Models Never Talk is a slow, visually gorgeous piece in which models speak through their body language

Models Never Talk performance is directed by renowned French fashion curator and historian Olivier Saillard.
Models Never Talk performance is directed by renowned French fashion curator and historian Olivier Saillard. PHOTO: VINCENT LAPPARTIENT

Review/Theatre

The O.P.E.N.

Models Never Talk

72-13/Thursday

Models Never Talk is the knowingly ironic title for this performance directed by renowned French fashion curator and historian Olivier Saillard, in which a group of retired models talk about their glory days.

It was, however, their body language that spoke volumes to this reviewer, more so than their verbal recollections.

Much like the couture that these women reminisced so fondly about, the piece felt elegantly understated in parts, yet looked visually gorgeous on the whole.

The seven former models - Christine Bergstrom, Axelle Doue, Charlotte Flossaut, Claudia Huidobro, Anne Rohart, Violeta Sanchez and Amalia Vairelli - may no longer be in the thrall of youth, but they still commanded the audience's attention from the moment they glided on set in matching black leotards and high heels.

This is a group that has worked with and inspired household name designers and fashion icons such as Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld.

Tall and regal, with a long, coltish grace, the silver-haired Doue recalled her first fitting with the French couturier Madame Gres, who gave her such a long dress she had to kick it out of the way to walk.

"That became my trademark," she said with a wry smile.

At times, the models traced the contours of the dresses they wore, running their fingers from neck to waist and savouring the memory of holding the fabric in their hands.

Fixing the audience with a piercing, soulful stare, and arms draped around her slender frame, Vairelli narrated how she fell in love with a Laurent dress: "It had huge cotton flowers and silver highlights...the flowers were floating as I was walking. I got a standing ovation."

Their slow, sensual physicality and the nostalgia they evoked kept me riveted, even though some of the monologues felt repetitive after a while.

Saillard, who put together the script, did close the distance between performer and audience by including several anecdotes with humanising touches.

Sanchez, who was a muse for Laurent, recalled how her attempt to make a silk and scarlet velvet dress sexier elicited a horrified reaction from the designer, who said: "I have asked you for Lady Macbeth, not Mae West!"

Later on, she gasped sharply, clutching at her body, likening the bodice she was wearing to a "carapace".

The show's highlight was when Flossaut, while describing a Gaultier dress, stumbled and teetered precariously on her heels, to show how she had been seized by nerves.

It was a stark moment of vulnerability, a crack in the illusion of perfection, that revealed the soul behind the style - more of such scenes would have made the show deeper and more impactful, in my opinion.

As the show drew to a close, with the aged models replicating their own poses from past photo shoots, I was reminded of how the power of fashion hangs not only on sophisticated couture, but is also sustained by the sheer force of a model's personality.

As Saint Laurent once said: "What is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it."

jianxuan@sph.com.sg

BOOK IT/Models Never Talk

WHERE: 72-13, Mohamed Sultan Road

WHEN: Saturday, 8pm

ADMISSION: The O.P.E.N. pass costs $45 and allows entry to all events. Registration is required for all events.

INFO: Go to www.sifa.sg