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.
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.
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, 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
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 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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Couture week is one of the most anticipated weeks on the fashion yearly calendar. It’s that special time of year when designers can truly flex their designer muscles and showcase exactly what they’re made of. It’s in these two weeks that the biggest and most illustrious fashion are given the budget and the audience to create the most elaborate and extravagant of collections. But it isn’t about creating sellable collections, as most spring, fall, resort, and pre-fall collections are about. No, Couture week is about creating a fantasy. It’s about weaving a dream together and wrapping that dream in a neat bow for the houses’ exclusive list of clientele. This season, audiences were treated to some of the greatest haute couture produced in recent years. Designers must have taken note of the underwhelming response they were getting from fashion lovers around the world because this season marked the return of theatrics to the haute couture stage; something that hasn’t been seen since the heyday of Galliano at Dior and Valentino Garavani at the helm of his namesake brand.
Bertrand Geyon of Schiaparelli truly is a force to be reckoned with. Since his debut at Schiaparelli not too long ago, Bertrand has managed to not only recreate Elsa Schiaparelli’s iconic graphic aesthetic, he’s also found a way to make the brand fit in perfectly with today’s contemporary fashion trends. Geyon’s strong east Asian influences are bright as day when held against the collection’s crisp whites. Patterned garments are smartly sprinkled throughout the collection, to ground the audiences in between the sea of pristine white and scarlet. Another standout aspect of the collection is the emphasis on tailoring. As all great couturiers do, Bertrand has created a collection with such precise silhouettes and cuts that it’s impossible to find a garment that looks disproportionate on the model’s body. The suiting, in the case, works in perfect harmony with the tailoring to create a streamlined silhouette that’s bound to suit the wearer, no matter their size.
Guo Pei has solidified herself as the reigning queen of haute couture. Her impressive rake on modern couture is by far the closest humanity has to recreate the extravagant costumes and pieces once produced in Paris many moons ago. This season, Pei took her audience on another extravagant trip to the land of pure extravagance, when she chose to recreate classical renaissance and romantic paintings for her collection. The collection saw giant masterpieces by renaissance masters come to life right before the audience’s very eyes. Rich tones of gold were intricately woven into every outfit, making the entire collection glow, like a gilded frame of a masterpiece you’d find in the Louvre rather than the runway. However, even with its heavy influences, Guo Pei’s venture into spring couture wasn’t heavy at all. The charming outfits had a rather light-as-air feel about them that added to the magic of the show. A perfect example of this was Pei’s reinterpretation of the classic bubble skirt, made famous by fellow couturier Christian Lacroix, which billowed out and bobbed around the model like a chandelier made of clouds, as opposed to a tangle of fabric and boning.
It really is the moment every fashion lover around the world has been waiting for. After having to endure multiple seasons of lackluster collections, Karl Lagerfeld has finally hunkered down and produced a collection for Chanel that would stop any critic dead in their tracks. Gone are the days of fashion critics asking “what happened to Chanel? What happened to Karl?” because the legend himself has created a monumental collection that returned the historic French house back to its roots. There were no overly elaborate runways and no gimmicky props, instead, Karl relied on the pure esprit of Coco Chanel to create a collection that manages to be modern and fresh, while retaining a sense of old world elegance. The classic Chanel tweed suit, seen in the sweetest shades of candied pastel, are brought back to life with retro styling via thick belts and hats, giving the classic silhouette a Jem and the Holograms-esque feel. However, the true stars of the show are the feathered numbers. Countless gowns came waltzing down the runway topped off with marabou accents that made the models look as if they were floating on a bed of air rather than walking. These feathered concoctions were the pinnacle of the show, proving that in one way or another, Uncle Karl’s still got, and whatever it is, he’s not letting it go anytime soon.
Ralph & Russo
Always being a Couture week favourite, couture week newcomers Tamara Ralph and Micahel Russo seem to always hit the nail on the head when designing new collections, and this season was no exception. Opting for a wonderfully pleasant mix between edgy and classic, Ralph & Russo’s spring collection was a dazzling display of craftsmanship that keeps true to what couture is known for. Every garment that came down the runway was perfectly poised and ready to become a red carpet showstopper. But unlike previous collections, this season’s Ralph & Russo show seemed to be created with white in mind. Countless gowns billowed down the runway in a variety of fabrics that showcased unmatched embroidery against a creamy white canvas. But that isn’t to say that colour didn’t play a vital role in the collection. Sprinkled throughout were confections in navy, emerald, black and red along with soft pastel blues and lilacs that helped break up the multitude of white gowns that were storming the runway. One interesting look that really stood out from the pack was a sparkling metallic cocktail-length dress that looked as though finer optic lights had come to life and attached themselves to a dress, dancing at every chance they could.
While not officially on the couture week schedule, designer Yumi Katsura still managed to show a collection which burst at the seams with the same glamour and prestige that any of the big couture houses are known for. Which raises the question — can couture still be couture even if it isn’t officially part of the group? The answer is yes. Even though Katsura’s brand isn’t part of the official couture roster, it still embraces and exemplifies the same high-quality craftsmanship that the big names do, which is enough to ensure Yumi a spot on this list. For her spring 2017 collection, Katsura took us on a trip through the time. Specifically Japan during the swinging 60’s. Now many designers have sought out Japan as an inspiration for their collections, but Katsura is really the first designer to showcase Japan’s western influences right after the war. 60’s style min-dresses were given a bold overhaul, with asymmetric hems and graphic Japanese silks, while traditional silk kimonos were paired with beautifully tailored silk pants and blouses, giving the collection a relaxed and retro feel that compliments the entire collection.
When it seems as if John Galliano has finally peaked, he comes back and hits the fashion world with another jaw-dropping collection, and spring 2017 artisanal was no exception. Drawing on the obsession with today’s youth and technology, it seemed that the collection was somewhat rooted in the contemporary obsession with oneself. Traditional Marginal deconstruction is met face to face with well. . .a face. Clothing seemed to take on a life of its own, it became sentient; a physical representation of our current obsession with ourselves. Faces were everywhere. They were crudely mapped out or delicately sewn into coats either using bits of string, any yarn, or clouds of black chiffon, sending a strong message about our times. Are we so obsessed with ourselves that even our clothes have to be a physical representation of how we see ourselves? Will we stop at nothing to prove to the world that we too fit its ideal of beauty? Who knows, but one thing is for sure — Galliano’s collection on the modern self ends with a warning. If we keep up our personal obsession with ourselves we just might end up emptier than when we started. We may end up formless and dark, like the foreboding black that closed the show, which although beautiful, wasn’t hard to see that that seemed to just swallow everything around it.
Fashion, for the most part, has sadly been a man’s game. Yet sometimes a woman is able to slip through the cracks and prove to the world that women belong behind the scenes just as much as they belong on the runway. Ulyana Sergeenko is one of these women. Her couture collections are a constant reminder of the sheer brute force that a woman at the helm of a fashion house can be. She understands the essence of couture, the importance of cut and fit and understated luxury. She’s a woman who understands what women want from clothing, who adapts to her clientele’s needs and produces relevant and outstanding collections as a result. For her spring 2017 collection, Sergeenko relied heavily on corsetry and surprisingly, mixed it with sweet yet rebellious 80’s silhouettes, giving the entire collection a bubblegum pop star-meets-Russian aristocrat vibe that works beautifully for Ulyana. And even though the visual stimulation of the collection was enough to leave potential buyers wanting more, the true selling point of the collection is the haute couture itself. The tailoring and fit of the collection were undeniable. The corsetry and breast cups molded beautifully to the model’s bodies while the draping and ruffles seen throughout gave the collection the opulence it needed. A true Russian triumph in the world of couture.
For designer Bebe Moratti’s first collection at Paris Haute Couture, he asked a simple question. What’s couture without a little rock and roll mixed in? The answer, nothing really. That’s because haute couture is essentially rock and roll. It’s the fashion version of a great heavy metal concert where anything goes and any mistakes are just part of the party. And what a party it was. For Bebe’s spring 2017 couture collection, the designer created a collection that marries two completely different eras harmoniously. On one hand, Moratti has the rococo. Known for its softness, its beauty, and its love for pastels and romance. And on the other, the cold steely blade of 70’s and 80’s rock. The two come together beautifully and create a collection that is perfectly Redemption. The mix of rococo inspired poet shirts, pants, and jackets pair seamlessly with the miniskirts and mullet dresses of the 80s. Creating a pure Steven Tyler-esque fantasy that everyone has, at one time or another, connected to. Yet even with its rebellious aesthetic, Moratti’s collection is still rooted in the same luxurious quality that couture should be rooted in. Making the eyes of a fashion lover, and a champion in the eyes of a libertine.
Everyone loves a good fairytale. Girls in red capes who valiantly fight wolves, talking mirrors and princesses looked away in towers all conjure images of the childhood stories most children grew up with. Interestingly enough, fairy tales aren’t always bedtime stories we hear as children. As time progresses, our fairytales become more elaborate. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are replaced with Gone With The Wind and the Wizard of Oz. Our childhood heroes grow up and become everyday heroes. Taking the mundane and making it whimsical and inspiring.
Since starting this little expedition down fashion’s memory lane, Novella has looked at the theatrics as well as the simplistic elegance that can come from European designers when they look to their continent for inspiration, but something magical happens when Europe looks outside of its borders for inspiration. This is definitely the case for Ulyana Sergeenko‘s spring 2013 collection, where American literature and folktales collided with the grandeur of Russian design and style.
The Collection starts off with a clear and refined influence, American Gothic. The young and beautiful prairie girl goes about her day, innocent and dutiful. Her wide brim hat keeps her perfect porcelain skin away from the harsh rays of the sun that bathe her picture perfect family farm every day. She’s your all-American dream girl before it became trendy to be the girl next door.
The traditional American influences continue throughout the collection. With skirts and hats made of burlap, giving certain outfits a very prairie-girl handmade feel. However, the addition of burlap to the collection doesn’t cheapen the collection, rather, it adds a level of camp and theatricality that couture shows are accustomed to having. But it didn’t stop there. Ulyana couldn’t let traditional American garb be the only theme that defined her collection. There needed to be other aspects to the collection that made the show different, something wonderful enough to make the show truly iconic.
Once Ulyana establishes her Americana foundations, she allows herself to play with a bit of whimsy nd theatrics. Bland prairie influences are beefed up with glamorous injections of country chic that looked as if they came straight from the Wizard of Oz set. Sweeping crisp whites rivaled that of southern magnolia.
Creating the perfect outfit for any prim and proper southern lady. However, the crisp white outfits were soon met with resistance by deep and silky blacks, reminiscent of the Wicked Witch of the West. And soon enough, Sergeenko kicked her story off. In a whirlwind of classic American literature references, Sergeenko‘s models waltzed down the runway in Huckleberry Finn burlaps and classic southern trimmings that would make William Faulkner proud.
Along with the nods to Oz and traditional Americana, Sergeenko also pulls inspiration from the great American classic, Gone With The Wind. Scarlett O’Hara‘s stunning green curtain dress is reimagined for the collection as a sumptuous off the shoulder gown that perfectly modernizes the traditional antebellum gown for Sergeenko‘s audience. Another iconic look that’s presented during the show is Scarlett O’Hara’s iconic red dress, but instead of being showcased as a gown, Ulyana reinterprets it as a sweeping cape, mirroring the sweeping effect the original dress had when it cascading along the giant staircase’ steps.
Now all the gorgeous antebellum gowns and southern influences are beautiful in their own right, but the true stars of the show don’t come with sweeping trains and high collars, rather, the showstoppers of the collection are the sweet and delicate shorts and bustiers. Which mixed the ongoing theme of southern Americana with the ostentatious glamour of Russian design. Burlap corset dresses are placed over soft and sheer underthings, while a delicate white shirt is tucked into a fun pair of burlap shorts that have whimsically been cinched at the waist with a burlap ribbon of the same colour.
Each one of these outfits is extremely special in their own way, but one outfit truly stands out among the greats. It’s stunning display of intricateness paired alongside its ease of wear make this outfit not only a marvelous display of Sergeenko‘s and her atelier’s attention to detail for a couture show but show how wearable and relevant this collection is even after several seasons have passed.
Take our word for it, Sergeenko does not disappoint on her second big couture show in Paris. Not only does she pull out all of the stops that a couture show needs, she also adds a story and a theme that transport the audience to the pages of a classic southern gothic novel. Making it an all around feast for the eyes.