Fashion’s most prestigious discipline, haute couture was once the preserve of the nobility. A fashion label can only be granted the privilege of participating in the shows (which aren’t just costly for customers) at the invitation of the Parisian Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. There were five newcomers to the latest haute couture shows in Paris. Such as the Dutch couturier Iris van Herpen with her avant-garde, almost supernatural designs and the provocative fashion collective Vetements, founded by Demna Gvasalia (Balenciaga). In total, more than 20 fashion labels presented shows that made their invited guests’ hearts beat faster: the clientele for haute couture is restricted to just a few hundred women, the majority of whom prefer not to let people look over their shoulders when indulging in their passion.
Fall/Winter 2016: Highlights
This year, Karl Lagerfeld revealed his creations in a setting that he says is his favourite place in the whole fashion industry. It’s hardly surprising that the place he’s talking about is the heart of every couture house: the atelier, where fantastical ideas often take shape. So the designer had it recreated for his show. The models paraded between studio tables, lamps, rolls of fabric and departments – with hairdos and make-up that seemed to transform them into moving tailor’s dummies. The celebrities were delighted. Above all Will Smith, Vanessa Paradis, Milla Jovovich and Jessica Chastain.
Giorgio Armani’s creations captivated the audience with their simple but unmistakable elegance. Light-and-dark contrasts, sculptural dresses and drapery, graphic patterns and harem pants made of heavy, deep black velvet, worn with ivory-white silk, feathered neckwear and a turban.
Dior is currently at a turning point. After Raf Simon’s departure, it is now up to Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux to control the fate of the label – though that fate is as yet undecided, it must remain in keeping with the essence of the brand. On board for the show: Natalia Vodianova, Laetitia Casta, Céline Dion, Marion Cotillard. You can sense that the couture house is moving on to pastures new. Rumour has it that the next new name has recently been signed: Maria Grazia Chiuri.
With her design partner Pierpaolo Piccioli, Chiuri has produced proof of her craving for perfection. They have traced an arc from the golden Elizabethan age through the Italian Renaissance to the year 2016 with Shakespearean theatricality. The pomp of the former nobility for whom haute couture was “invented” is probably most evident in this collection, which is steeped in European history and cultural heritage. A powerfully eloquent statement at this time of identity crises. Shakespeare would have been delighted.