Fashion weeks come and go, but our favourite of all time is Paris Couture Week for its impeccable craftsmanship, new fabrications, and sometimes, outrageous looks. Now that the high drama is over, we pick five of our favourite collections that feature the most outstanding looks — we’re talking about a miniature maison worn as an dress, and high-tech confections with rotating angel wings.
The house of Christian Dior returned to its historic birthplace of 30 Montaigne, which was transformed into a gothic mansion. Central to the collection’s inspiration were the works of British radical artist Penny Slinger whose most revered works to date is 1997’s An Exorcism, a series of evocative, black-and-white collages pieced together from photographs taken in a derelict house. As an homage, the almost exclusively black collection presented a combination of sombre yet elegant looks, with elaborate ballgowns in an ombre finish, cocktail dresses laced with feathers, suits in the maison’s signature Bar silhouette, and draped goddess dresses.
The show closed with a model wearing a gold miniature dollhouse — a replica of Christian Dior maison in Paris.
Literature has always been an integral part of Chanel’s history. Gabrielle Chanel spent her childhood in an orphanage, devouring books, or her best friends, as she called them. Later, the walls of her salon in her lavishly decorated apartment on Rue Cambon would be covered with books. The late Karl Lagerfeld shared her love for the written word; it was said he collected over 300,000 books. In remembrance of Chanel’s greats was the magnificent setting of the maison’s Fall couture show. The Grand Palais was transformed into a colossal library, complete with reading sofas and carpets.
As Virginie Viard’s first couture collection, expectations were no doubt high. Around the walkways of the library, the new Chanel woman — well-read and cultured — is born. The silhouettes were roomy and lithe, with looks veering on the everyday, albeit prim and proper. There were classic tweed suits, boleros paired with floor-length gowns, white feathered cuffs, just like what Lagerfeld used to wear, little belted dresses, and full-skirted, calf-skimming velvet gowns.
Iris Van Herpen
If we had to choose a favourite dress this season, it would be Iris Van Herpen’s. Aptly called Hypnosis, the collection was a collaboration with American artist Anthony Howe. Howe’s kinetic sculptures were the inspiration that anchored this collection, symbolising an exploration of nature and the universe’s life cycle. Nineteen looks were presented on the runway, each a feat of engineering and sheer artistry. Some shimmied down the runway, made up of rippling multi-layered organza layers, while others featured silk heat-bonded onto tulle.
The star of the collection was the viral ‘Infinity’ finale dress. Like angel wings, the structure — made from aluminium, stainless steel and bearings — moved gracefully as if continuously in motion and revolving around a centre.
Pierpaolo Piccoli has taken the fashion world by storm, and for good reason too. With the Fall couture collection, Piccoli enamoured with his use of colour and genuine embracing of diversity, with multi-ethnic models. In a moving moment, Piccoli honoured the artisans behind Valentino by bringing them out at the end of the show.
Their works were couture perfection. The collection’s inspiration was a combination of things including portraits by Richard Avedon, the works of Italian Mannerist painter Rosso Fiorentino and Diana Vreeland’s paintings. The first look that set the mood for his vision was a multi-tiered, neon yellow wool fringe dress. What followed was a succession of the dramatic and decorative, emphasising the brand’s emphasis on “the idea of extravagance”. There were voluminous ruffled tops, fur coats of exaggerated proportions, capes with feathered hems, and regal dresses, some with floral appliques, and rose gauze squares attached together, and an assortment of headpieces, including neon mops and tribal-style hats.
At Guo Pei’s couture show, we were transported to an “alternate universe”, the collection’s central theme. On a sandy runway stood an arch made of twisted black branches, like a portal. A pair of models, made up to look like twins, wore a single gown, embroidered with scenes of a circus, beasts, and dragons. The dresses that followed depicted monkeys, birds, and even marionettes hanging off threads and a master puppet. As always with the designer, fabrication played a key role, with pineapple hemp fabric layered, ruffled, embroidered and draped.