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Monday Muse: Herv© L©ger Blends Bandages and Samurai Culture

Herve Leger by Max Azria Spring 2015

Season after season, Max Azria has to riff on the bandage dress at Herv© L©ger, the company he acquired in 1998 and relaunched in 2007. It was a historic move back then and the acquisition of Herv© L©ger by the BCBG Max Azria Group marked the very first time an American company had ever acquired a French fashion house. What would the actual Herv© L©ger (n©e Peugnet) think of the brand’s latest collection, which was inspired not by French tradition or the grand history of French fashion but Japanese samurai? It’s a far cry from the silhouette that he made his signature, but even through the lens of Eastern warriors, the Herv© L©ger DNA was loud and clear.

The onna-­bugeisha, a female samurai warrior class that fought alongside their male counterparts, was the touchstone of the collection, which continued Azria’s development of the line away from skintight dresses. The onna-bugeisha included wives, widows, daughters and rebels, and introduced a new woman to Japanese culture — one that differed from the housewife. In feudal Japan, women were seen as nothing more than vessels for child-bearing and ideals of femininity included delicacy and subservience, and the onna-bugeisha were in direct opposition, making them an obvious choice of inspiration for Azria’s Herv© L©ger collection, which always emphasize the strength and sensuality in the female form.

Many notable onna-bugeisha went on to lead clans of their own, leading armies and setting a new precedent for Japanese culture.

Herv© L©ger By Max Azria Spring Summer 2015

Drawing on the power and strength of the onna-bugeisha, Azria draped kimono tops and dresses with panels that moved away from the body. They gave their own onna-bugeisha a narrative that included armor for the battlefield. Bandage dresses were embellished with metallic studs that traced out curves and glinted in the spotlights. The pseudo-armor gave way to softer offerings, often with shibori prints and corset detailing. After the armor was shed, Azria explored the woman warrior’s return to life off the battlefield. He outfitted her in soft blush and dove grey (along with a few black LBDs), softening the traditional bandage shape with wider shoulders and flowing peplums.

Laverne Cox, who chose a classic Herv© L©ger dress for her Time Magazine cover, was sitting front row — a testament to the shifting standards of femininity. The red carpet is always flush with Herv© L©ger creations, and the coterie of Young Hollywood PYTs seating alongside Cox are the brand’s best ambassadors, but season after season, the Azrias find a way to make everyone look twice at the not-so-humble bandage dress with or without the celebrity factor.