Les Radiants: the New Vision of Cucculelli Shaheen AW23
Celestial. Mythical. Compelling. These are all bywords for the imagination and flair embodied in the husband and wife team, Cucculelli Shaheen. Their 15th collection, Les Radiants, did not disappoint. It was a fitting name for the series of 31 outfits, which glimmered and shined in a rich range of hues, from deep black to glistening gold, imbuing any wearer with effortless elegance and beauty.
The New York—based brand is well known for its effortless, figure-hugging silhouettes and heavily embroidered gowns. These are often accompanied by deep necklines, plunging backs and cutouts to reveal flashes of skin. Les Radiants was no exception. The collection featured low-rise skirts and trousers (harking back to the 00s trend), as well as the brand’s signature cutouts to expose the waist and hips.
This contrast between fabric and nudity was one of many featured on the runway. The duo stated that the push and pull of their masculine and feminine viewpoints is key to many of the designs. Indeed, the juxtaposition remained fundamental to this collection.
Les Radiants as Pillars and Sculptures
The brand described Les Radiants as “Chaos and Classicism”, two terms that I found intriguing as many of their creations seem almost statuesque. Their seventh collection, The Neo Classicists, showed once again the pillar-like nature of the clothes that reminded me of classical sculptures. Some of these models would not have appeared out of place as the Caryatids in a modern, living artistic interpretation of the Erechtheion’s Porch of the Maidens.
The City of Les Radiants
Speaking of this ancient temple to Athena, it is worth noting that she was a powerful goddess of war. Then, is it any wonder that some of the outfits had a chainmail feel and were reminiscent of suits of armour?
The goddess Athena is also linked with several cities throughout Greece. In fact, Cucculelli Shaheen frequently cite their own city, New York, as a longstanding muse and source of inspiration. Their clothes embody the city’s swagger and confidence because, like New York, they don’t need to prove anything to anyone. They have an innate assurance.
It felt right that the Webster Hall in Manhattan hosted the show. As a significant musical venue (with live music from Breanna Barbara and band), it embodied the modernity mixed with heritage that represents Cucculelli Shaheen.
Darkness and Light
The leading concept behind this season’s designs was “Darkness and Light”, and the brand used it to full effect. The collection started with predominantly black pieces adorned with hints of silver beading or fringes. Then it moved to a beautiful champagne colour which transitioned into dusky pink and bold reds, all embellished by golden detail. Whilst it was a limited palette, it worked, forcing us to focus on the level of detail and craftsmanship within each piece and making the more vivid colours all the more stunning.
Artistic Echoes of Les Radiants
The duo stated that the “Darkness and Light” theme came from a number of different artists. One is the contemporary artist Christopher Bucklow, whose beautiful, imaginative photographs feature luminous, shimmering silhouettes of people against dark backdrops. His influence is clear on many of the pieces, especially the art-deco white tulle and crystal dress.
Other sources of inspiration were Georges De La Tour, Rembrandt and Caravaggio. What these artists have in common is their masterful and innovative use of dark and light. Caravaggio is often credited with inventing tenebrism: the selective illumination of certain figures in a composition, essentially a more pronounced use of chiaroscuro. Dark backgrounds create the perfect atmosphere for his lustrous figures, which literally almost glow. You can see hints of this in the gold or silver detail on the garments. Ultimately, the addition of the dramatic red is reminiscent of Georges De La Tour. In fact, his work often features a red glow.
The return of the astrological theme is hardly surprising with collection titles such as Solstice, Alchemy + Mysticism, and Supernovae. The embellishments on various pieces hinted at stars in the night sky. However, the striking sun motifs really caught the eye, even though they were only present in four of the outfits. They highlighted the technical skill of Cucculelli Shaheen, with each radiating ray of sun containing at least three different shades.
This was a truly breathtaking collection, although I would have expected nothing less from Cucculelli Shaheen. Unsurprisingly, they included a mixture of art, mythology and celestial themes to add profundity to their already beautiful work. The thing I admire the most about them is their ability to create practical and unpretentious clothes. This is in spite of all the grandiose ideas behind these designs. When describing Les Radiants, many said, “Wake up and dream”, and sometimes it really seems that this brand creates dreams.