballet, which unravels in garments throughout the collection. Cupro, the brand’s signature regenerated material, is employed across garment categories.

Elongated tailored jackets and coats are structured with the collarbone silhouette introduced in the debut collection, sculpted to evoke the arched shoulder posture and clavicular indentation native to ballet movement. In an expression of the trans-seasonal philosophy of the collection, some are constructed with lavallière collars while others are layered with separate tailored scarves cut like the panel of a coat and adorned with pockets and cuff buttons. Double-breasted tuxedos embellished with spaced-out micro-sequins or elongated into a floor-length manifestation are worn over abstracted poplin shirts with side-swept collars freeze-framed in motion; an effect echoed in the throat latch of an overcoat.

Illustrating through cutting the choreography of Lamentation, the gut-wrenching 1930 dance solo by Martha Graham, dramatic volumes take form in physical expressions of emotions. Here, dresses, hoodies, tops and trousers are cut open vertically at the centre of the back to fall into panels at each side of the front, while exposing the lining of the deconstructed area. The ect reverberates in dresses cut into skirts overlaid with the fallen tops of their former incarnation, a motif reflected in two-piece sports silhouettes crafted in knitwear, velour and denim constructed as if the linings of the trousers have spilled out over the waistband in the style of a dancer during rehearsal. The imprint of motion is further suggested in a two-piece denim suit washed and flocked to imitate the all-over floor marks of the ballet studio.

Evening silhouettes re-imagine the tutu, allowing it to travel to the neckline and mutate into tops or magnified floor-length tulle plissé gowns. The cambré movement practised in ballet – in which the dancer will bend from the waist upwards and extend the arms to create a curve – is imitated in plissé gowns flipped towards the back. Finally, justaucorps fuse with eveningwear in a gown composed of an elongated leotard spliced with a floor-length plissé skirt, each pleat meticulously raccorded with the hem of the lycra. Evoking the toe of ballet slippers, satin thigh-high boots and moulded leather pointed ankle boots create the illusion of the foot bone deformation familiar to dancers.