We make our way to Paris Couture Week, a biannual celebration of the most exquisite craftsmanship and sartorial artistry, which once again graced the global stage with a number of collections from the world’s most revered fashion houses. Showcasing the pinnacle of haute couture, this last season of Couture Week transported audiences into a world of luxury, innovation, and fantasy. From Maison Margiela’s jaw-dropping show to Giorgio Armani’s ethereal gowns and Alaïa’s avant-garde single-stranded merino wool creations. This season marked a renaissance for couture lovers who seemed to have lost faith in the art.
In recent years, it’s become increasingly apparent that many big fashion houses have drifted from the true essence of haute couture. What was once a revered platform for exalting the art of excellent craftsmanship and unparalleled artistry has now, in some instances, morphed into a celebrity-driven spectacle. The focus seems to have shifted from the painstaking dedication to a more marketable, star-studded extravaganza. As a result, the core spirit of haute couture, which historically championed the union of artistic expression and technical mastery, appears to have been overshadowed by the allure of red carpet glamour and social media prominence.
This departure raises questions about the direction of haute couture, leaving stylists, editors and old-school fashionistas to ponder whether the true essence of this revered craft is at risk of being diluted by the allure of celebrity and commercialism. However, a beacon of hope emerges as Galliano’s poetic and raw return made a mark on the fashion history books – steadfastly upholding the true essence of couture with his theatrics. Other smaller ateliers such as Miss Sohee, breathed new life into the tradition, showcasing a deep reverence for the meticulous techniques and handcrafted details that once defined couture.
Haute couture and prêt-à-porter represent two distinct realms within the fashion industry, each with its own unique characteristics and production processes. The first, often referred to as high fashion, embodies the pinnacle of excellence, encompassing custom-fitted, meticulously crafted garments created with the utmost attention to detail. This exclusive designation is regulated by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris, which rigorously assesses and bestows the haute couture appellation upon fashion houses that are able to meet a stringent criteria, such as maintaining an atelier in Paris, employing a specific number of skilled artisans, and producing a minimum number of original designs each season. Conversely, prêt-à-porter, or ready-to-wear, denotes collections designed for mass production and broader consumption, offering more accessible, off-the-rack garments. The Haute Couture Committee’s strict standards not only uphold the tradition of exceptional artistry but also safeguard the integrity of haute couture, ensuring that it remains synonymous to unparalleled creativity and excellence.
Now that the history lesson is over, it is finally time to discuss some our favourite couture shows this season that we haven’t reviewed so far. From the otherworldly horror-filled creations of Robert Wun to the thought-provoking designs presented at Viktor & Rolf, and the avant-garde creatures of Schiaparelli, each of the former fashion houses have stayed true to the essence of couture while exploring their own boundaries and offering a glimpse into the future of this artistry. Join us as we unravel the innovative concepts of these iconic couture shows.
Schiaparelli’s Spring/Summer 2024 Haute Couture collection is a celestial homage that intertwines legacy with innovation, the earthly with the divine. Drawing inspiration from Elsa Schiaparelli’s enduring fascination with space, the retro-tech alien-filled collection serves as a captivating study of contradictions, blending the beautiful with the provocative, the traditional with the avant-garde. This season, old-world techniques harmoniously converge with contemporary shapes, patterns, and references, resulting in a striking array of ensembles that embody the spirit of the Maison. From over-embroidered guipure laces to hand-cut and embroidered chenille fringe, each piece reflects a marriage of craftsmanship with modernity.
Notably, the collection features a motherboard-and-strasse microchip dress adorned with pre-2007 technological artefacts, a symbolic fusion of vintage and futuristic elements. Moreover, personal references intertwine with abstracted iconographies of Texas, echoing Daniel Roseberry’s roots throughout the collection –from hand-painted paillettes reminiscent of bandanas to thigh-high fantasy cowboy boots adorned with ornate buckles.
Roseberry also finds inspiration from one of our all-time favourite couturier’s –Britain’s enfant terrible, Lee Alexander McQueen. We can se parallels between his motherboard dress and McQueens prêt-à-porter Fall/Winter 1999 collection for Givenchy, which involved a model in a Perspex robotic body. 3D exoskeletons also took cues from McQueen’s Spine in collaboration with Shaun Leane, and lastly, one of Roseberry’s gowns made of a razor-clam shell material which featured Schiaparelli’s hallmark keyhole insignia resembled McQueen’s S/S 2001 collection.
Viktor & Rolf
Aptly titled Scissorhands, the collection is a compelling exploration of contradiction and paradox, emblematic of the designers’ penchant for conceptual duality. This season, the duo presents an all-black ensemble of twenty-eight signature silhouettes, crafted and presented in groups of four, each set unfolding a narrative of refinement and spontaneous experimentation.
The collection’s first look in each group serves as a refined couture masterpiece, meticulously finished by hand, setting the stage for three subsequent iterations of the same design, each exploring the creative (im)possibilities of a pair of tailor’s scissors. From minuscule holes in Rorschach motifs to ball gowns artfully hacked in half, the controlled and directed slashes and holes mimic orchestrated chaos, an eloquent fusion of precision and spontaneity.
The paradox lies in the juxtaposition of the controlled, polished couture outfits with the raw, experimental scissor-cut designs, a narrative that challenges the notion of finality and embraces perpetual evolution. The all-black palette, executed in lavish couture staples such as velvet, sequins, and satin, accentuates the focus on silhouette and intricate cuttings, allowing the body to be revealed in unexpected ways.
A hauntingly poetic homage to the designer’s decade-long journey in the fashion industry, Robert Wun continues his collection where he left off last season – encapsulating his fascination with horror genres and surrealism.
The show opens with an evocative display of ominous ensembles adorned with crystal raindrops, a poignant nod to Wun’s artistic growth and evolution over the years. Intertwining horror-inspired elements with a surrealist aesthetic, as seen by the final bridal ensemble embroidered with crystals resembling blood-stains. The designer’s playfulness shines through in androidian helmets, beaded headpieces, as well as more literal apparitions, including prosthetic hands and fingers wrapped around models’ faces, adding a touch of whimsical humour to the collection.
A coat covered in glass shards represents themes of love, sacrifice, and personal loss while draping takes centre stage, with gowns in rosy beige silk and electric blue cascading with dramatic ruffles and exuding a moody and surreal allure. The finale, featuring a human-shaped appendage unfastening a model’s blood-red gown, cleverly plays on the horror genre, leaving a lasting impression of Wun’s ability to infuse couture with thought-provoking narratives filled with artistic expression.
“What will we do for Love?,” asks Robert Wun in his press release. “This collection started as a reflection on my passions and started from the question of how we perceive love, the love in what we do, and the love that lies beyond romance.”