Haute Couture Week A/W 2023: everything you need to know

Our guide to the best of Haute Couture Week A/W 2023, where extraordinary feats of craft and imagination make it the pinnacle of the fashion season

Chanel at Haute Couture Week A/W 2023
Chanel at Haute Couture Week A/W 2023
(Image credit: Courtesy of Chanel)

Haute Couture Week A/W 2023 took place this week in Paris, seeing the historic medium – a couture gown is made nearly entirely by hand, for a singular client’s body – take the limelight as the city’s storied houses showed off feats of craft and imagination in the season’s most dramatic runway shows. As expected, opulent designs, showstopping show sets and a celestial front row all featured.

Alongside the titans of haute couture – namely Dior, Chanel, Valentino, Fendi, Schiaparelli and Giorgio Armani Privé – there was also a new generation pushing the boundaries of the medium. Among them, American designer Thom Browne who held his first-ever haute couture show to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his eponymous brand, Paco Rabanne creative director Julien Dossena who was this season’s guest designer at Jean Paul Gaultier, and Demna, who continued his subversive take on haute couture at Balenciaga. 

Here, Wallpaper* rounds up the best of Haute Couture Week A/W 2023. 

Haute Couture Week A/W 2023: the highlights


Fendi haute couture collection

Fendi haute couture A/W 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy of Fendi)

A sense of fluidity defined Kim Jones’ latest haute couture collection for Fendi, featuring elegant draped silhouettes and supple fabrications. ‘This season, we wanted to concentrate on the achievement of fluidity, drape and shape through couture techniques, bringing these elements together with the attitude of today,’ Jones said, noting that inspiration also came from artistic director of jewellery Delfina Delettrez Fendi’s first high jewellery collection. ‘We worked on a template based on Delfina’s high jewellery. If there is no jewellery, the idea is still present through the colour palette and embellishment in the collection; the clothes themselves take on the idea of jewellery,’ continued Jones. ‘Colours come from flesh tones as well as that of stones: black diamonds, rubies, sapphires. There is a play of soft and hard, flesh and stone.’ It lent the collection a feeling of intricacy and rarity: skilled pattern cutting meant several of the garments only had a single seam, while shearlings were cut with delicate Fendi chevrons. The final flurry of looks which closed the show – each accessorised with a ‘jewel box minaudière’ – were perhaps the most vivid expression of craft, their shimmering palettes taking over 1000 hours of handwork. 


Valentino haute couture

Valentino haute couture A/W 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy of Valentino)

Pierpaolo Piccioli transported guests to the grounds of Château de Chantilly, a dramatic country home 50 miles north of Paris destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt in the late 19th century. The Italian creative director titled the show ‘Un Château’, calling such French mansions and castles ’formerly emblematic of notions of elitism and status’ ready to be ‘analysed, questioned, then redefined’. It was a metaphor, he continued, for the art of haute couture, a historic medium which in recent seasons has seemed ripe for reinvention. Not least in the hands of Piccioli, whose tenure so far has been defined by an inclusive, democratic approach which has sought to meld both salon and street (last season’s haute couture show drew on transgressive nightclubs of the 1980s and 1990s). Here, he noted he was thinking about simplicity: Kaia Kerber in a pair of haute couture jeans and white shirt hammered home a desire for reduction. So too diaphanous white gowns which hovered across the body (‘draperies freeze fabric in motion,’ said the house), shimmering monastic capes, and sharply sliced opera coats worn louchly over gowns and tailoring. Of course, the show was not without the liberated flourishes of glamour for which Piccioli is known: giant flowers bloomed around the model’s heads, feathered fronds emerged from opera gloves, while waterfall earrings were studded with gobstopper jewels. ’Simplicity is complexity resolved,’ read a quote from sculptor Constantin Brancusi on the collection’s notes, providing Piccioli’s mantra for the season.


Balenciaga haute couture

Balenciaga haute couture A/W 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy of Balenciaga)

‘A tribute to pursuing perfection,’ said Balenciaga of Demna’s latest haute couture collection for the house, presented in the historic salons of 10 Avenue George V. The soundtrack – a reworking of a rare a cappella recording of Maria Callas by musician BFRND using AI techniques and deemed by Demna as ‘sonic couture’ – set the tone for the collection itself, which melded nostalgic gestures of glamour with futuristic technique and a razor-sharp eye for silhouette. As such, a version of an original Cristóbal Balenciaga design (worn by Danielle Slavik, the couturier’s preferred model in the late 1960s) opened the show – black, with velvet flowers and an integrated pearl necklace – providing what the house called a connecting link between ’the past and the present’. 

Subversion, as ever, was central: upside-down sculptural tailoring saw V-neck shaped necklines evoke the hems of archival Balenciaga jackets (the men’s blazers, meanwhile, appeared to be Prince of Wales check wool but were actually Japanese denim), while trompe l’oeil linen garments were hand-painted to appear as fur or snakeskin (the oil paint brushstrokes take up to 280 hours to apply). A slew of extraordinary eveningwear closed the show: actress Isabelle Huppert in a dramatic black gown hand-stitched with shimmering paillettes, Eva Herzigova in a sculpted bustier dress studded with 10,000 individually applied crystals, or artist and house muse Eliza Douglas in a gown-cum-suit of armour. ‘Making clothes is my armour,’ said Demna of the latter, which was CAD-designed, 3D printed and polished with chrome – a spectacular expression of the boundless possibilities of contemporary haute couture.

Giorgio Armani Privé

Giorgio Armani Privé haute couture

Giorgio Armani Privé A/W 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy of Giorgio Armani)

‘A carnal, seductive, mysterious bloom of red roses,’ described Giorgio Armani of his latest Privé collection, the haute couture arm of the Italian house which shows twice yearly in Paris. As such, the flower appeared across the collection as breathtaking embellishment – whether delicate corsages, rose-red embroidery, or a dramatic cape of red organza blooms – while its synonymy with sensuality and femininity emerged in diaphanous tailoring, elongated gowns or millefeuille layers of transparency. Mr Armani also noted a journey from ‘west to east’ – a reflection of his Emporio Armani menswear collection shown last month in Milan – notably, finding inspiration in the period when Art Deco flourished in China and Japan in the 1920s and 1930s. Such motifs appeared across the collection’s closing looks, like a series of shimmering crystal pieces adorned with pagodas, blossom and kabuki-style masks. 


Chanel haute couture runway show

Chanel haute couture A/W 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy of Chanel)

Virginie Viard took to the banks of the River Seine for a Chanel haute couture collection she called a ‘portrait of a sensitive yet bold Parisienne’. ‘If we’re in Paris and this time we're in Paris itself, on the quayside. The street and the colourful paving stones call for both sophistication and simplicity,’ said Viard. Such contrasts – the sensitive and the bold, sophistication and simplicity – defined the collection, juxtapositions that Viard said were at the heart of the continuing ‘allure’ of the Parisian woman and her dress codes. ‘Playing with opposites and contrasts, with nonchalance and elegance, is like standing on a line between strength and delicacy, which, at Chanel, is what we call allure,’ she said. As such, musician Vanessa Paradis became the season’s muse, imagined in elongated tweed overcoats cut with a masculine fit, narrow pinstripe trousers and two-tone Mary Jane shoes. A contrasting femininity came in organza and lace dresses adorned with strawberries and blackberries, ruffled blouses and baskets filled with fresh flowers. ‘Handing down emotions, bringing the most unlikely elements together, doing things your own way, just dreaming,’ concluded Viard. 

Thom Browne

Thom Browne haute couture show

Thom Browne couture collection

(Image credit: Courtesy of Thom Browne)

A new addition to the week, Thom Browne hosted his inaugural haute couture show at Paris’ Palais Garnier to celebrate his eponymous brand’s 20th anniversary. It was a natural fit for the American designer, whose ready-to-wear runway shows – presented alternatively in New York and Paris – have long demonstrated the sense of theatre synonymous with haute couture, as well as an intricacy of construction (often, he begins with classic tailoring, exploding it into bold new forms). Entering through Palais Garnier’s backstage area, guests took their place on the theatre’s stage before the curtain rose and revealed an auditorium full of cardboard cutouts clad in the classic Browne’s signature grey suit and sunglasses. ‘For one night only,’ said Browne of the collection, which saw him riff on the preppy American uniform ‘through the lens of haute couture’. As such, striped ties and grey suiting, evocative of collegiate uniforms, became trompe l’oeil designs on expansive wide-sleeved gowns, while flush-to-the-body knee-length latex socks recalled American sportswear. Layers of taffeta, intricate nautical embroidery and the final bridal look, meanwhile, recalled the abundance and handcraft of historic haute couture. Browne said he was imagining a traveller sitting in a station watching the world go by; as such, pebbled leather luggage, weekend bags, and a blown-up version of Browne’s dog-shaped Hector bag completed the look.  


Dior haute couture show A/W 2023

Dior haute couture A/W 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy of Dior)

Surrounded by a set designed by Italian artist Marta Roberti – an ode to goddesses and the divine female – Maria Grazia Chiuri’s latest outing saw the designer weave a line between past and present with a collection which explored the relationship between couture and the body. ‘Couture evolves according to a liturgical rhythm, where the past is integrated into every beat of the present,’ she said via the collection’s accompanying notes. ‘In the atelier, there are no paper patterns, as the sketched form is morphed into a dress in the image of the imprint, embracing the body’s singularity.’ In a serene palette of white, beige, silver and gold, there was a reduced, near-ecclesiastical beauty to the collection’s looks. Jackets were pleated to recall ‘classical statues and the fluting of columns’, gowns and overcoats had caped overlays, while elements of richness – a demonstration of Dior’s historic haute couture atelier – ran throughout, from delicate pearls and rich brocades to tassels and shimmering embroidered flowers. 


Schiaparelli runway show

Schiaparelli haute couture A/W 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy of Schiaparelli)

Daniel Roseberry said that he looked towards the art world for inspiration for his latest Schiaparelli haute couture collection; each look, he said, was influenced in some way by an artist, spanning 1920s to present day. ‘I wanted to make an impossible wardrobe – impossible not because it’s not wearable, but because it’s so extraordinary, a Surrealist’s interpretation of a woman’s essential closet. There’s a sense of freedom, of disobedience,’ he said, citing artists spanning Salvador Dalí, Lucian Freud, Henri Matisse and Sarah Lucas as informing his thinking this season. As such, the collection had a liberated, eclectic feel – looks were created just days before the show by instinct, rather than meticulously planned for months in advance as in previous seasons – where collars expanded into seemingly impossible sculptural forms, garments were stacked with trinkets or shards of broken mirror, or gowns came in enormous, duvet-like proportions (one was made from a mosaic of 12,000 hand-painted leather rectangles). Sprays of blue paint, edging up models’ necks or across the face, meanwhile, nodded to the work of Yves Klein. ’Going into the unknown, when creative expression and fame feels available to any and all, at least for a moment, we wonder: what can break through?’ said Roseberry. ‘For our maison, it is the power of design, the power of our artisans, and the power of the human hand at work.’


ALAÏA runway show

Alaïa Winter-Spring 2024 collection

(Image credit: Courtesy of Alaïa)

An emotive Alaïa show began with a personal WhatsApp message from Belgian creative director Pieter Mulier. ‘To meet all together on the bridge, just before sundown, when beauty spreads in the city, and colours expand infinitely. Time will tell, always,’ it read, referencing the show’s location – the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor footbridge, which crosses the Seine from the 1st arrondissement to the 7th. A musing on temporality – ‘giving time, taking time, less time, timeless,’ began the accompanying notes – the collection itself infused 1940s silhouettes with the contemporary frisson of sensuality which has defined Mulier’s tenure at the house so far. Prim high-waist pencil skirts, buttoned-up dresses, and belted trench coats were reimagined in semi-sheer latex, while accessories spanned pillbox hats, wide waist-cinching belts and leather gloves and handbags, grasped to the chest. As ever, a series of astounding silhouettes showed off the near-unparalleled skill of the Alaïa atelier and nodded towards the work of the eponymous house founder, whether body-contouring semi-sheer gowns which revealed corsetry beneath – a play on the ‘bombshell’ silhouette – or the diaphanous final looks, where intricate folds of fabric emerged from the cuff or hip. ‘On a bridge – between the Maison Alaïa’s origins and its present – figures cross in perpetual motion,’ said the house. ‘Their march set against the eternal human backdrop of an ever-ticking clock – the sound of time, yet also the rhythm of life.’

Stay tuned for more from Haute Couture Week A/W 2023.

Fashion Features Editor

Jack Moss is the Fashion Features Editor at Wallpaper*, joining the team in 2022. Having previously been the digital features editor at AnOther and digital editor at 10 and 10 Men magazines, he has also contributed to titles including i-D, Dazed, 10 Magazine, Mr Porter’s The Journal and more, while also featuring in Dazed: 32 Years Confused: The Covers, published by Rizzoli. He is particularly interested in the moments when fashion intersects with other creative disciplines – notably art and design – as well as championing a new generation of international talent and reporting from international fashion weeks. Across his career, he has interviewed the fashion industry’s leading figures, including Rick Owens, Pieter Mulier, Jonathan Anderson, Grace Wales Bonner, Christian Lacroix, Kate Moss and Manolo Blahnik.