On the first full day of the haute couture shows in Paris big name brands made concerted efforts to try and modernize couture by bringing it into the real world — with mixed results.
Crédit : Dior
It is always an interesting exercise to attend a fashion show when the house finds itself between designers. As fate would have it, this is a position that the Christian Dior brand has found itself in twice in the last five years. Each time, it has relied on the house’s design team to step in and pick up the slack.
What the team decided to do was attempt to modernize couture and give it a more relaxed, approachable spirit. As far as this idea goes, they were on the right track. That couture can exist in the real world, outside of galas and red carpet awards shows, is a issue that needs to be addressed.
The way they attempted to accomplish this was by loosening up the construction of the garments. The strong lines former creative director Raf Simons had instigated at the house were softened so that a stiff ruffle, sitting on the edge of bare shoulders, had a bit more bounce to it as the models walked in practical heels that were finished off with bows at the ankles. The famed construction of the bar jacket didn’t nip in at the waist quite so much. And a myriad of different sequined and beaded embellishments were stitched on panels of fabric to form short skirts.
There was a clear focus on the shoulders in this show. Many of the tops were designed to leave the shoulders and neck exposed in one manner or another. This was a smart design move, considering that the shoulders are supposedly the one area on a woman that doesn’t betray age. In fact the laid back concept of the collection worked best on a series of simpler dresses cut so that they hung off one shoulder in a relaxed manner and revealed the skin as a shimmering jewel under embroidered sheer tulle.
Unfortunately, the team tugged this haute couture collection so far into the real world, to the point where a few of the designs hewed so close to ready-to-wear that they lost their made-to-measure stature.
Crédit : Schiaparelli
The surreal heart of Elsa Schiaparelli is beating strong in the chest of the brand’s current design director Bertrand Guyon. He has gotten a taste for creating witty clothing with a romantic core and with his latest haute couture collection, inspired by the beauty of a good meal, he showed how humor and haute couture can easily coexist.
The literal reinterpretations of plates, flatwear, food and tea sets in the form of appliqué leather, three-dimensional sequined elements, stitchwork embroideries and woven raffia designs were charming and equally impressive. They artfully showed off the skills Guyon acquired during his years working at Valentino and at the same time felt very much inside the bubble of couture.
Where the designer brushed closer to the real world was with his silk crepe gowns in playful prints of pasta, vegetables, fruits and cutlery. These outfits, plus those in the pinwheel tea towel patterns, stayed true to the heritage of the house but also made it feel more relevant. And the choice to channel the more theatrical elements of the collection into some covetable jewelry was a smart move. The lobster pin, swinging red cherry charm and the evil eye talisman brooch added a cheeky touch to undulating cigaline gowns.
If there was one caveat to be made about the collection, it would have to be the lengths of all the gowns. It doesn’t matter how romantically beautiful or charmingly quirky a design is, if the person wearing it finds herself forever tripping over all the extra fabric pooling on the floor. Schiaparelli was nothing if not a modern woman. And a modern woman, at a minimum, demands freedom of movement in her fashion.
Crédit : Alexis Mabille
Designer Alexis Mabile hit the current haute couture trend of exploring ways to make this most exclusive form of dress more realistic and versatile. This is not to say he did away with his customary romantic and decidedly feminine style. No, that aspect was very much apparent on the catwalk Monday night.
Rather, his chic, mostly black and white, show was filled with beautiful options that could survive outside the confines of a gala dinner or opening night at the opera. It also helped that he filled his show with beautiful models of all ages, walking the parquet floor with self-assurance and grace, often looking directly into the eyes of front row guests as if to say « yes, you too can look this good if you have Mabille design your clothes ».
Top real world marks go the at-the-knee long-sleeved black lace dress worn by Audrey Marney, a white sun ray pleated maxi dress and a midnight navy and black wrap tuxedo inspired ensembles worn by Estelle Lefébure.
This well-conceived collection has put the designer back on the right haute couture path. It propelled the brand forward and will surely seduce a few new clients.
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