Iconic Moments in Fashion: Viktor & Rolf Haute Couture ss 2016

Have you ever imagined what a child’s imagination would look like if it came to life? What if a child’s imaginary friend sprung from their head and began to dance around the room? That was the beauty of Viktor & Rolf’s spring 2016 couture show. Childhood memories came out to dance and play among the very adult world of fashion. Unfortunately, in today’s fashion world, we rarely get to see whimsy and childhood charm walk the runway. Designers have created brands and taken them from the realm of imagination into the realm of industry, creating an engine hell-bent on pumping the world with constant doses of trends, fast fashion, and see-now-buy-now collections whose sole purpose is profit, not wonder.

Photo: Alessandro Garofalo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily for fashion lovers around the world, the haute couture house of Viktor & Rolf has for years been associated with design that reaches beyond traditional fashion. While some houses’, like Chanel’s or Dior’s, primary focus was to modernize tradition, Viktor & Rolf are renowned for reinventing traditional haute couture values rather than modernizing of something that has been held dearly.

Photo: Alessandro Garofalo

Viktor & Rolf have created a brand that delves into some of Europe’s most important design niches. On one hand, V&R embraces deconstruction; they embrace the art of taking a garment apart and putting it back together in new and exciting ways. On the other hand, the brand is also deeply rooted in detail and high fashion prestige. This intense marriage of raw design and refined beauty encompassed their spring 2016 couture show. It was a dance between the cut and paste imagination of a child and the rigidness and simplicity of adult life.

Photo: Alessandro Garofalo

When we first see the collection, the clothing presented seem simple enough. A utilitarian shirtdress with a few paste on appliqués in white. A secret sprinkled here and there. Soon after, the dresses become more elaborate and more abstract. Audiences are left watching as the imagination of a child takes a simple idea and allows it to grow and blossom into something far more magical than just a cut out of an eye on a dress.

Photo: Alessandro Garofalo

As the collection progresses, the dreams of a child’s unchained mind come face to face with the stern rules of adult life. But the clash of the two isn’t what makes this collection so memorable. It’s the sheer dominance nostalgia and childhood imagination have over our adult lives. Even though the collection still adheres to its strict couture guidelines, the childhood dream world that began as a simple eye on a stark white dress grew into something more extravagant — something far more important than just fashion. The idea that Viktor & Rolf wanted to get had more to do with the flame of wonder that is ignited in childhood never truly going out than trying to parade models around in towering polo shirt totem poles for the sake of “fashion.” For both Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, creating fashion for the sake of fashion doesn’t seem to be the name of the game. Bringing dreams to life by taking inspiration from the world around them has always been the motive and lesson at V&R couture. And it’s a lesson in creativity all future designers should be listening too.

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Art x Fashion: Fashion inspired by history’s most stunning gowns

Fashion and art have always worked hand in hand like a hall of mirrors. When one creates something, the other reflects it. For centuries, art and fashion have danced with one another. Creating memorable images in either fabric or paint form. When I chose to venture into art and fashion in the first “Art x Fashion” article, the comparisons made between the artwork’s and the clothing was based on colour, print, pattern, etc. Now, the comparisons are based on some of the most stunning gowns ever painted throughout history.

Ann Demeulemeester x Thomas Hudson

Ann Demeulemeester fw17 by Sebastien Meurnier | “Portrait of Lady Frances Courtenay, wife of William Courtenay, 1st Viscount Courtenay” by Thomas Hudson | Photo: Vogue Runway

Until recently, black was a coloured reserved for mourning, not elegance. So when it came to finding a gown that matched today’s modern obsessions with the shade, a deep dive into the world of classical art was the only way to go about it. Luckily, I stumbled upon Thomas Hudson‘s beautiful painting “Portrait of Lady Frances Courtenay, wife of William Courtenay, 1st Viscount Courtenay” which showcases its main subject wearing a beautiful black gown. The sheen on the black fabric, white ruffled collar, and sleeves was mirrored by a look that walked the runway at Ann Demeulemeester this season, which featured a black dress and white shirt. The two gowns almost look like doorways. One leading to the past, the other, the future.

Loewe x Giovanni Boldini

Loewe fw17 by Jonathan Anderson | “Madame Charles Max” by Giovanni Boldini

Powder blue, not only was it named the colour of the year last year (along with rose quartz) It has steadily filtered its way through everything from fashion, to home decor, and even car colours. What sets this colour apart from other blues on the lighter spectrum is its softness, its cleanliness, its elegance, and it’s ability to remain an extremely dominant colour without looking juvenile. At Loewe, a stunning powder blue gown came down the runway looking like a clown in the wind. Immediately Giovanni Boldini came to mind. The effortless brush strokes of the blue dress in Boldini’s “Madame Charles Max” look as light as air, mirroring the billowing blue gown on the runway.

 

Calvin Klein x Thomas Cooper Gotch

Calvin Klein fw17 by Raf Simons | The Lady in Gold by Thomas Cooper Gotch

Gold is one of those colours that will always be associated with royalty. It represents the thrown, the sun, wealth, extravagance, and the God-given right to rule a kingdom. In Thomas Coop Gotch‘s painting “The Lady in Gold,” we can see how gold plays a vital role in creating an elegant and domineering atmosphere. Not only is the dress itself a beautiful hue of yellow gold, the entire painting itself is painted in various hues of warm yellow. Giving the woman in the painting a sense of sheer importance and status. At Calvin Klein, A stunning gold coat walked the runway. The gold fabric and cleave PVC overlay looked made the garment look like liquid gold. Twisting and swirling onto itself. Truly a modern take on an old royal favourite.

 

Gucci x Frans Verhas

Gucci fw17 by Alessandro Michele | “The New Bracelet” by Frans Verhas

Call it lilac, periwinkle, or lavender, or aubergine, but no colour can match the unbridled intensity of purple. Which screams “look at me!” regardless of which hue is being shown. In Frans Verhas The New Bracelet,” a soft lilac jumps out from the canvas against a neutral background. It’s clear that the intention of the painting was o put the gown itself into focus while letting the background fade away. And what a perfect colour to do just that. However, at Gucci, this purple gown was one of the only colours that was featured entirely by itself. The dominant colour creates a mesmerising look that needs little more than a lustre in the fabric itself to stand out. Just like Frans Painting, this Gucci dress captures the eye and lets the background fade away.

Chika Kisada x William Ross

Chika Kisada fw17 by Chika Kisada | “Princess Feodora of Hohenlohe-Langenburg” by William Ross

What do you think of when you think of pink? For me, I see candy, extravagance, sugar, delicateness, and power. Now, most people would agree with candy and delicateness, but why power and extravagance? It’s simple, pink is one of the strongest colours on the colour wheel. It gives off an intensity without ever experiencing any muteness in its hues. Whether it’s baby pink or fuschia, pink lights a fire unlike any other colour on the spectrum. In William Ross‘ “Princess Feodora of Hohenlohe-Langenburg,” we can see that even though the pink chosen for the gown is the softest imaginable, it still draws the eye to it. Dominating everything around it in the painting. This is also the case with this stunning pink dress at Chika Kisada aw17. The mix of bubblegum pink and dusty rose creates levels of excitement and interest in the dress. Pulling your eyes towards the harness on the model’s chest, and drawing it all the way down to the train.

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Recap: Fashion Week Beauty Trends

Fashion Weeks have come and gone, but we often forget the ingenuity of many designers within the presentation of their lines. A lot of work goes into presenting a product, with specific hair and make-up designs to accompany each model. We have pieced together some of our favourite beauty trends from New York, London, Paris, and Milan Fashion Weeks to inspire you through the coming months and set you on the right track.

NEW YORK FASHION WEEK

                  

COLORFUL CAT-EYE

Perhaps the most talked about beauty trend from NYFW, Prabal Gurung’s monochromatic cat-eye left us reminiscing on the days when we first attempted to recreate scenic visions of model makeup from the catwalk. While Diane Kendal has more precision with her styling, we reminisce on the early days we once spent in front of the mirror, playing with bold colours and patterns, hoping to copy the handiwork of industry professionals. Not only are we obsessed with the shape of this look, we are consumed by hues of sky blue, green, and orange. The models wore sleeked back hairstyles to accentuate this beauty trend. Gurung’s line was inspired by powerful women within his life and emphasized messages such as “We will not be silenced.” Not only did Gurung manage to present an ethereal physical beauty within his Fall 2017 line, he also inspired an inclusiveness and empowerment for women everywhere.                  

 

BOBS, BUZZ, & BOYCUTS

A major trend of New York Fashion week was found through shorter hairstyles ranging from precise bobs to buzz cuts. Alexander Wang beautifully displayed this trend and proved that women can rock boy cuts better than men. This display brought a nostalgia for the early 90’s and proved its timelessness. While long, luxurious hair has certainly been a desired trend for women everywhere, we often forget the power behind a bold, short haircut. For all those inspired to finally take their scissors and complete their long-awaited desire for a shorter do’ — we salute you.

LONDON FASHION WEEK

                   

SMUDGED LIPS

For all the times you have unsuccessfully or incorrectly applied your lipstick, you can now think of it as a style choice, rather than an unfortunate run-in with your applicator. For those who have spent a long night out on the town and caught a glimpse of yourself in the window of the McDonalds you often frequent in the early morning, this is for you. For women who are on-the-go and have daringly applied dark shades of lipstick on a moving subway car, or quickly in the back of a cab before a “chance” run in with your ex and his new boo, this is for you. Preen by Thornton Bregazzi makes “accidental make-up” a way of the future and celebrates cherry red lips with an indirect application.          

BLACK VELVET RIBBON

Emily Wickstead artistically reinvents the black ribbon within a half-up, half-down hair style. Also seen during Marchesa, the black velvet ribbon is a 2017 style trend that we can get behind. A staple to any collection, the ribbon brings a sophistication to a quick and easy hairstyle choice. The ribbon can be used as a ponytail, or, alternatively, it can be restyled as a choker.

PARIS FASHION WEEK

                 

HAIR HEADBANDS

At Issey Miyake, hair is multidimensional, and once you add temporary hair-dye, greatness is achieved through it. Taking inspiration from the Northern Lights, Pecis created a hair headband on his models by adding blue, purple and green hues. This style choice reflects different colours when the model walks the runway as the colour will shift in the light. Our childhood fantasies of having bright, shimmery hair have been envisioned into a precise hairstyle that is as beautiful as it is bold. For those looking for an edge this year, or if you are simply looking for a way to keep your hair out of your eyes, take note.               

FRESH FACE

A major trend throughout all fashion weeks was found in the “no-makeup, make-up look.” MUAs, designers, and models ditched their plentiful products and sought out a more natural, minimalistic canvas on their faces. Lanvin took note of this trend and brilliantly executed a fresh-faced design to his runway. While there are times in which we find solace in our layers of foundation, concealer, contour, and highlight, the “no make-up” trend is telling us to love the skin we are in.

MILAN FASHION WEEK

            

GLITTER LIPS

Gucci inspired an unexpected beauty trend that reinvents the way we see lipstick. Shying away from a staple red or pink lip, Gucci took a step in the right direction by inspiring a dark lip that compliments its Fall 2017 line. With an exaggerated cupid’s bow and an edge of glitter, Gucci makes our gothic dreams to a beautiful reality.

DEEP SIDE PART

Designers like Bottega Veneta and Salvatore Ferragamo took inspiration from a deep side part. Within Veneta’s collection, models were layered with jeweled hair pieces to accompany their perfectly styled hair. This classic hairstyle goes a long way with subtle accessories. Whether you decide to dress it up with an accessory or keep it simple, you can’t go wrong with this hairstyle.

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Paris Fashion Week f/w 2017: The Highlights

Paris is widely accepted as the pinnacle of fashion around the world and for good reason. This season seems to be no exception, with designers pulling out all of the stops to present some of their most exciting and iconic collections yet. There were designers who celebrated milestones by walking down memory lane, while others expressed their takes on modern feminism by pulling from the past. There was even a utopia created completely out of fabric that transcended words. With that said, Novella is proud to present the best of Paris Fashion Week!

Photo: Kim Weston Arnold

Dries Van Noten

It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a runway show sport such an outstanding roster that it sends me into a flurry of nostalgia with every passing model that came into the camera’s view, but that’s exactly what Dries Van Noten did for his 100th show in Paris. Models from all over the globe strutted down the runway in his creations for the show (some whom have walked his first shows back in the early 90s) in a show of support for Dries’ 20-year long breadth of work. Apart from having the pleasure of seeing the likes of Nadja Auermann and Malgosia Bela strut down the runway, fans around the world were treated to a whirlwind of prints that came straight from the brand’s archives. Noten’s paisleys and florals were dusted off and brought back as a celebration of the brand and its iconic designer. One interesting (and completely appropriate for our current times) aspect of the show was the heavy emphasis on menswear. Coats and suits carried a masculine air that made each of the runway veterans shine with a sense of feminine empowerment.

Photo: Vera Wang

Vera Wang

Sometimes a collection comes along that is so underlooked by the those in the fashion industry that it’s almost maddening. Such was the case at Vera Wang‘s Paris show. The New York native presented her collection in Paris last week only using model Mariacarla Boscono as her muse and beautiful historic building as her background. The entirety of the collection seems to be inspired by the queens of the world, with a heavy emphasis on Napoleonic-era military and aristocratic garb. The beauty of Vera‘s understanding of the female form and understated elegance is completely evident here in the draping and gold embellishments that hark back to a time when what you wore showed the world who you are. And Vera’s woman is that the top of the echelon. Some of the most stunning pieces that came from the collection are an Edwardian empire waist gown that cleverly comes paired with wool sleeve military jacket sleeves and a beautiful gold dress with shearling outerwear sleeves that exudes a sexiness that commands attention. However, dresses weren’t the only thing Ms. Wang had in store for her collection. Various different aspects commanded equal praise through the collection. One important piece that comes to mind is a beautiful ensemble featuring a delicate blouse with exaggerated proportions topped off with a shearling capelet that was grounded by a beautifully tailored pair of French legion style military pants.

Photo: Kim Weston Arnold

Jacquemus

The new king of Parisian design has once again outdone himself for his fall 2017 collection. I remember when a young Simon Porte Jacquemus began showing his collections in Paris. His designs seemed extremely easy going and effortless in comparison to the taught (and sometimes pretentious) standards that Paris demands of its designers. However, the idea of a young self-taught designer pushing through the fashion status quo to present original and inspired ideas was quite exhilarating. This season, Simon struck gold again with another solid collection based on the love story between a rich Parisian woman and a gypsy man from the south of France. The collection features Jacquemus’s tell-tale simplicity, which, as always, tells a far more interesting story than something with unnecessary glitz and sparkle. The collection is riddled with effortlessly fashionable “French-isms” like the simple Napoleon hats and the large gold brooches, that all bring us back to the iconic houses on Place Vendôme that put Paris on the fashion map. Apart from the all-around well-designed clothing, Jacquemus still manages to add his signature touches to the collection in the form of outstanding tailoring that plays on the brand’s fun-loving take on tailoring. Some of the best looks in this collection are the simplest in terms of design and styling — a black coat with a built-in peplum waist and suit ensemble that slightly twists at the waist.

Photo: Kim Weston Arnold

Off-White

A lot of people (myself included) are beginning to become weary and tired of seeing Vetements-isms riddle the runway. It seems as if every designer and their mother are pumping out their own alternatives to the elongated sleeve, oversized everything, puffer-jackets, oversized logo everything. The list goes on and on at this point. Now Off-White is one of those brands that sprang up with the insurgence of the streetwear dominated industry, so it came as no surprise when the brand had its fair share of Vetements inspired pieces in its collection. Fortunately, this season came with a wonderful surprise, designer Virgil Abloh created a fantasy world that echoed the modern freshness of the Off-White client while standing far enough away from any of the overused trends of the past two seasons. His collection left a lasting impression by just exhibiting well made and well put together ensembles that stay relevant to French design and European trends. Two exciting trend that was easily spotted on the Off-White runway was Prince-of-Wales check and denim; the two was intricately mixed with one another to create a complementing look that nestled somewhere in between casual elegance and sports chic. In the end, some visible Vetements-isms were still in the collection, like the mini puffer and hoodie, but they were toned down and given relevant and refreshing reimaging that made sense with the collection, rather than fighting it.

Photo: Monica Feudi

 Miu Miu

Miuccia Prada never fails to wow me. While some designers opt for taking the ideas they presented for their main brands and just altering them for their side ventures, Miuccia consistently delivers news and separate ideas for Miu Miu that only ever rarely echo what Prada is doing at the time. She understands that Miu Miu girl is not her Prada girl and both women need clothing that best represents them, not a mishmash of “either or“. This season, Miuccia created a candy coloured whirlwind for Miu Miu’s fall 2017 collection. The collection, which showcased fur-clad twenty-somethings flouncing down the runway in 60s inspired outfits (an ode to the ladies that launched the first wave of feminism maybe?) presented an interesting and relevant idea. “I am a woman, a Miu Miu woman, and I’m here to be seen!” As every woman should be, which is refreshing in a moment where women’s empowerment is being expressed by how masculine she can dress. The best examples of the what Miuccia is trying to express with feminine strength come later in the show when silky mini dresses were decorated with 3-D fuzzy flowers, wild 60s prints created a strong and imposing silhouette, and pastel coloured furs left a soft yet dominating impression on the viewer.

Photo: Yannis Vlamos

Undercover

I remember distinctly ranting and raving about this collection to our Editor-in-Chief Drew Brow whilst sipping a beer at Toronto Men’s Fashion week. The exact words I used were “I don’t think I’ve cried watching a runway show in such a long time! I was fanning my eyes Drew, I was so emotional!” And it’s true. It really has been years since a designer’s collection made me feel emotional enough to feel my eyes water, but that was exactly the case at Undercover this season. Designer Jun Takahashi presented what may be his magnum opus for Undercover at Paris fashion week last week. The collection was a cornucopia of beautiful looks that were meant to represent the residents of a kingdom or utopia built on extravagance and elegance. Now, while other designers have been rushing to pump out trend heavy and streetwear relivant collections it seems that Jun is in no way, shape, or form willing to water down his vision to accommodate the status quo. His collection was a remarkable ode to the days of Alexander McQueen, Christian Lacroix, and John Galliano at Dior. Where designers were more interested in telling a story through a collection rather than creating a collection whose sole purpose is to feed the retail industry’s need for new trends every season. But enough about the technicalities of the collection, because the clothing far outshines any written explanation that can be given to describe it. There were knitted gowns with accordion sleeves, and draped and gather military coats, velvet pie crust bomber jackets, oversized cable-knit dresses, beautifully printed opera coats, and a queen wearing and accordion pleated ball gown skirt that outshone anything that has been presented on the runway in the past few years. To be completely honest with everyone, no words I write can express the beauty of this collection in all of its regal glory. I implore you to watch the runway video of the show to see just exactly what I’m talking about. You can thank me later.

 

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.