This season’s couture collection was inspired by “the sky with all its nuances,” as exemplified by the soothing palette resembling something of the pale dusty rose of lingering clouds over a summer’s horizon. Personally, I felt the colours were too muted for the present desire which rides upon the bold and vibrant, however, the delicacy of the abstract shapes brought a sense of calm, which too is needed. Of course, no evening sky is complete without the stars – stars in this case on the lookout for their Oscar’s wardrobe. It is always fun to imagine which starlet or supernova will choose which outfit. The majority of the looks were favored for a younger audience due to thigh-grazing hemlines and fluid layers of transparency which for most is painfully difficult to wear. When paired with a razor sharp cut blazer – then maybe we are in business. The stand out pieces expressing couture stardust were at the finale with the women accompanied by male counterparts dressed in velvet suits walking a conservative distance behind them- perhaps a signal towards the rise of female power and reluctance to be passive from now on. Overall, the collection did not make a particularly powerful splash, however, the brilliance of Armani is that he creates clothing that makes women beautiful and be themselves. Each dress morphs depending on who wears it allowing each woman’s personality and character to shine through. Isn’t that what we expect from fashion?
While purple might be the colour of the year according to Pantone, it is the 50 shades of black which is already defining 2018. In light of the #TimesUp campaign which came into full effect at the Golden Globes with the big screen’s biggest stars wearing black on the red carpet in protest to sexual harassment, it is sure that many clients will be especially drawn to Clare Waight Keller first couture collection for Givenchy. She has dismissed that current events had influenced her design, however, I would like to think there is a correlation. The British designer has revived couture for the house and also introduced male made to measure garments with sharp blazers equally fitting for women thus stressing the shift towards a genderless notion. The inspiration drew from a moonlit garden at night, with the effect of natural light flooding over embroidery, bringing a piece to life. As a woman (a minority in the field of haute couture) it was remarkable to appreciate the masculine take on couture, suggesting that yes, this is exactly how the modern woman wants to dress today. Strong, confident, a pinch of rock and roll however still refined with some pieces including that juicy rainbow dress imagined to being worn by for example Audrey Hepburn. While a slight edit could have been implemented, it was clear that Keller proved herself as a reckoning force in the modern world of couture. Stay tuned.
Pierpaolo Piccioli epitomised what haute couture should be in the casual era, presenting a truly goosebump-inducing collection combining the complexity of the couture craft with the unabashed spirit of today’s girl. Through carefully calculated proportion and expertise of the Valentino atelier the collection which was modern, for cool women – all ages, sizes, races welcome to take their pick (at least in our dreams, but still). The assertive simplicity was offset by the punchy colour as well as the sculptural silhouettes and feathers, best on the jellyfish hats. This was the absolute pinnacle of couture magic, even without princess dresses and tiaras often risking prim and proper with no pizzazz. The classic elements reminded us of the work of a Balenciaga (such as the extravagant opera coat) but tailored to a more relaxed setting without losing the refinement. The collection gave the green light for one to express their identity – making it acceptable to wear trousers to the ball (or a grand gown…). Elegance comes in all shapes and colours, and I really feel Piccioli is moving couture in a very exciting direction.
When you combine two great artists like Martin Margiela and John Galliano, it is no surprise that the results continue to stun with this couture collection particularly hitting the nail on the head by commentating on the state of fashion and society. Galliano addressed our (unhealthy) dependency on our smartphones and stated that he was shocked at the trend which emerged since 2007 when the audience started recording a collection through their phones. Are we seeing the real thing or just a moving image? Where is the “place” of fashion if we are viewing it on a 2D screen? As the models paraded down the runway, audience members were asked to turn their cameras to flash— to fully enjoy the show. The effect was remarkable with each capturing their own individual interpretation of the high tech fabrics. The reaction of polyurethane to camera flash strobed and split into psychedelic rainbows shooting in all directions. The human eye showed one reality, the screen another – two realities. Is this not true in our own lives? Our online curated selves and our true beings? What is real what is fake? Does it matter? Should we just enjoy the ride and enjoy these parallel experiences?
In the audience was the man, the legend, Mr. Pierre Cardin. The 95-year-old (!) whose career is forever associated with the ’60s, despite his many decades of working, reinforced the direction of this collection which was set in the Swinging Sixties. While it might have a connotation of oh goodness, not again… the 60’s are indeed appropriate for today, thanks to a revived spirit for motivated action and youth getting energized about campaigning for equality (sexual orientation, gender, race) as well as resistance to bizarre political developments. There were many Op Art references and optical illusions, drawing parallels to Dior’s surrealist take. The shout out loud colour pop and excessive fringe added the most enticing punches. Sometimes you just need to shake it off and a little swish reinforces that point – especially on some very bright dresses great for dancing.
And opening the 2018 Spring Couture collections is but of course Schiaparelli. If it were true that a debutant can set the tone of the season, one can deduce a desire for nature, the organic, and in short- the real. Bertrand Guyon argues for a return for authenticity, not meaningless hype. Enough with the retina-burning screens and swipes in all directions. Guyon is bringing us back to the roots – in a way to humanity’s roots: back to Africa. In regards to the continent, the designer says he wasn’t referring to a particular culture but more a longing for a direct relationship to nature, clearly outlined in the vast choice of materials including raw linens, silks, straw raffia, and driftwood. The natural purity reflected throughout the collection provided a balance which was equally as raw as it was refined, a welcome contrast to a clichéd couture connotation for prim and proper. Another well-executed balance was the relationship between day and evening wear, where both sets complimented each other well. While the daywear was particularly strong, including the grey-blue Prince of Wales check dress, couture clients are sure to queue for the evening wear numbers which softly seduce the soul of the eye of the beholder and the (lucky) wearer. Even in the most organic of contexts, shocking pink is always a Schiaparelli prerequisite and here it was not bold as expected – it refreshed like a breath of crisp mountain air – a very bearable lightness of pink. An additional point which stood out for me was the promotion of model diversity – in race and age- on a couture runway – a big deal in terms of moving forward. This Out of Africa collection was a success and a strong start to the season.
It was the friction between “the artificial and the organic” which made for an absorbing narrative at Iris Van Herpen. This season was based on “Ludi Naturae” or “Games of Nature” with models slinking down the runway looking like magnificent otherworldly creatures – thanks to the familiar futuristic materials resembling reptile scales. The outlandish creatures from deep within another galaxy were complete with the alien strut courtesy of sky-high geisha-esque platform sandals. Like Schiaparelli who embraced the organic, Van Herpen too kept to a natural palette of subtle browns, gold, and teal. However, it was what was above the models’ heads which set the tone of the show: large, paper-thin cellulose, floating sculptures by Dutch artist Peter Gentenaar. The shapes provided the context to the liberated silhouettes on the ground and made the clothes appear larger than life; collective pieces part of an entire art installation.
Today marks Maria Grazia Chiuri’s third couture collection for Christian Dior, and it was without a doubt, best to date and a reaffirmation that yes she is the right gal for the job. This was Chiuri’s first couture home run for the house and has proved that she can not only deliver clothes which are short-term sell-out sensations and trendsetters (the tulle strap dresses, the statement t-shirts, the newsboy navy caps…) but similar to her reign at Valentino together with Pierpaolo Piccioli, Chiuri can conjure iconic pieces; timeless craft yet capture the je ne sais quoi of the present. The collection took influence from surrealism (surrealist clothes for surrealist times no?) inspired by longtime Dior friend, Leonor Fini. Fini, the infamous Argentinian surrealist painter, designer, illustrator, and author known for her representations of powerful women. The brilliance of this collection was that the feminist spirit was not branded nor stifled- the symbolism and mastery were all in the detail. The entire collection would be worn by a confident, independent woman. A woman of intrigue, mystery, risk, and perhaps a little naughtiness underneath those delicious shadowy masks by Stephen Jones (very appropriate for tonight’s Dior Masked Ball). In sum, we saw a beautiful friction between the rigid masculine forms and the light femininity captured by tulle and organza, which played well onto a background of optical illusions. The experimentation in form and material paid off- Brava!