Pierre Cardin was back on the runway Saturday night as the headline attraction of the fourth International Fashion Festival in Porto Montenegro, a luxury resort destination eager to affirm itself as a cultural hub, too.
The Paris-based fashion house paraded about 80 designs for women and men at a vast open-air event space that also displays vintage submarines. About 1,500 people attended the two-day, invitation-only event, including local elite, high-end tourists, government officials, and such celebrities as Montenegrin football hero Predrag Mijatović; Dijana Djoković, mother of tennis superstar Novak Djoković, and Mexican model and actress Patricia Gloria Contreras, dressed in a sparkly Balmain minidress.
The festival, which attracted such sponsors as Hublot and Samsung, was also broadcast on national television in Montenegro, a small country prized for its rugged mountains, medieval villages and spectacular Adriatic coastline.
On Friday night, before Sanja Matijević, Jaric and Balestra paraded their designs on a long, raised catwalk, Rodrigo Basilicati-Cardin, president and artistic director of Pierre Cardin, said he was impressed with how Porto Montenegro is developing with its spotless pedestrian-only streets, impressive array of fashion stores stocking famous French and Italian brands, and visitors and locals who like to dress up for any outing.
While Cardin does not have any retail operations in Montenegro, some of its licensed products, including menswear and eyewear, are sold in the region, Basilicati-Cardin noted. Local tourism officials treated the Cardin crew, Contreras and other VIP attendees to guided tours of the historic, walled cities of Budva and Kotor, boat rides through the scenic Boka, and lavish meals at popular beach resorts and the swanky Regent hotel with its vistas of mega yachts.
The house of Cardin has been exceptionally busy in 2022, marking what would have been the founder’s 100th birthday with large-scale fashion shows in Paris last January, and Venice earlier this month.
Attendees remarked on the long, storied careers of Cardin, who died in 2020 at age 98, and Roman couturier Renato Balestra, who is now 97, and well known in the Balkans.
Rebooted earlier this year as a ready-to-wear brand, Balestra showcased its zippy new look — and signature blue color — on the runway for the first time, showing everything from logo T-shirts to embroidered ballgowns. Its fall 2022 collection was first unveiled during a still-life presentation at Milan Fashion Week last February.
“There’s a lot of affection here for Balestra,” said the designer’s granddaughter, Sofia Bertolli Balestra, who is now spearheading the creative direction of the brand. She noted that her grandfather has staged couture shows in the Balkans since the ’90s, and designed the costumes and the scenography for performances of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” at the National Theatre in Belgrade in 2019. “Everyone knows him here. The country loves him.”
Balestra is shipping its first season of rtw to a clutch of multibrand stores in Italy, and is gunning for worldwide distribution with the spring 2023 collection it plans to present in Milan in September. Bertolli Balestra, who took her runway bow with her aunt Federica Balestra, said she was surprised to see all the famous fashion brands splashed on store awnings in Montenegro — Dior, Balenciaga, Off-White, Saint Laurent and Valentino among them — and charmed by Montenegro’s summer lifestyle. “It feels very European,” she remarked.
Belgrade-based designer Tamara Jarić paraded only 10 looks from her new brand Jaric, but made an impact with her sleek tailoring and a nifty take on the white shirt and black blazer.
Interviewed the morning after her show, Jaric said her Instagram account blew up from all the exposure the festival afforded. The Polimoda graduate launched her coat- and jacket-heavy brand last October after years working in New York for such brands as Nicole Miller and Jill Stuart.
Montenegro has vastly expanded its luxury attractions in recent years, and events like the fashion festival also boost tourism, according to Ivana Bulatović, senior adviser to the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism of Montenegro.
She noted that the International Fashion Festival attracts jet-setters from around the globe who can mingle with the residents of Porto Montenegro’s and users of its 450 yacht berths.
“Our mission was to create a festival that will be much more than just a runaway showcase, but rather a few days of meetings, workshops, Montenegrin authentic experiences, cultural showcases and much more,” Bulatović said.
According to the statistics authority Monstat, tourist arrivals in Montenegro from January to May of this year zoomed 156.1 percent to 267,350, a 78.1 percent improvement versus the pre-pandemic year 2019. Overnight stays during the five-month period were dominated by Germans and Serbians, accounting for about a 15 percent share each. Others came from France, Great Britain, Albania, Kosovo, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey and Austria.