The week’s first topic of conversation: Brexit. No one is happy. The second: ‘What are you here for?’ Resort, Couture, Fine Jewellery, or all of the above? They all merged into one this July, and the result equaled a lot of time pounding the pavement rather than being whisked between gilded salons. But given the political, economic and social turmoil that Europe is currently facing is it any wonder that the couture season felt less grandiose than usual?
In fact there was a concerted move back to intimacy with Dior showing in-house at its Avenue Montaigne HQ, and Chanel recreating its Rue Cambon atelier within the Grand Palais, shining the spotlight on fashion’s team effort. Viktor & Rolf made another poignant statement about our current obsession with designer streetwear – yes, even in the couture arena – exploring what the term may have meant in Dickens’ era.
The biggest news trend-wise was the prevalence of lustrous velvet – seen at Valli, Schiaparelli, Saab and Armani Privé – and big, fancy sleeves (Valli, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Valentino). Both of which were bubbling away during ready-to-wear. The other new addition to the couture circuit was the reopended Ritz Paris, Céline Dion – who proved to be much more fun than the pouty-faced socialites – and the number of jewellery houses upping their game with salon shows, from Boucheron to Bulgari (more on that next week). For now we’ll begin our couture tour with the end of another era at Valentino (pictured)…Writer: Katrina Israel
Valentino: This morning Dior finally announced Maria Grazia Chiuri as Raf Simons’ replacement after a nine-month search, which has brought the Italian’s 17-year tenure at Valentino to a close, leaving Pierpaolo Piccioli to take over the sole creative direction of the maison. This show was therefore a parting swansong for the dynamic duo who respectfully reinvigorated the house’s legacy following its founder’s retirement in 2008. For their final couture bow, Chiuri and Piccioli looked to another historical milestone, the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, which inspired a collection that was as austere as it was opulent, casting frothy cotton shirting, plenty of puffed sleeves, Elizabethan collars, strict bodices, taffeta capes and Queenly gowns in a fashion melodrama that demanded centre stage
Chanel: The Wertheimer brother’s commitment to securing the future of Paris’ Métiers d’Art ateliers has been a long game over the past decade, but this season Karl Lagerfeld wanted to pay express tribute to the men and women who make the house’s couture atelier. As a result, A/W’s show was more of a tale of reality than fantasy, depicting the maison’s life-like flou and tailleur workrooms (fit models and machines included), which are still located at 31 Rue Cambon. Photography: Olivier Saillant
Chanel: The news from the work rooms: a defined shoulder that was peaked via pattern cutting prowess rather than a pad – the latter would be cheating, and quite simply beneath this atelier’s skill set. That said, we did wonder if the staffers on stage were pulling a double shift, given that couture collections are notorious for being tweaked up until showtime
Dior: Was staging Dior’s couture show at the house’s half painted Avenue Montaigne salon a metaphor for an impending fresh start? There was much consideration on the front row on the matter, which was finally validated today by the announcement that Maria Grazia Chiuri will shortly move into the maison as Dior’s first female creative director. All speculation aside, the house’s interim designers Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux did a great job of their ‘undercoat’ assignment, which was a largely black and white affair for A/W 2016. Photography: Marton Perlaki
Dior: Assigning the Bar suit as their foundation, the pair softened and elongated the house’s New Look silhouette with a Basque flair moving the skirts fullness towards the ankle rather than the hips
Viktor & Rolf: Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren began their A/W offering with a retrospective look over their past collections, upcycling old fabrics and garments into a Vagabonds pastiche of the roaming Dickens character. It proved a feat that took no less work than their more polished collections, putting their atelier into overdrive weaving shredded fabric and hand sewing hundreds of buttons into new garments that were built upon a utilitarian foundation piece – be it a humble sweatshirt, denim jacket, military coat or trench
Viktor & Rolf: Teamed with patchwork jeans or khakis, black brogues and weathered top hats, the collection retained the duo’s penchant for the liberal use of tulle netting and exuberant ruffles layered into increasingly voluminous shapes. Streetwear continues to crop up on high fashion runways (Vetements’ latest Paris show days prior confirmed its resilience) and this show offered an interesting look at what ’street’ wear meant to another age
Giles Deacon: This A/W season may have marked Giles Deacon’s first official Paris couture presentation, but the London-based designer has long nurtured the bespoke business of one-of-a-kind gowns. The big news is that he has now put his ready-to-wear line on-hold to pursue it. Deacon’s LFW shows have long been catnip for women seeking gowns-with-a-difference, and his couture collection has allowed him to explore that space: ‘We try to make things that other people don’t do,’ he said of his personality-plus dresses that were inspired by the world of Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Morrell – society hostess and art patron of the Bloomsbury Set. During the early 20th century, Lady Morrell was renowned for throwing extravagant parties on Bedford Square. Deacon’s designs sought to dress each of her eccentric guests in a unique creation, which leapt from a mini dress of Papal purple organza petals to a more sedate velvety column finished with a rather regal pearl embroidered sash
Iris van Herpen: The Dutch designer worked with Japanese musician Kazuya Nagaya on a moving couture showcase that attempted to visualise sound waves in sculptural form. To meet the brief Van Herpen called upon all matter of 3D manipulations and geometric patterns that each had a life of their own – be they clusters of Swarovski water-drop crystals, avant-garde plissé techniques that resembled human vertebrate or honeycomb effects created using organza that’s five times thinner than human hair. Van Herpen’s Seijaku dress looked as if it was blown up from a bubble pipe, glistening with iridescence, but was actually made of hand-blown glass beads moulded in transparent silicone liquid. Her models, standing on stone plinths, swayed as if under the spell of Nagaya’s reverberating sound bowls. Photography: Team Peter Stiger x IvH
Giambattista Valli: A live violinist paired with the proliferation of triple puffed sleeves, decadent velvet and high ruffled collars gave Giambattista Valli’s A/W 2016 couture collection a Viennese princess propriety. Upping the pomp and ceremony were Buccellati’s diamond strands that criss-crossed Valli’s mini smock dresses like jewelled sashes, not to mention the swinging emerald and ruby chandelier earrings. Handkerchief hemmed cocktail numbers morphed into mullet gowns with billowing trains that followed his Austrian aristos around. The winter garden collection may have been inspired by period flick Russian Ark, but the result felt fresh and jovial. The season’s celebrity crush Céline Dion certainly voiced her approval front row
Schiaparelli: Bertrand Guyon’s A/W show was rooted in Elsa Schiaparelli’s 1938 Circus collection, however rebuilt on more structural, architectural foundation. The show opened with some serious tailoring and a more subtle use of the house lexicons – eyes became brooches, padlocked hearts pastel prints. Sleeves were full of volume, while hammered gold jewellery (resembling a Surrealist’s line drawing) secured a jacket and decorated a Grecian constellation print dress that was finished with shocking pink shoulder pads, edged in tiny crystal beads. Lifesavers-hued tinsel dresses, and a velvet bodice playsuit added some more razzle dazzle to a collection that was otherwise more tilted towards tailoring than we’ve seen under Guyon’s big top prior
Armani Privé: Last season Mr Armani painted the town lilac. For A/W the Milanese tailoring maestro moved back to a more graphic palette of iced blue, blush and black, and instead flexed his creativity with body-hugging inky velvet suiting hung from peaked shoulders, and geometric embellishments that covered cropped jackets and strapless columns, including a pretty special encrusted houndstooth that moved the collection right on into evening. Here velvet also reigned supreme, with one otherwise restrained gown plunging deep from behind, while others were Nineties minimal aside from an Eighties-era bow attached at the hip. This show was signature Armani: classic, classy, powerful, and made to walk right off the runway, imbued with plenty of elegance and minimal fuss
J Mendel: Gilles Mendel is perhaps best known for his sumptuous sables that cocoon New York’s glitterati – the same swan that Mendel also swathes in bespoke gowns produced at his New York City atelier. Mendal’s guest invitation by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, returned the designer to his Parisian youth and his family’s furrier roots. With the help of stylist Melanie Ward, Mendel put the shoulder on show for A/W, with both his gowns and furs dominated by row after row of tiny looped buttons that could be fastened or undressed, depending on the occasion or lady’s daring. The statuesque collection fused the grit and glamour of New York’s 1980s social circuit, with a 24 carat gold Versailles touch. A classic tale of two cities, noir velvet chinchilla appropriated the New York skyline, as 3D beaded clusters on gowns referenced the formal, geometric gardens of Paris’ Tuileries
Elie Saab: Mr Saab was also in a New York state of mind. The Beirut-based designer’s show notes were peppered with iconic quotes about the city by its most famous residents, while its architecture and glamorous edge provided his launching point. New York’s graphic skyline and twinkling lights lined the show venue, and also his glittering gowns, which possessed a darker grandeur this season, with velvet used as a base along with his evergreen chiffon. Not that Saab dialed down the opulence, which was lavished over mid-century silhouettes that came nipped in with velvet belts, as encrusted swallow motifs leapt off bodices. More unexpected in the couture realm was his line of haute girl’s dresses, as seven Mini Me’s shadowed their ‘mothers’ down the runway, giving Bonpoint (also showing this week) a run for its money
Atelier Versace: Donatella Versace’s collections are always primarily about the body, and this season’s encrusted strips of mini-dress even came with a supporting couture-weight bodysuit endowing a rigor that’s guaranteed to nip any body into sample size, or so Wallpaper* was assured at the re-see. But back on the runway, Carolyn Murphy’s contour-pleated and twisted silk finale gown was destined to find second stardom as a red carpet knock-out (if anyone can wear it better?), while Versace also smartened up her tailoring offering for the cooler months with unexpectedly voluminous double-faced cashmere coats that warmed up barely-there slip dresses that were just asking for trouble
Roger Vivier: Bruno Frisoni may never have been to Burning Man, the music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, but the sandy hues, circling eagles and Navajo beading of his latest Rendez-Vous collection painted another picture. This season Frisoni was thinking about his favourite type of women – aristocratic glamazons who own the night – and so he designed them a new jewelled block heeled sandal that’s sure to go the distance, along with a wardrobe of festive clutches decorated with leather cut-outs or earthen, wooden beads that will work around the clock
Jean Paul Gaultier: JPG is usually a city man. His last season literally fell out of the doors of a notorious Parisian nightclub – with cigarettes blazing down the catwalk and all. This season he flew the coop for a more bucolic release, and was rather more entranced by nature, proposing a forest full of high-octane woodland creatures. Gaultier is never one to stray far from a theme, so in keeping in tune with Mother Nature, silks came watermarked like mahogany wood grain, while feathers were enthusiastically embroidered. As for his liberal use of fur? This season his pelts largely escaped the dye bath, resting on their natural laurels and French savoir-faire. Photography: Rainer Torrado
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