If the fashion industry was a culinary scene, then haute couture would be molecular gastronomy served at a secret supper club. Guided by Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris, fashion houses who could label their collections are “haute couture” are few and far between. Traditionally, these fashion houses do two shows every year during Paris Couture Week.
But in the age of see now/buy now and e-commerce, couture shows are struggling to stay relevant. Earlier this month, Versace announced its withdrawal from Couture Week, at least for the year. The brand decides that they would focus on the six other shows they stage every year, plus meeting clients across the globe – including Asia.
But with Chanel and Dior, front liners of high couture, upping their fashion week game for spring/summer 2017, it is not hard to see how couture is a living form of arts. It is an aspiration, but a dynamic one.
Chanel redefines girl power
After the bombastic US presidential election that was followed by a global women’s march, Karl Lagerfeld decided to bring back power suiting of the 80s to Chanel couture show. Lagerfeld previously brought the theme of girl power to his spring 2015 ready-to-wear show, with models marching with slogans as finale.
This time around, the approach is subtler, and decidedly more romantic. The set is built around head-to-toe mirrors, accentuated with calla lilies. Skirtsuits are the highlight of the collection, some paired with belts, worn high on the waist. There were pussy-bow blouses thrown in between. Perhaps a high-fashion nod to the pussy hat? The traditional “bride as the final look” gown was worn by Chanel’s young muse, Lily-Depp Rose.
Maria Grazia Chiuri’s couture debut
Maria Grazia Chiuri nailed her first ready-to-wear collection for Dior, touching upon feminism in an elegant, but badass (that We are All Feminists t-shirt!) way. Her couture debut is a whole different story. The set of Dior spring/summer 2017 couture show includes an enchanted forest, hanging leaves and crystal. Guests sat on mossy benches to spread the fairy tale spirit.
Among the looks, there was only one that included pants. The rest were black Bar jacket ensembles made new with draped hoods, fairy looks with see-through dresses and floral crowns, as well as princess dresses with cinched waist. Watch the entire ethereal show here.
Vetements takes people from the street as models
Vetements means disruptions, and for its spring 2017 couture show, the brand takes on the theme “Stereotypes”. To keep things real, they did a street casting, resulting in real people as models – depicting the office worker, soldier, eccentric old lady, windbreaker sporting tourist, metal head, goth and punk. There is only one couture tradition that the French brand keeps – the bride. This one pairs her traditional gown with Vetements’ cigarette lighter sock boots.
Models wear flats at Giambattista Valli
Giambattista Valli is a true high couture traditionalist. Their floor-sweeping, voluminous gowns are red carpet staples worn by ladylike A-listers. It is refreshing, then, to see all the models on Valli’s spring 2017 couture show in flats. Practical pieces were also present, including casual top-and-skirt in matching prints and pajama-like tunic suits. The bride, however, wore an ultra-voluminous yellow gown, reminding one of that dancing scene from Beauty & the Beast. But underneath it all, she wore flats.
Schiaparelli’s first collection as a couture house
This season marks Elsa Schiaparelli’s first couture show, just weeks after regaining its status as an haute couture house. The namesake house, known for its out-of-this-world couture creations (including the iconic Lobster Dress), closed its operations in 1954 following Schiaparelli’s decision to focus on her autobiography, Shocking Life.
The debut couture show, designed by Creative Director Bertrand Guyon, revolves around two very different themes: contemporary graphic and classic Chinese. The first manifested on a long dress with colour blocking, and a jacket with face graphics, among others. The second derived from Schiaparelli’s fascination with Japanese kimono and Chinese hanfu, which she wore as loungewear.