Paris Haute Couture Week is always more of an art exhibition than a fashion show. It is the time of the year when designers can exercise their full artistry through their collections and showcase their wildest design fantasies. Paris Couture Week is full of exquisite beading and embellishment, immaculate tailoring and shows so beautifully staged they can transport you straight into the mind of the designer. We’ve been following the shows all week, discussing who we loved and who we didn’t, so here’s the JulesB round-up of the shows we couldn’t stop talking about.
Karl Lagerfeld once again chose Le Grand Palais as the backdrop for his SS13 Couture Show. The venue was transformed into a stunning green woodland of pine and oak trees, providing the perfect setting for Lagerfeld’s collection. The enchanted setting detracted nothing from the couture itself, showing off the most intricate details. Dainty Chantilly lace contrasted with thigh-high black leather boots, bold black eye make-up gave nude feathers a tough Black Swan edge. The collection was an embodiment of Karl Lagerfeld’s design personality, a host of contradictions and beautiful opposites; the Chanel Haute Couture was ultimately moving art. The details of cascading feathers, layers of tulle and sequinned florals worked perfectly with the minimal colour palette. Lagerfeld worked mainly within a monochromatic palette, with highlights of scarlet. Less of a trendsetter, Lagerfeld works within his own league where he can create his own rules, comfortable with the knowledge that he cannot be imitated or challenged.
Set inside the idyllic Jardin des Tuileries, the Dior show was as magical as you would expect a Dior show to be. The setting was a simple garden, where models walked between low hedges and plants. Raf Simons, the creative director of the brand, said he wanted the collection to be everything spring as a season should be, and his second couture collection for the brand was a strong success. The collection exploded into life with a flurry of beautifully embellished florals, with delicate flowers creeping up most of the designs. The Dior Flower Woman is back, and she’s wearing elaborate, strapless gowns and tailored pieces with a relaxed attitude and red sequinned lips. The collection was decidedly feminine and sleek, a fitting addition to a brand which has had so much success. It’s not often you can watch a couture show and think “I could wear that”, but Raf Simons seems to have mastered the technique of making couture seem wearable whilst retaining the beauty of craftsmanship.
Hosted at the Italian Embassy, Rome born Giambattista Valli unveiled his couture collection for spring/summer on Monday evening. The collection was stunning, a beautiful mix of layered tulle, structured bodices and feminine shapes. Valli said the collection was his own couture fantasy, a collection he dreamt of designing when he was a student. That’s what we love about couture, it is a living dream, a fantasised collection of fashion crossed with art and multiplied with patience and beauty. The looks were varied, from ball gowns to cigarette pants; however the collection showed Valli’s interest in silhouette perfectly in each piece. Flowing lace, layered skirts and designs so perfectly elegant, Giambattista Valli has created a vision of feminine sophistication.
To the untrained, or uninterested, eye, Donatella Versace’s designs are a clash of neon colours, plunging necklines, peek-a-boo dresses and lashings of bling. However, to the fashion eye, Donatella Versace is the queen of detail; the aforementioned bling was actually 24-carat gold thread which was sewn into dresses for sparkle and suits for pinstripes. The neon colours are typically synonymous with the Versace brand image, the plunging necklines epitomise the overtly sexy woman who wears Versace and the peek-a-boo dresses? Well who doesn’t love a flash of flesh every now and again? Donatella has frequently spoken of finding a balance between her strong and soft sides; a combination of these two sides makes Donatella a driving fashion force, full of strong shapes and immaculate tailoring, soft chiffon dresses and fur details. The couture collection was inspired by “the architectural splendour of glass domes, where the fragility of glass contrasts with the strength of iron and steel”. Although the aesthetic of Versace couture may appear to be wildly different to the softness of Dior and Alexis Mabille, we must remember that Donatella Versace is just as brilliant as any other rival couture house in the world, her vision is just as, if not more, extraordinary and a wonder to behold.
The show notes contained a quote from Leon Blum’s 1914 Le Revue de Paris: “To love is to transform her into a heroine of the heart, to drape her in the most exquisite delicacy”. Immediately this, combined with the sugary pink runway, conjures an idea of romance, of delicate details, of feminine beauty and sweetness. When the models began to come out, it was obvious the emphasis was on sweetness. A vision of tulle gowns, lace details and cinched-in waists followed in a variety of colours, from sunshine yellow to scarlet red, it was tricky to identify a theme other than sugar-sweet. The pieces were cut as bias, as gowns, as tailored and as straight, showing off a huge range of skills within the atelier. Despite the almost sickly-sweet colours, to be saccharine takes just as much as craftsmanship as it takes to be Donatella Versace, so the intricate details worked into the Mabille collection are still admirable and beautiful to behold.
The Lebanese born designer is known for his intricate details, his understanding of the female form and his graceful creations. The couture collection was safe, beautiful, elegant and thoroughly red-carpet worthy. Muted hues of champagne, lilac and ivory adorned the runway, followed by scarlet and black which gave the collection a late gothic twist. Saab’s couture was serene, understated and adored by all, with Elie Saab we don’t wait for a surprise or a shocking design, we relax as we watch one beautiful creation after another float down the runway. The finale? A stunning ivory bridal gown with a long train and the most perfect details of lace we’ve ever seen. The applause was conclusive, another fabulous collection from one of our favourite couturiers.
The Valentino Couture show is the one everyone looks forward to, not least because Valentino himself has been heralded as the master couturier. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have been the driving force behind Valentino design in the four years they have been at the fashion house and this collection was their most stunning yet. A perfect embodiment of all which makes Valentino, Valentino the collection was intricate, patient, completely feminine and a wonder to watch. How does this design duo design in such perfect synchronisation? It is almost as if they share the same thought and design process. The collection colour palette was monochrome accented with the Valentino scarlet and champagne hues. Each detail had been carefully thought out and applied; each seam was cut with absolute precision. The show began with more structured pieces, a bodice with a tailored tulip skirt, a structured evening gown and coat, and gradually dissolved into beautiful tulle gowns and floral embroidered pieces. The verdict was unanimous: another thoroughly desirable, beautiful collection from the Italian masters of couture.
Recently, we’ve seen a lot of Zuhair Murad dresses on the red carpet at star-studded events such as the Golden Globes and film premieres. The couture collection was presented at the Paris Westin Place-Vendome, where the late Yves Saint Laurent also held his couture shows. The collection was a vision of gold and glitter, the models reminiscent of powerful Greek goddesses as they proudly stalked the catwalk, full of confidence and femininity. Zuhair Murad celebrates the female form; his designs give nothing away yet hint at everything using a variety of near sheer fabrics such as lace and chiffon. Privacy is protected through strategic sprays of sequins and embellishment, modesty is maintained by curbing the height and depth of thigh-high splits and plunge necklines. Zuhair Murad produced gowns, mini dresses, bodysuits and capes, all finished with the intricate embellishment and detail which was signature to the collection. We predict we’ll be seeing the whole collection again over the coming weeks on the red carpets; no one can resist the extreme attraction to this couture collection.
Jean Paul Gaultier
Known for his bold, challenging aesthetic, the Jean Paul Gaultier show was a vibrant mix of influences. The hair was sixties bouffant beehives, the make-up was graphic seventies, the colour inspiration came from Indian Mumbai and the designs? Well they came from within the imagination of Jean Paul Gaultier. Barely there dresses and gold lame trench coats came down the catwalk alongside fishtail gowns and glitzy leggings. The show concluded with a bride in ivory lifting a four foot wide hooped skirt to reveal little girls dressed in mini-couture. The show was certainly unlike any other we’ve seen this week, but was it as enjoyable? We’ll let you decide.