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.
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.
Luckily for fashion lovers around the world, the haute couture house of Viktor & Rolfhas 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.