Lesson From Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week

Karl Lagerfeld, Cara Delevigne, and her son

Karl Lagerfeld, Cara Delevigne, and Hudson Kroenig

It has been 3 weeks since the Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week parade ended, but the Haute atmosphere still lingers in the air. As one of the most prominent fashion events around the world, the exclusivity of the shows this time taught us a new lesson that it’s not just about pampered fashion enthusiasts with extravagant spectacles and theatrical shows anymore, it is about spreading the hope to get people to believe that fashion is more than just selling clothes and its attributes. We observed that some fashion shows displayed more wearable collections compared to previous years’ shows. This issue might be related to the haute couture revenues that seem to be getting lower with every passing year. The popular notion has been that Haute couture collections with  five-figure price tags are probably too good to be worn especially when people think that enjoying the creation without owning it is enough.

Since 1935, the association for Haute Couture, Chambre Syndicale, has maintained certain standards and qualifications to choose couturiers or fashion houses who deserve the spotlight. Haute Couture means a one-of-a-kind designer creation that encompasses originality, exclusivity, and safeguard quality, some of the primary qualifications necessary to certify a slot in the parade. In addition to that, Serge Carreira mentioned to Business of Fashion that ‘a Haute Couture creator must have an atelier in Paris.’ Thus, grandes maisons with Haute Couture French history like Chanel, Dior, Givenchy have definitely been on the list. This year’s Haute Couture Fashion Week, which was held from the 19th until 24th January, also gave younger Paris-based fashion houses like Alexis Mabille and Bouchra Jarrar an opportunity to present their talent. Moreover, notorious labels outside France like Valentino and Atelier Versace labelled as “correspondent members” also showcased their collections. Besides, we also saw the invasion of emblematic Lebanese designers like Elie Saab and Tony Ward take on the runway.

Karl Lagerfeld always knows how to create a theatrical fashion show. This time, the Chanel set was beautifully designed with icebergs, forests, and an orchestra put together by Sébastien Tellier. It seemed like Karl was creating a new universe, what he called ‘Ice Place’, a nightclub on another planet. The models acted like fairies walking down the stairs while wearing classic corseted Chanel suits in exquisitely refined materials and delicate cuts.  From the 64 looks that were showcased, we saw a domination of cropped jackets, drop-waisted skirts and some evening wears that surprisingly matched with sneakers. Some of you might call it strange, how an evening wear was paired with sneakers? Well, Karl wanted to bring out the spirit of elegance with a dash of urban chic at same time. The show ended with a cute ‘performance’ of Cara Delevigne with youngest fashion muse and Karl’s godson, Hudson Kroenig, walking on the runway.

Valentino duo, Creative Directors, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, showed 55 looks for 55 operas. As the show began, La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi opera took over the stage while a model walked in a super long tulle dress. All time great operas like Puccini’s La Bohème and Bizet’s Carmen was on the list. The collection was ruled by long flowy dresses in a classic goddess appearance. The most riveting of the dresses shown, was this long dress with music notes that embellished the transparent effect on the skirt. Nature and animals were also the two subjects that influenced most of Valentino collection. A swan, snake, and peacock made from feathers and wrapped around the waistline were some of the examples. Even though this collection was a bit mixed, but Valentino successfully brought out a remarkable spirit in the haute couture wing this year.

Raf Simons for Christian Dior challenged himself to bring modernity to this season’s haute couture stage. As the silhouette still reminded us of the new look Dior signature style, we could see abundance of sliced dresses with intricate cutting and hand sewn layering with exotic bloom colors. Seemed like Raf Simons wanted to not just create beautiful collections but also sell it in brilliant way.

The Haute Couture collection presented by Jean Paul Gaultier this January revisited themes like Parisian chic, burlesque, and metamorphic creativity. His evident inspiration was the butterfly that transcended into a feminine butterfly woman. In this collection, the Gaultier woman was erotic yet elusive, light yet bewitching, magical yet sensual. His main model Dita Von Teese portrayed all the values that the designer wanted to communicate to his audience. In other words, his collection was an haute couture masterpiece that transformed the woman into a beautiful butterfly. The main garments in this collection were suits, tailored blazers and pencil skirts in black, midnight blue, fuchsia, peacock blue, burgundy, coral, Indian rose, hot pink, crimson, Persian blue, Nile green and fluo orange colours which were accessorized with high heels, bows, feathers and hairstyles decorated with butterflies.

Giorgio Armani had a different approach for his Armani Prive collection. He was inspired by his travels therefore his entire collection felt like the Eastern breeze. ‘His woman is a world globe-trotter, which loves to explore new and mysterious lands’. The looks were minimal; he used implacable mirror effect like materials to illustrate an ultimate luxury in this haute couture presentation. The show featured jackets with kimono sleeves, wide pants, ethnic-inspired gypsy-style skirts, evening gowns and dresses with full skirt in black, pastels, blue, beige, gold and silver colours. The accessories were a noticeable part of this collection with scarves wrapped around the head like a turban, silk shawls, high and medium heeled sandals, clutches with precious embroideries and earrings with maxi beads.

The Maison Martin Margiela collection presented an artisanal collection for this Haute Couture week. The garments were vintage clothes that were re-fashioned and re-interpreted with materials, embroideries in different shapes and colours into a unique piece of art. The Maison Martin Margiela inspiration came from the archives and textile collections of great artists such as Fortuny, Frank Lloyd Wrigth, Raoul Dufy and Gauguin. It was a celebration of creativity in its highest form where art, artisanal work and fashion met. This collection included pants, oversized and enveloping outerwear, bustier dresses and mini dresses in white, black, grey, blue, flower prints and stripes. Every look was perfectly accessorized with tabi boots in gold metal colour, auze masks in silk organdie with beaded embroideries, wigs embroidered with beads, small metal adornments and crystals.

The Spring 2014 Haute Couture collection in Paris opened the doors for a visual satisfaction and tour into the luxury world. Although in general the collections were more wearable, in terms of what we are used to see in haute couture shows, the key elements were extravagance, luxury and creativity in its purest form. Among the well-known designers and brands, we also could see young designers and new-comers that showed daring and indulging creations and looks on the runways. It is difficult to pick-up the trends from this haute couture week, since each designer had a totally different approach and inspiration, so the ultimate conclusion could be that this show indulged us and invited us on a luxurious journey into the world where fashion and art blend dreamily.

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Kristina Gligorovska & Christine Evans