“There is time for prettiness when the world is becoming too ugly.”
To echo Karl Lagerfeld’s impeccably terse thoughts, Haute Couture week is a time I personally most look forward to in the fashion calendar; where designers offer a sense of escapism amongst princess-pretty dresses and romantic scene-setting in the city of lights (and love), while the world is going to hell outside of the couture bubble. This can certainly be seen on the runway of Lagerfeld’s Chanel Garden and Giambatista Valli’s magnificent tulle creations.
Elsewhere, Couture also takes on a revolutionary act, as Sarah Mower wrote for Vogue, “If there’s one thing that leads us in hopes to haute couture, it’s surely the longing to find something to look up to.” If fashion needs someone to look up to, then Couture would be the matriarch. This is ever-so apparent in the surrealist makings of Elsa Schiaparelli and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior show, following on after last season’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ slogan, Spring/Summer ’18 channels Leonor Fini statements through body paint.
Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri channeled surrealism for her predominantly black-and-white Dior show that brimmed with optical illusion and surprise. A series of A-line “domino” coats and gloves whimsically attached to an ankle set the tone for playful styles that were inspired by touchstones from the early 20th century artistic movement. Gowns with visible caging – a surrealist leitmotif – played on transparencies. Eyes – a frequent reference for Salvador Dali – were emphasised by masks and exaggerated makeup. And the movement’s frequent depiction of plumes was captured in the most beautiful gown in the collection: a bustier dress made of huge white feathers. They billowed out dramatically in an hourglass silhouette from a cinched waist fastening. A “hypnotic” striped bustier Dior dress with a dropped waist called “Vertigo” was handled less subtlety. Alongside several of the gowns in dots and stripes, it suffered due to its black-and-white shapes that gave an unintended harsh edge to the otherwise feminine display.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by WWD/REX/Shutterstock (9327910d) Kaia Gerber on the catwalk Chanel show, Runway, Spring Summer 2018, Haute Couture Fashion Week, Paris, France - 23 Jan 2018
The Chanel couture garden featured architectural wooden arbours, white roses and a babbling water fountain. Inspired by the geometric curves in the furniture, head creative director Karl Lagerfeld went back to nature – and to Chanel’s couture roots – for a display of pure drama constructed with geometric detail. The stone-coloured clothes teamed with soft floral embroideries and frothy details. Models including Cindy Crawford’s daughter Kaia Gerber wore sweet pink, white and purple posies in black tulle hair-pieces. The devil’s in the detail and this season, Chanel was all about the sleeve. A raglan style – one that extends in one piece fully to the collar – seemed to inspire the beautiful and surreal arm shapes that descended stiffly like a tapered tube. Shoulders were wide and dramatically curved.
Full skirts flared out like giant bells in a crisp line shared this surreal quality. Lagerfeld is an ambitious man, and elsewhere his 69 designs also channeled the tiered fashions of the swinging 1920s
The age-old maison evoked the romantic nostalgia of late founder Elsa Schiaparelli and the 1930s heyday, while cinched waists plus ribboned espadrilles added touches of 50s style.
Design director Bertrand Guyon was mainly on form this season – using rolling, layered pleats to evoke the 30s in a rose gold hand-painted silk chiffon gown. Its shoulders were lobbed off in a stylish contemporary touch. A midnight blue dress evoked a slinky quality, produced by the weight of embroidered crystals on soft chiffon fabric. Elsewhere, fun post-war details were referenced as coarse raffia fringing jazzing up a multi-coloured banana tree fibre gown, and the house’s signature surrealist insect motifs infested a 50s white faux-leather jacket. Sometimes, designs were a tad heavy-handed. But the piece de resistance, a black gown with a dramatic full skirt, fluttered by literally and figuratively with all-encompassing silver gilt butterflies.
Giambattista Valli wrapped up their dreamy Spring couture show in Paris, with one particular gown leaving an impression on the crowd. The show was held in the idyllic Musée des Beaux-Arts in the Petit Palais, and the front row were treated to a stunning collection with heavy emphasis on frills, lace details and feminine silhouettes. However, there was one dress - or rather, three nearly identical dresses - that captured our attention for their sheer beauty and volume. Three pleated-tulle gowns were shown in the finale, each requiring 350 meters of fabric in the creation process. For reference, that's enough fabric to cover the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which stands at 324 meters, or the Centre Point Tower in Sydney, which stands at 304 metres. The tulle gowns featured high-low hems, bow details and varying necklines and statement sleeves.
Elie Saab’s Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2018 collection finds its inspiration in the women from sizzling Paris of the 1920’s, translating their seductive & sophisticated elegance, born at the crossroads between Montmartre & Montparnasse, into pieces of timeless chic. While created with freedom of movement in mind, the Spring-Summer 2018 pieces show-off long, impossibly refined and graceful lines. Soft, airy silks, satins, tulle & lace materials in light pink and pastels, drape down in sinuous folds as they hug the feminine silhouette at the waist & hips. Using the maison’s signature approach to embroidery, the bold geometric shapes & embellished floral forms, reminiscent of the art deco aesthetic, are amplified as lavish ornamentations, and heavily encrusted with beads, gold & silver sequins, and precious green-tinted stones. They become luxurious works of decorative art, expressing jewellery-like opulence on demure and slim-line dresses, while revisited forms of cloche hats adorn perfectly coiffed heads.
Explore Coco Chanel's revolutionary fashion legacy at the "Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto" exhibition, a mesmerising journey through her iconic designs that continue to influence women's style today.
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