Paris Haute Couture is about dreams, so they say!
Extravagant Haute Couture Fashion Week for Spring 2017 took place last week in Paris.
And still, manages to be one of the fashion world’s more exciting and elusive events. Regardless of Trends or Taste, the Making of Couture Gowns Is Still as Magical as Ever!
In the current socio-political landscape, models strutting back and forth in frocks that can cost more than many cars can feel frivolous and out of touch, but this season, designers from Pierpaolo Piccioli to Elie Saab found ways to reconcile the incertitude of the present with beautiful design work.
Haute Couture Fashion Week only takes place in Paris twice a year. In January designers reveal Haute Couture Spring-Summer collections and in July their Fall-Winter luxury collections.
Haute Couture means High Fashion or High Sewing. Haute Couture is the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is high-end fashion that is constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable sewers, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques.
Couture translates literally from French as “dressmaking” but may also refer to fashion, sewing, or needlework. Haute translates literally to “high”. An haute couture garment is often made for a client, tailored specifically for the wearer’s measurements and body stance. Considering the amount of time, money, and skill allotted to each completed piece, haute couture garments are also described as having no price tag: a budget is not relevant.
The term haute couture appeared for the first time in Paris in 1868 and is protected by law. The term is defined by the Chambre de commerce et d’Industrie de Paris based in Paris. The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture is defined as “the regulating commission that determines which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses”. Their rules state that only “those companies mentioned on the list drawn up each year by a commission domiciled at the Ministry for Industry are entitled to avail themselves” of the label Haute Couture.
The term “Haute Couture House” is given to fashion houses who meet certain strict conditions.
To earn the right to call itself a couture house and to use the term Haute Couture in its advertising and any other way, members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture must follow specific rules:
- design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings;
- have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen staff members full-time;
- have at least twenty full-time technical people, in at least one workshop (atelier);
- present a collection of at least fifty original designs to the public every fashion season (twice, in January and July of each year), of both day and evening garments.
Definitely, the collections presented last week in Paris deserves the name of Haute Couture, especially the ones of Maison Margiela and Valentino.
Amidst a sea of blandness, these two designers shone brightest: John Galliano of Maison Margiela and Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino. They did so, although working at opposite ends of the style spectrum, with an identical dedication to the timeless rituals and technical wizardry of the atelier, celebrating in non-obvious ways the very essence of couture.
See John Galliano’s powerful and brilliant meditation on our era of protest and plurality for Maison Margiela’s Artisanal collection. Sometimes couture just needs to be couture.
Pierpaolo Piccioli, flying solo in control of Valentino couture for the first time, spoke about dreaming in a different sense.
“Dreams make us human; they go down to who each of us are, in ourselves,” he said. That thought had led him back to Greek myths and legends, “because they were the beginning of naming human feelings.”
The discrepancy between the past and the present was made apparent by the sensational Bal Masqué that Maria Grazia Chiuri threw at Dior last week.
“I don’t want to lose the idea of dreaming,” she said, in a preview at Dior headquarters. “But I do want to make it possible for couture to be wearable.” She made her couture debut at Dior, on a sylvan set in a garden of the Musee Rodin.
The collection was an enchanted take on house codes, from the Bar jacket to the femme fleur, infused with some of Chiuri’s own magical inspirations. Dior collection edged into the romantic and whimsical, with semi-sheer dresses, floating pastel skirts, and feathered headpieces that evoked woodland goddesses.
Then comes the Bigger is Better of Giambattista Valli, especially when it comes to wedding dresses.
He is the only designer that has the guts and the temper of an old-school couturier, but also the culture and taste to make his work feel contemporary.
No one brings the drama at couture quite like Giambattista Valli – and the spring collection was no exception. Every phone in the room raised in anticipation of getting a picture of this bigger-is-better gown as it passed by.
Karl Lagerfeld added feathers to his wedding dresses and bring on the glitz.
“I wanted something impeccable, clean. I wanted the girls to look like walking fashion drawings,” said Karl Lagerfeld. The designer put on a fantastic couture show that gave the Chanel client everything from chic suiting to mirrored and feathered ball gowns.
From Chanel to Vetements to Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda, bridal ensembles have grown exponentially in size this season. The only issue? Some of these numbers will surely have trouble fitting down the aisle at a traditional chapel when it’s time to say “I do.”
Stepping forward to legendary designer Jean Paul Gaultier, his couture collection felt quite poorly made and did absolutely no good to the history of such an influential designer.
This season’s Schiaparelli creations lacked the élan one would expect from couture. The spring collection played to the codes of the house, evidenced here with an Haute Couture lobster gown.
Say what you want but The Naked Dress Will Never Die at Haute Couture Fashion Week. And is still a favorite of couture clientele.
Alberta Ferretti, Iris van Herpen, Zuhair Murad, Ralph & Russo, Elie Saab, and Armani Privé all served up their own versions of semi-transparent gowns meant to flaunt the wearer’s nude body underneath.
Alberta Ferretti presented in a single show a see-now-buy-now capsule, the Pre-Fall collection, and the upscale Limited Edition.
Iris van Herpen called her new collection Between the Lines; and true to form, she crafted, engineered, manipulated, and brought to life designs that defy comparison to anything else in fashion today.
Is orange ever going to be the new black, or will black always be safer?
That was the enigma in the air runway-side as the two Academy Awards nominees, Nicole Kidman and Isabelle Huppert, sat to watch the designer’s Spring couture show.
Zuhair Murad once again looked to the stars.
There were some amazing dresses, of course, as we’ve come to expect nothing less from the man behind many of J.Lo’s costumes. The sheer, polka-dotted tights on the runway at Alexandre Vauthier on Tuesday were on display here as well (buy a pair now!), as was the exposed leg seen at Elie Saab.
Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo have racked up an impressive clientele, since launching their house, including an enviable number of Hollywood A-listers. One of them, Kirsten Dunst, turned up for Monday’s show and took a front row seat alongside model Arizona Muse.
With this presentation of 55 looks, 54 of them were red carpet–ready. Definitely is my favorite Paris Haute Couture collection.
“The women of today have so many different faces, and so many women inspire us collectively, we really wanted to focus on women’s empowerment and offer something for everybody.” This year, that ambition is going to become much more of a reality: Ralph & Russo is making tracks with its fledgling accessories line, and the house is slated to open 10 new stores around the world, including one in Miami.
Atelier Versace decided to go back to basics. Donatella Versace opted to present 17 looks on theatrically spotlighted mannequins on the second floor of her Avenue Montaigne boutique.
The new collection was deliciously hot as ever, rendered to a high level of inventive workmanship, such as this mesh and beaded number that is as light as a feather.
Alexis Mabille showed a flirty, strong, and very sensual collection with the same desire as all young women: to be married!
But Who says haute couture has to be all about long ball gowns?
Look at this amazing slinky leather minis at Alexandre Vauthier. The designer said his goal was “extreme desirability,” making it exciting to wear. “It respects the workmanship by giving something new, not ceremonial.” It’s no stretch to imagine Bella Hadid or Kendall Jenner, who opened and closed the show.
Francesco Scognamiglio, a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture diffused the flavor and finery from his native Naples through gilded Parisian salons built for Roland Bonaparte, grandnephew of Napoléon. Showing in Paris put him on the world stage. Perhaps the flowers are a sign of his gratitude.
Scognamiglio said he dedicated the show to the memory of Princess Diana, who would have been turning 56 this summer.
“It’s about all the magic things a woman can do,” said Ulyana Sergeenko, who returned to her familiar themes of Slavic folklore.
The Russian designer invited her guests to the Cirque d’Hiver, for celebrating her 10th couture collection in Paris. She showed us several minidresses with layered skirts or flower-themed bustier cups, which came off as a little comical.
The surprise of Paris Haute Couture Spring 2017 was Viktor & Rolf, who did it again.
For Spring, the designers taken apart old, damaged party dresses from as far back as the ’40s. Seeing as three of the designs will be available for direct purchase from their website—a trial see-now-buy-now approach to couture, the question remains: Would you want to wear one? Perhaps the eccentricity would feel too overwhelming if you didn’t know the backstory.
The fact that Viktor & Rolf have made three of their Haute upcycled dresses available for purchase on their site (price: 20,000 euro) is intriguing, don’t you think? Because to some degree, couture is see-now-buy-now (these were Spring ’17 collections).
“Drama” and “escapism” proved to be the themes across the Haute Couture collections this spring, with sweeping, floor-length gowns and jewel-encrusted accessories taking center stage.
Guo Pei and Elie Saab debuted gowns worthy of a scene in “Game of Thrones” or “The Hunger Games.”
Elie Saab is known for elaborate gowns and romantic collections, and this season was no exception. The Lebanese designer offered the typical Haute Couture experience, looking to the Egypt of a hundred years ago. Those who follow the Lebanese designer know he’s based in Beirut, but to Saab, Egypt at the turn of the 20th century represents the golden era of the Arab world. Sprays of jewels and beaded bodices and feminine silhouettes confirmed the Saab’s status as a purveyor of classic couture. A few looks even featured models wearing gilded sunglasses.
Over-the-top would be an understatement for GUO PEI.
Guo Pei presented her extraordinary collection at Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned immediately prior to her beheading. In a dress specially knit from phosphorescent fabric, the last queen of France made her ghostly return, drifting down the darkened runway to open the show. Her apparition wasn’t strong enough to be captured in photographs, but what followed, was a procession of 19 ornate creations two years in the making.
And then there was Carmen Dell’Orefice, 85 years old, walked again for Guo Pei. Escorted by two attendants and dressed in a blood red gown cascading with crystals, she was a magnificently regal vision worthy of a Matthew Barney film.
“She’s the queen of models. She has the spirit of a queen, and the spirit of dedication and devotion.”said Guo, post-show.
Guo Pei collection was truly inescapable. When asked whether she would like to see such efforts worn, Pei replied, “I don’t care; the creation is enough.” And what a ton of creation it was.
So…What can I say?
You had to be at Paris Haute Couture to see these creative, elaborate and luxurious collections.
I wonder how soon the dresses will sell and who is going to wear these fabulous and ball gowns.
I’m curious to find out which one is your favorite?