Paris was hot during "The Haute" this past July, but that didn't stop designers from pulling out all the stops in unveiling their Fall/Winter 2015 collections. Clients and press alike took a tour of the city and lauded the collections as a great balance between fantasy and reality, creativity and wearability.
After taking a season off last January and opting for an informal presentation space at Le Bristol, Ulyana was back with bang, taking over the Mona Bismarck Center and showing her latest collection inspired by New Year's celebrations in Soviet Russia. The silhouettes were classic Ulyana: cinched and corseted waists, micromini dresses and mid-calf evening wear, paired with ample uses of leather, fur, Vologda lace and traditional embroideries. The fur coats and accessories were the clear winners here, some standouts including a multicolor striped mink coat with deep V neck, and a fur, ball shaped minaudiere with a ballerina motif. Ulyana continues to grow her company's aesthetic and signature techniques, and, judging by those seated in the front row, her client roster is responding well.
For the first time since hopping back on the couture schedule, Versace changed venues and chose to show their collection twice on Sunday night, finally allowing them to accommodate their exploding clientele after seasons of being wedged into the beautiful but cramped Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie. The new venue inspired a new aesthetic, as the typically sharp and sexy Versace girl gave way to a more soft and sensual aesthetic. Don't think these Earth Mothers lacked sex appeal though; there was still plenty of their signature slits, cutouts and high hemlines. A mostly pastel color palate dripping with shredded chiffon and Swarovski crystals made for a truly seasonless showing that no doubt will appeal to all the young 20 and 30-somethings that comprise the backbone of Versace's orders and front row.
One of the most anticipated shows of the seasons, albeit to a very select crowd, Schiaparelli's formal appointment of Bertrand Guyon as the new creative director no doubt spurred further interest in the small but storied couture house. Guyon, who formerly worked under the genius of Christian Lacroix (we still miss you Christian!) and more recently Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, evolved rather than obliterated the Schiaparelli house codes to a dazzling but wearable effect. A heavy use of jacquard, velvet, and fur, the silhouettes stayed true to the 1930's and 40's legacy created by Elsa. This collection more so than any previously shown lavished many looks in beautiful Lesage embroideries, and the accessories offerings grew more numbered and strong as well. While fickle prices continue to be the main drawback for potential clients, the appointment of a former Gaultier vendeuse to the role of Directrice will no doubt draw more eyes to this humble little house... a house that is also about to launch Ready-to-wear come October.
"Nocturne 54" was the theme of the collection, and while Ece Ege's vision for Dice Kayek is firmly rooted in constructed dresses, bell skirts, and neoprene, a smart showing of flared pants and menswear-inspired jackets added a new novelty to the somewhat predictable offering. Inspired by the nightlife of Studio54 (hence the name) reinterpreted for a 21st century gender-bending disco queen, the collection still managed to feel fresh and timely... for those that respond to this aesthetic, that is.
Ralph & Russo
Another smash hit from the Brit duo! While still looked down on as "the new kids on the block" by many in the Paris couture establishment (ie the Old Guard), Ralph & Russo has made it very clear that they're here to stay and don't need to rely on wealthy Americans or the Paris elite to build a successful, thriving business (just look at their new HQ in London or their boutique in Harrod's "Superbrands" area for proof). Each look in this collection was more exquisitely adorned and embroidered than the one before, and even if their collections may lack the subtleties of a connective thread that more established houses riff on each season, with clothing this magnificent and fanciful, who cares?? And there is one of the central arguments in Haute Couture presently: when the end-game is and always should be selling clothing to your clientele, isn't it better to give them what they want rather than just making a statement?
A bit of a confusing pairing: 3D printing and a Casino? The thoroughly modern invitation send my mind spinning into what sort of space-age setting I may stumble into, so you can imagine my surprise upon entering the Grand Palais and finding an Art Deco casino, complete with the unusual but all-too-expected trappings of branded Roulette tables and slot machines where every pull was a win and every token stamped with a CC and a camellia. Le Circle Prive, a new name given to Karl's close friends like Kristen Stewart, Geraldine Chaplin, Julianne Moore and Vanessa Paradis to name a few, emerged into the set in beautiful pre-war evening gowns, adorned with pieces of Chanel's 1932 High Jewelry collection. They began to play and banter, reveling in the glamor of the setting, when a sharp music change and thumping base announced that the real collection was about to commence. And then begins the disconnect. Robotic women marched by in 3D printed suits and dresses, most with oversized shoulders adorned with epaulettes. The heavily constructed looks kept coming and coming, before finally giving way to a host of evening looks in lace, silk, and plastic (yes plastic... even some of the gowns were printed). Bulky to say the least, the collection was still none-the-less adorned in the fashion that only Chanel's army of petits mains can accomplish, however none of the looks felt in any way appropriate to be worn in a casino. And maybe that was just the point, solidified by Kendall Jenner literally running through the venue as the bride in pants to an eerily off-tune disco hit: the rules are gone, what we knew is no longer what we do, and maybe it's time to accept this change as inevitable and shift our perspective accordingly. At any rate, disconnect or no disconnect, the collection has already sold at a feverish rate, as Chanel continues its unchallenged reign as supreme leader of the couture pack.
Opting for an informal presentation inside his couture salon this season, Stephane showed new riffs on his signature minimalist and architectural aesthetic, this time inspired by Art Deco. A expected ample use of crepe served as the base to geometric metallic embroideries, exaggerated and sculptural shoulders, and an endless sea of flowing trains. While rumor mill has many opinions on the state of Stephane's business, after the show there was no doubt how much Paris still loves this man, the true mark of success in any life.
Shocking. The bright pink invitation announced the theme of the collection (one no doubt borrowed from a new competitor, Schiaparelli), and anticipation ran high as invitees flooded the black lacquer and fuchsia show place. Armani is always a more soothing show, an oasis of calm amid a week of craziness, and this collection proved to be in the same vein that we have come to expect from Mr. Armani on his 40th anniversary. The collection played out as a broad mix of black, pink, purple and teal looks that were 50% disco, 50% classic Armani. Fringes flowed from constructed shoulders, beads clung from feather-light blouses, and pants accompanied by flat shoes skimmed the floor. In the end, it was another successful outing (sitting next to Franca Sozzani and seeing her jump up in a standing ovation couldn't make that point clearer). It was something totally different than what the rest of what Paris Couture offers, and something that will no doubt continue to please his very loyal (and very wealthy) following.
Maison Margiela Artisanal
No comment. In the true spirit of Margiela, just watch and judge for yourself.
First off, let me just say, I adore everything Gaultier does, so I may just be a little biased. The master showman takes theme into the stratosphere every season (it's no wonder his HQ is in an old theatre building), and this season was no different. Inspired by the seafaring heritage of Brittany, models made their turns in Breton stripes (a Gaultier signature), crepe-shaped skirts, navy suits with gold buttons and braids, and lace coiffes reaching into the stratosphere. While most of the day looks were more inspired by a walk on a barge than the beach, some evening looks could have popped right out of an Impressionist painting, bustle and all, and how about that endless line of bagpipers that ended the show?! With a lot of talk recently in France about the death of the Breton language and culture (more rooted in Celtic rather than Franco traditions), Jean-Paul comes to the rescue in a dazzling way, both reviving and modernizing the regional aesthetic for the 21st century consumer. But beneath all this razzle dazzle still lies a solid foundation and deep understanding of couture: the beauty as always is in the details, and if there is one man in Paris that knows how to cut a suit, it's Mr. Gaultier.
Another designer opting for a presentation rather than a show, Alexis showed his latest collection within the ornate halls of the beautiful Opera Garnier. The venue suits his aesthetic to a T, given his proclivity for the baroque and over-adorned. The collection of mostly evening gowns was rooted in black and white, pinks, reds, and blues, with an ivory column dripping in navy crystal fringe being the clear winner this season. Sometimes, designers have to make choices between putting their funds towards a show or the collection itself, and it was apparent that Alexis' choice to focus on the clothes this season was the right choice to make.
Always a big period on the end of the sentence, Zuhair's latest collection was inspired by the cosmos. Beautiful silvery constellations and planetary embroideries adorned his outing of black and jewel-toned full-skirted cocktail and evening looks. Sprinkled through the collection were some extremely covetable and lush fox furs and velvet capes, ending of course with another epic bride that no doubt is destined for some private corner of the Middle East. Showing on a Thursday is always tricky, as this season most of the couture pack was headed to Italy for Valentino, Alaia, and Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda, but a quick scan of the front row attested that quite a few clients chose to take a later flight just to catch a glimpse of what this Lebanese designer had up his sleeve for Fall.