Couture Week Spring 2018: The Highlights

Isn’t it an amazing feeling when couture weeks come around? It’s as if the world comes together in peace and harmony and all of the planets align. That may be an exaggeration, but to be fair, couture weeks bring up the same feelings within the fashion community that the second coming of Christ does for the deeply religious. This season, however, marked a change for some of the usual suspects within the couture ring. It seemed like couture had been taking a very modest and simple turn for a while in terms of design. However, this season really took steps to change the entire dynamic of what modern couture could be. Many of the designers who’d fallen to the back burner of the couture world finally decided to inject a boost of much-needed life into the world of couture. Blessing us all with new inspirations and new hopes and dreams.

Valentino

One of the biggest surprises this season had to be Valentino. Now Valentino may be a couture week staple, but it did end up being one of the houses that had seemed to fall into the couture rut. Before this season, Valentino felt slightly repetitive. Revisiting the regal Edwardian aesthetic that brought the brand it’s new found fame after Valentino Garavani took leave. Now, after having enough time to discover who he wants to be as a designer after Maria Grazia’s leave, Pierpaolo has spread his wings and understood full well what he wants Valentino to look like in the future. For this season’s couture collection. Piccioli turned to organic and minimal shapes to create a brilliant take on contemporary couture. Couture can often times look too dated if it isn’t milled through and thought out with every detail in mind, modern couture can end up looking quite dated or far too average to satisfy couture clientele. However, Piccioli managed to begin placing the stepping stones for modern couture. Creating simplistic and relevant designs that combine modern eye-catching design and the luxury required for beautiful couture.

Maison Margiela

John Galliano has proven himself season after season. When he first took the helm at Margiela, many wondered how Galliano’s feminine excess would translate to the Margiela runway. Four years later he’s managed to more than fill the shoes of his predecessor Martin Margiela. Galliano’s love of excess has translated perfectly to his idea of modern deconstructed couture. At this season’s artisanal collection, Galliano infused the idea of athleisure and athletic fabrics with contemporary couture silhouettes. Now everyone in the fashion community has become accustomed to Galliano’s cacophonous take on Margiela’s deconstruction, but what really surprised this season had to be the reflective athletic fabric that was used for many of the looks. The fabric, which reacted to flash photography, allowed one look to become two; in the most whimsical and colourful way possible.

Viktor & Rolf

Viktor & Rolf are Gods in the haute couture world. Their designs transcended what haute couture could be many years ago. When we look at the design duo, their archives showcased what the future of couture could be, rather than what it was at the time. This season, V&R really pulled out all the stops to create a stunning collection that’s rooted heavily in what the modern couture clients are looking for. The gorgeous 70s silhouettes pair beautifully with pastel and candy colour blocked colours. The simplistic silhouettes help further the idea that modern couture no longer has to be flashy and excessive. Instead, couture can now focus on material and quality instead of glitz and glamour. Which is the perfect way to go as the fashion world evolves and new couture clientele begin to seek out and purchase couture garments.

Couture roundup: The best of Fall 2017 Couture

Couture, to some, may seem like an excessive waste of fabric and embellishments. But to some, to the true lovers of fashion, couture is more than just an expensive piece of clothing. It’s a living organism capable of transforming itself. Coiling around the body of the wearer, transforming them from ordinary human to extraordinary living artwork. This season, Paris once again sprung to life with the beauty of haute couture. Taking ordinary clothes and turning them into living fantasies.

Viktor & Rolf

Photo: Alessandro Garofalo

Speaking of fantasy. No one does it quite like couture duo Viktor & Rolf. For their Fall 2017 collection, Viktor & Rolf created a bobble head dream world based on diversity, individuality, and the ability to change oneself into something new without sacrificing who you were in the beginning. Bobble headed models opened the show, showcasing their diverse heads in every skin tone. The diverse cartoon cast paired perfectly with the swishy reworked bomber jackets that made up everything except the pants and shoes of each look. The concept itself of showcasing diversity in a lighthearted and creative way was already a strong concept in and of itself, but what came next was truly the icing on the cake. After their first round about the runway, the models then shed their cartoon heads and walked the runway in the same outfits during their prior walk. However, with their beautifully unique and diverse face showing, their outfits had to match each girl’s beauty. Which lead to the outfits being opened up and unfolded. Releasing beautiful gowns, ruffles, and bows. A perfect example of growth and change without the compromise of oneself.

A.F. Vandervorst

Photo: Kim Weston Arnold

A.F. Vandervorst is a brand many would associate with contemporary rock and roll clothing. The edgy silhouettes, the affinity for all black, the Vandervorst line embodies the current evolution of what it means to be a modern headbanger in terms of fashion. Yet surprisingly, the Vandervorst’ team created a collection steeped in eclecticism and colour for their first couture outing this week. The collection was based heavily on the notion that anything can be made into something beautiful through the processes of repurposing and reusing the material. This was evident through the creative use of plastic like materials, mix and match fabrics, and clothing worn in non-conventional ways. Giving couture a modern and relevant edge geared specifically for the young elites of the world that may be looking to the world of haute couture for options tailor-made to them.

Iris Van Herpen

Photo: Yannis Vlamos

The queen of movement celebrated her 10 year anniversary as a designer with a stunning collection based heavily on aquatic life living in the world’s oceans. Various jellies took the form of dresses. Billowing out behind the models as they walked passed four musicians submerged in tanks of water. The collection gave it’s audience exactly what they expected from an Iris show. Movement, shape, texture, and a three dimensional nature that looks alive. What’s most striking about Iris’ show this season was her affinity for all things sheer. Now Van Herpen is no stranger to sheer and nude illusions, but this season proved that her skill with fabric illusion is incomparable. To create so much depth with the sheerest of fabrics is no small feat, even for the most seasoned of designers.

Giambattista Valli

Photos: Yannis Vlamos

Giambattista Valli has quickly risen to become the alpha and omega of the couture world. Every season, the Italian designer sets out to create cohesive and expressive collections that stay true to the world of couture while still remaining relevant and extremely fresh in terms of design. For his fall 2017 collection, Valli gave his collection a nod to old world extravagance. With floral embroidery and his famous voluminous tulle taking centre stage once again, in a way that feels new every time. The most striking of his creations this season were of course, his tulle ball gowns. However, a string of beautiful column dresses seemed like well though out stylistic break from Valli’s signature Valli-isms. Proving the designer is capable of covering a braid spectrum of design when he’s ready and willing.

Ulyana Sergeenko

Photos: Marcus Tondo

She really does give it to you every time! Millionaire socialite turned grand couturier powerhouse Ulyana Sergeenko once again proved that her expertise as a couture customer taught her well as a couture designer. Sergeenko’s affinity for 1940’s and 50’s silhouettes is a refreshing throwback to the hayday of Galliano couture at Dior. But it’s the raw sexual female dominance she presents in her shows that really set her apart from the couture pack. In all fairness, if Sergeenko set her own namesake brand aside for a little while, she would have no problem taking over a brand like Dior or Lanvin. The couture house codes are already running in her veins.

Iconic moments in fashion history: Christian Lacroix spring 2009 couture

In the fashion industry, finding a true genius is like mining for diamonds. You have to get through a lot of very ordinary rocks to find a true gem. It seems as if fashion innovators come once every few years. The 80s, like all generations, had its own small group of fashion geniuses which repaved and restructured the way fashion would be seen forever. But none were as extravagant and lively as the father of the puffball skirt, Christian Lacroix.

With the world of haute couture as his playground, Christian Lacroix was able to push boundaries of fashion that were only just being explored by other designers. Couture was no longer about just creating an impeccable dress or a perfectly tailored suit, it was now about creating a dream, a fantasy in the form of clothing. It’s safe to say that the theatrics seen in contemporary haute couture owes a lot of its inspirations to the dream worlds Lacroix created in the late 80s and early 90s.

For this edition of Iconic Moments in Fashion, Novella will take a trip to the world of Lacroix. Specifically, the spring 2009 couture show.

To start, one of the great trends that made this collection worth every fashion lovers while when it hit the runway has actually made a comeback in the past few seasons. The little drummer boy military uniform was almost everywhere last year. Every design house from Burberry to Gucci and Dries Van Noten had their hand in the military cookie jar. But none had the refinement and french romanticism that Monsieur Lacroix had. Fitted jackets with gold buttons, braided details, and floral embroidery were delicately trimmed with a crimson ribbon on each sleeve, while pantsuits were nipped at the waist and given an ultrafeminine silhouette. But it didn’t end there. Instead of pairing the military style jackets with traditional military style pants, Lacroix opted to modernize the look by pairing the darling jackets with slouchy trousers and delicate ruffled mini dresses that put the sugar plum fairy to shame.

Photos by Marco Madeira

However, the beauty of a Lacroix show is in its eccentricity. Rather than continue rely solely on his military influences, Christian went on to recreate his own stunning take on the french court. Models glided down the runway in brilliant floral confections and flouncy mini dress that would make anyone’s fairytale fantasies come true. Another brilliant little touch that Lacroix added to his ever-so-sweet madames wardrobe were the sheer printed tights that brought a sense of childhood whimsy to the collection. Some of the highlights in Christian‘s french court are a beautifully embroidered jacket and skirt paired with a lovely little basket purse and sheer blouse worn by model Hanne Gaby Odiele, a stunning ice blue skirt-suit adorned with crystals and ribbons worn by model Tanya Dziahileva, and a pristine black capelet and matching dress set worn by Lena Lomkova.

Photos by Marco Madeira

After presenting his french beauties of the upper echelon, Lacroix moves onto his riotous Can-Can beauties. Bright flashes of silk and chiffon dance around one another in perfect harmony. Lacroix‘s unmistakable knack for mixing prints and colour shine through here. His theatrics take center stage with gowns like the striped a-line gown worn by Elsa Sylvan, a beautiful off the shoulder gown in blush pink and fuschia worn by model Laura Blokhina, and the adorable embroidered bubble dress worn by model Skye Stracke.

Photos by Marco Madeira

Finally, the collection ends on the most glamorous of notes when Monsieur Lacroix introduces his belle epoque goddesses, draped in tulle and chiffon, feathers and jewels. Some of the most romantic and inspired gowns seen on the runway in the past two decades were part of Lacroix‘s spring 2009 finale. Black was intricately paired with soft pastel blues, golds, and dove grays to create a fairytale world of aristocratic head-turners and wealthy matriarch millionaires that play by their own rules. The embroidery and craftsmanship take on a refined new line in Lacroix‘s hands as the models storm the runway with billowing skirts that leave his brilliant patterned tights exposed to complete the look. One defining feature of the finale gowns is their bold shouldered silhouettes paired with their defined Edwardian influences that would give most designers using the same silhouette season a run for their money. The greatest moments during the finale came when model Tanya Dziahileva marched out in a beautiful voluminous black gown worn under a blush jacket that had been covered in flowers from sleeve to shoulder, a soft and delicate silk and tulle gown in ice blue worn by model Sissilee Lopez, a bold black shouldered tulle gown worn by Georgina Stojilkovic, and a stunning silk chiffon mini dress with flower embroidery and a yellow maribou-feathered dropped waist worn by Erin Heatherton. A true vision of couture perfection!

Photos by Marco Madeira

 

Bondage Fashion: Moving from hot to ‘haute’

By this point, we have gotten used to the choker trend. We made fun of it, experimented with it, rocked it, and now we are pretty much over it (pretty much). While this trend may have come and gone in similar fashion to the all-time favourite cork wedged peep-toe, striped fedora, and gladiator sandals, we, as fashion lovers, are still yearning for more. To my fellow choker wearers, it seems that our next stop is bondage fashion.

Yes, I said bondage. As in restraining, tying, and more things that have to do with *gasp* SEX! What sometimes gets a bad rep and can be an uncomfortable conversation to have around your parents has turned into a growing trend seen outside of the bedroom. Those who embrace  bondage generally carry in their wardrobes things like harnesses, leather, whips, collars (aka, chokers), and whatever else goes. An accredited shop, Northbound Leather, has garnered a reputation for designing and selling quality bondage clothing to stars like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. They have created looks that both celebrate bondage fashion and culture and inspire designers to bring this trend onto the runway. While some prefer to wear their bondage pieces as is and for purposes which are quite literal, designers are incorporating these ideas into runway looks, creating a different vibe and a sense of chicness that is not quite seen at first glance.

Last spring, couture designer, Yiqing Yin unveiled her collection of bondage inspired fashion. Each piece incorporates some an element of the trend like a harness, leather, or even just the overall frame and cut of a piece. While the whole collection features elegant and unique pieces, there are certainly some standout looks that have elevated the bondage theme and put it in a whole new class.

Courtesy of Yiqing Yin

Early on in the show — around 2:38 mark in the video —, Yin reveals a burgundy, leather, cutout crop top. She pairs this with a long patent leather skirt and fur — a flawless combination that illuminates the trendiness of bondage.

Courtesy of Yiqing Yin

A few looks later  — 5:13 — out walks a vision in powder blue. The gown is soft, feminine, and covered in roped harness, which adds a complete edge — if Cinderella decided to turn dominatrix this is what she would wear and Prince Charming would be thrilled.

Courtesy of Yiqing Yin

Just when you thought things were getting a bit safe, out walks a meshed, roped, harnessed fairy-princess. I know you never thought those words would all be used in a single sentence, but Yin has made the unthinkable possible. This gown — 5:45 — is both risqué and classic, both timeless and modern — a true example of the capabilities of this looked-over fashion trend.

Photo from the collection by Alien Moe

You know a trend has really made it when it’s worked its way down from the couture runway all the way to the urban streets. Harnesses are becoming a trend to wear not only for intimate reasons, not only for luxurious reasons such as pimping out a gown, but also for everyday use to give a t-shirt or a dress that extra layer and style.

The way that bondage clothing fits and accentuates one’s figure is part of the reason why this trend is a no brainer for everyday fashionistas. The other reason is because it gives the wearer that edge so that they can say, “Yes, I am wearing a leather harness that is normally used for bondage purposes but I am rocking this look because I am fierce as he(ck).” It is a statement piece to say the very least.

Photo from the collection by Alien Moe

New designer, Shelley Moee (or Alien Moe) creates everyday harnesses, chokers, and other leather pieces that are completely parallel with bondage looks. The difference, however, is both the price and the everyday abilities of each of her pieces. Moee sells her pieces on her website for generally under $100. They are handmade and available in an abundance of styles and colours. In terms of quality, each piece seems to be made specifically for the ability to be interchangeable from day to night. Some photos of her pieces are styled in a more typical “bondage” manner, while the same piece will be worn for an everyday look such as in the photos above.

Maybe it’s the “50 Shades of Grey Trend”. Maybe people are realizing that florals can be boring. Whatever the reason, bondage fashion and just plain edgier fashion is what we need to look out for this season. Leather, harnesses, studs, spikes, collars, and more — all of it ‘slays’.

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Is Haute Couture Still Relevant?

Is haute couture still relevant? That’s the question many fashion industry heavyweights have been asking as of late. As a flurry of rising fast fashion powerhouses, online shopping and now the emergence of see now buy now collections become a major trend within the industry, Parisian haute couture has been seeing a slow decline in customer interest and even industry interest. With many iconic houses opting to shut down their haute couture operations and others only being kept on the official schedule out of good grace and respect. Many believe that the iconic couture industry will, sooner that later, die out. But there’s an underlying question that can help answer the big question in regards to the current state of haute couture, and that’s why. Why is haute couture in such jeopardy of becoming the next big fashion faux pas?

Mme Jeanne Lanvin fitting a model photo from Style Magazine

To start, the biggest factor that’s come to affect couture is most definitely the rise of pret-a-porter. For the better part of human history, most clothing was either handmade or at least sewn on a machine but made to fit the customer like a glove. The idea of ready to wear collections that came in standard sizes was unheard of. Whether a person was young or old, rich or poor, someone was most likely making clothing meant to fit their specific measurements. That was truly the essence of haute couture. Whether a garment required the diligently trained hand of a master couturier to sew pearls into a silk bodice for an aristocratic woman or the caring hand of a mother making a dress for her child, couture had a way of coming into anyone’s home. Now some may argue that true couture started in the ateliers of Belle Epoque masters like Madame Lanvin and Monsieur Patou, but couture has truly been around for centuries, from the togas fashioned by the Greeks long ago, to the panniered gowns of the French court. Couture has been present throughout human history for ages.

Models backstage at Christian Dior Haute Couture ss12 Photo by GoRunway

So why put all that wonderful history to waste in favour of ready made garments. It comes down to cost. Historically, haute couture has been attributed to the rich upper echelon of the world and as the human population began to grow and go through revolutions in business, trade, and technology. The need for previous industries to quicken their production speed and product output was essential, causing the first real blow to haute couture. As time went on people forgot about the idea of handmade clothing and began to equate it with something only out of touch old money and nouveau riche people cared for. From then on the fashion industry began to grow into a commercialized form of revenue. Iconic houses like Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior had no choice but to begin incorporating pret-a-porter collections after designers like Yves Saint Laurent hit massive success in the market when he introduced his first ready to wear collection.

Christian Dior fitting a model Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

Another main reason why the fashion community has slowly lost interest in haute couture is due to the sterilization of individual style within the industry itself. As trends become the norm, luxury fashion houses are forced to create collections based on the year’s biggest trends as opposed to collections based on innovation and creativity. For example, the legendary house of Christian Lacroix dominated the world of fashion from the late 80’s up until its final collection in 2009. However, even though Lacroix was one of the most iconic and innovative designers for his time, his brand failed to ever turn any profit and was ultimately forced to close its doors due to massive debts and waning public interest. Likewise, design houses like Ungaro, Hanae Mori, and most recently Saint Laurent, have all halted their production of haute couture due to the massive expense it takes to create and the lack of clientele to justify its production.

A look from Christian Lacroix’s Haute Couture ss09 collection Photo by Marcio Madeira

With all that said, it seems that the future couture has been decided. With its slow but relentless decline in popularity and need, in a few years, couture may become completely obsolete. This, in turn, brings the argument back to its initial question, is haute couture still relevant? And the answer is yes. Couture should undoubtedly still be considered relevant. In an industry that’s become so obsessed with profit as opposed to artistic expression, wouldn’t it be important to keep something that showcases the art behind fashion? Rather than pumping out uniformity all year around, couture should be preserved alongside ready-to-wear to keep the craftsmanship and artistry alive. Like Simon Porte Jacquemus said, “I would like to see more poetry, less industry; because fashion is nothing without poetry.” Another very important reason to keep haute couture alive is for the sake of the seamstresses, tailors, and ateliers that devote their lives to perfecting their craft. Since couture must be made by hand, there are hundreds of ateliers working in various couture houses which carry the knowledge and the expertise to create extravagant creations that cannot be duplicated by a machine. Putting these valued and respected team members out of work would be a grave injustice to them and a grave injustice to the fashion industry as a whole. If the fashion industry rids itself of couture and the experts who make it possible, a piece of valuable knowledge would be lost for future generations. Who would be there to teach aspiring couturiers their secrets? Who will be there to uphold the artistry and standards that legends like Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga created decades ago? Who will be there to take our wildest dreams and bring them to life?

A look from Giambattista Valli’s Haute Couture fw16 collection Photo by Alessandro Garofalo

In the end, questioning the relevance of haute couture is question fashion itself. Without couture, fashion itself becomes irrelevant. The storytelling becomes irrelevant. Without couture, the fashion industry becomes just another industrial engine, pumping out factory made clothing that doesn’t represent anything other than profit and uniformity.