Couture week can be make or break for even the most established of designers. Due to the extraordinarily lavish nature of each: set design, fabric, ateliers, celebrity attendants and public affection (or dissatisfaction). It’s the time of the year where dreamers can fully immerse themselves in their costume fantasies: if they have the money that is. It is an exclusive dream that totally barricades those, with a lower income, out BUT, if you’re like me and inspire to have the world and more: this will only be a dream for so long. That is until it becomes a reality.
My highlights from Paris Haute Couture week had to be Zuhair Murad. Each dress composed of super intricate designs embellished on the fabric with such precise handiwork. To me, Murad knows how to dress women, each curve and taste is catered for from the very modest all-white cowboy suit which was decorated up the sides with beaded fringing, cinched at the waist with a double buckled belt and topped off with a blazer garnished in pretty beads, pearls and jewels. To the very sheer deep v neck plunge dress in nude tulle, decorated with embroidered and beaded botanical motifs. There was definitely an old western and native American influence that dominated the runway: from the set design, slouched buckled boots, sandals made of ropes, models sporting feathers in their hair and desert plant motifs, such as cacti, embroidered on some of the gowns. Throughout the show I was totally encased in the world Murad had envisioned and felt this world, quite literally, set on fire when my eyes caught the magnificent beauty that was waves of vermillion in motion, washing down the catwalk. A deep plunge v neck, gathered at the waist, making for a tight bodice which then over-poured meters of blooming fabric, woven sophisticatedly with traditional headdress designs, cacti motifs and arrows. It took my breathe away. This is definitely another item that is on my hit list of things that I WILL one day own.
Native American patterns were also present at Schiaparelli who took a more daring approach. Starting with the beige blouse which exploded in the centre with red straw, cinched at the waist by a midi skirt woven in metallic threads depicting typical native American patterns. And more subtle at British brand: Ralph & Russo, who incorporated fringing through individual strands composed of tiny beads. Likewise featured at Zuhair Murad, who, gave the clothes movement of their own and added a dash of 1920’s glamour. Tassels took a more party look when they were featured on a metallic lilac tiered dress which was glitz and glamour galore.
Themes of flowers, wove in and out of most of the shows (not surprising for a SS collection) and were given a dash of grunge at Giambattista Valli where heavily embellished shift dresses were paired with thigh-high black patent boots. Over at Viktor & Rolf, ornate floral headwear took charge and had a similar effect on the dresses. Pretty daisies, sunflowers, hydrangeas and on my favourite of the designs: lilies crept up the criss-cross side of an off-white dress, elevating up to the breast where the flowers bloomed.
From delicate and pretty to rock and roll, circus grunge at Alexander Vauthier. A different take on high fashion was conveyed on the runway of French designer Vauthier who has had an extensive career history. From voluminous red trousers made of leather: amazingly constructed to keep their shape paired with a beautiful circus inspired black velvet jacket garnished with gold handiwork and finished off with a dazzling red garnet broach. The designer took a new approach to this seasons plaid trend where he made gold tartan overcoats, blouses, huge trousers and larger than life bow which was worn as a strapless top. My favourite item had to be the biker jacket that looked like it had been looted from a pirates treasure chest: embellished with garnets of all kinds and gold and silver hanging chains. The show was kind of pirate girl meets glam rock who likes to dress as a slutty air hostess on the weekends.
The idea of having a one of a kind item ran deep at Maison Margiela as John Galliano presented his first couture show for the house. From shoes that belonged on hospital wards and as featured in the men’s shows. Galliano explored a running theme of deconstruction and re-making of garments; taking raincoats and fusing them with pretty polka dot dresses. Bustiers made of PVC worn on top of garments and torn lingerie sat underneath clear plastic trenches: pointing towards female sexuality in a way that has never been explored Fabrics that were black until the camera flashed on them which then came alive with a rainbow of colours. To be real, the collection doesn’t quite fit with my romantic view of how haute couture should be BUT that said, it’s an innovative, quirky look, and it works.
Iris Van Herpen also presented a collection and matching set design that set her notably apart from the rest. Her unique choice of fabrics and the ways in which she decided to manipulate the fabric into futuristic swirls which came alive on the runway. The palette of nudes combined with metallic blues and greens work well with the implication of fish gills on the sides of someone of the garments. It was clear that the talented Herpen didn’t just design the dress at face value; texture, movement and the ensemble as a whole were taken into consideration. Truly avant-garde, truly haute couture. At Guo Pei, dresses followed strict architecture to uphold their complex form. This was my first encounter with the designer and impressed, to say the least. The attention to detail on each of the designs was like nothing I have ever seen. From the contemporary framework from dresses that stretched above the models head to the specific placement of bronze roses that completed the inside of the white ballooned dress which was gilded from the inside out with some of the most intricate designs, I have ever seen.
Most designers bought into using feathers in their shows but my favourite composition was at Givinchy where a black satin gown outpoured fluorescent orange and white feathers and at Zuhair Murad who placed black feathers on a structured peplum top.
All in all, nearly all of the crafted clothes I viewed were incredible. Even the one’s that I haven’t featured (because I found them boring, or not very exciting) still deserve credit because of the thousands of hours and the hard-work of the ateliers. One day I’ll actually be able to attend, instead of looking through the pictures on the Vogue website.