Paris Haute Couture: a Spring/Summer rendezvous with this Spring’s haute couture collections.
You probably wouldn’t guess that Monsieur Christian Dior was a true art connoisseur who had friends such as Dalì or Picasso and who had his own art gallery before he became a couturier. In fact, Mr. Dior was also revolutionary in this field, hosting the first ever exhibition in Paris of Italian female Surrealist artist Leonor Fini. Starting from the incredible life that Leonor had, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s artistic director for womenswear, based her Spring/Summer Haute Couture 2018 collection on Surrealism, one of the most controversial artistic movements of the 20th century. What’s fascinating about Fini is that she was one of the first women to dress as a way of interpreting her different way of being and to represent herself in different ways, as if she were a work of art. In this way, Chiuri found the link to our modern society, in which everyone, through the posting on social media, re-interprets with each post what he/she wants or desires to define their uniqueness. For Leonor, a masque was the symbol of the personality of the one who wore it, because, for her, what was interesting was to represent people in multiple facets. So, on the runway of the Musée Rodin (Dior’s show location) models walked down wearing black or white feminine men’s suits, men’s coats, ties and men’s jackets. The colour palette was mainly the black and white one but there were some ball gowns in blue, grey or red, the noble colour for excellence. Of course, there were sober and delicate ball gowns, a must-have for Maria Grazia. But the most important dresses of the collection, as Chiuri declared, were those in which the cage as a structure of the dress itself or as a decoration of the gown could be seen. In fact, Surrealism was very much about the body and about how the body moved: the cage was a natural reference to this artistic movement as well as to Dior’s couture alphabet in which the ball gown’s structure was a cage.
As usual, Valentino presented its haute couture collection at the Hotel Salomon du Rothschild in Paris, one of the most exclusive hotels of the French capital. But this time, the show set was different – where there would normally be a catwalk and many rows of seats, instead there were white and beige soft couches and chairs where the guests could sit to enjoy the show. In fact, it was reminiscent of the old 1950s haute couture salons in which models, with a paper on which was written the number of their exit and without music, walked through without any sound but where clients, in an intimate space, could observe and concentrate on all the details of the dresses. For this Spring/Summer Haute Couture collection, Pier Paolo Piccioli, Valentino’s creative director, was in fact inspired by the spirit and history of haute couture. What is haute couture’s relationship with the present day? What is the meaning of haute couture today? And does couture still have meaning in our modern and social life? These were the questions that Piccioli tried to answer through the collection. The Italian designer expressed the modern and contemporary values of haute couture mixing up the atelier’s craftsmanship and knowledge into the daytime dresses such as chinos or the trench. Floral motifs in long dresses and gowns were accentuated by Andrea Pontormo’s soft but impactful colour palette and by the plays of taffetas and moiré which were a strong point in the collection that characterised itself by curved lines but a sober and rigid silhouette. The hats, created by Philip Treacy, were made with feathers and recalled times gone by. This collection was actually a love letter from Pier Paolo Piccioli to those grandiose times in which haute couture was a way of being and that now have gone, but that he and his Atelier can still make you dream of.
During Haute Couture week everything is possible. The Hotel Potoki, one of the most aristocratic and “conservative” hotels in the French capital was transformed for the Zuhair Murad Haute Couture show into a Native American camp. Imaginative tents were placed in the Hotel salons. Here ethereal models with soft touches of tribal make up walked down the runway. Certainly the first exits of the show were the most Native American-inspired ones. Fringes and strong colours such as red or black were dominant. Then, after this, the show was dominated by the iconic and sensual Zuhair Murad women, wearing adorned and opulent dresses full of crystals and Swarovski. The most iconic and, in my opinion, beautiful dress of the collection was a hand painted gown on which antique scenes of hunting were reproduced, reminding me of the frescoes made by the primitive men hundreds of thousands of years ago.
The ritual of the tea, feast and joy are Ulyana Sergeenko’s main inspirations for her Spring/Summer 2018 haute couture collection. This time, the Russian couturier decided to present her collection in a luxurious and intimate location – the Hotel D’Evreux in Place Vendôme, on the left side of the more famous Ritz. The hotel salons were adorned with sweets and a big five storey cake stood at the centre of the principal room with porcelain cups that seemed to be little houses, dangling from the tower of Babel. The presentation set was also a way to communicate the new collaboration launched by Sergeenko with the Russian Imperial Factory, the porcelain manufacturer that used to create the dishes for the Tsar. But there might be a possibility for those cups to be on sale. In fact, the demand from the clients and press to purchase this refined porcelain was huge. Speaking of the collection, it was a triumph of pastel colours like pink and green mixed with vibrant blues and reds and of course the classic black and white. But what stood out was the craftsmanship of the dresses, whose leitmotif was the net, as represented by Russian artist Anna Yatsdietich in 1994. The silhouette was sleek and curved and of course it recalled the tea sets and the ceremonies of tea that occurred during the Marie Antoinette period as well as in the fantastic world of Alice in Wonderland. Framing sleeves and hems, crepe, silk, Richelieu embroideries, taffeta, duchesse satin and the iconic Sergeenko’s Yalets and Vologda lace were in the collection. Among the accessories, the Napkin bags were a fabulous touch, trimmed and worked with such a craftsmanship that, on a table, they were easily confused with a real napkin.
GIORGIO ARMANI PRIVÉ
Outside the Palais Chaillot with the background of the Eiffel Tower, Giorgio Armani Privé’s show location appeared grey and rainy; but inside the Palais, you were dazzled by the panels in various colours and shades, quite unusual for Armani. Nouages (shades in English), was the title for the new Giorgio Armani Privé Spring/Summer 2018, Armani’s haute couture. The main inspiration for the collection was the mixture of air and light, which was interpreted in their multiple and colourful shades. Orange and blue with touches of beige nacré and black were combined and mixed together to create the idea of summer’s light. The shows invitation recreated the effect of being surrounded by light, a surprisingly beautiful light. Technical fabrics and silks were used alone or together to create unexpected waves of light. The hand-tailored jackets (Armani’s strong point) are paired with billowy skirts or shorts, that together give the idea of floating in the air. There was not, as you might have expected, a strong or tight silhouette. Instead it was soft and curved, as the jackets shoulders or the skirts or the gowns that stunned for their impalpable softness. In fact, as the show note declares “light defines shape and shape creates dream-like elegance”.
From London to Asia, this is the journey that Tamara Ralph (creative director of the London based haute couture brand Ralph&Russo) has made to get inspired for their new Spring 2018 haute couture collection. Physically and mentally, Ms. Ralph travels into the East, recreating through fabrics a glamorous 50’s shaped idea, inspired by Asia. The silhouette depicted in the collection has a kimono style that recalls the tight and fascinating world of the geishas. Furthermore, unique details in the closing of the jackets of suits or in the drapes remind you of the Indian sari, while soft and impalpable pareos bring us to the beautiful and relaxed coasts of Bali. The entire collection is a tribute and a love letter to East. This can be captured in the choice of fabrics, like silk that dominated the collection. What stands out is the variety of colours and choices given to the potential Ralph&Russo customer: the colours range from flashy red, acid green (a true must-have!), pink, white and yellow with touches of soft beige and grey that give a more aristocratic and daily attitude to the clothes. The fabrics used are silk crêpe, silk satin, tulle, jacquard, chiffon ruffles and ostrich feathers: an exercise in opulent and yet contemporary beautiful beauty.
A French garden with a big circular fountain, sandy paths and rose-threaded pergolas was the show set for the Chanel Spring/Summer 2018 show, that, as usual, took place in the majestic Grand Palais in Paris. This time, Kaiser Karl (Monsieur Karl Lagerfeld) created a delicate collection characterised by its discretion. Soft and pastel colours such as pink, blue, grey and white were featured but what stood out from the entire show was the picturesque allure given by the classic Chanel tweeds, the silks and the chiffon dresses. There wasn’t a silhouette or a specific volume in the dresses: everything was varied and colourful as if Lagerfeld had played with the fabrics to recreate with this collection the variety that nature can offer, even if encapsulated in the closed space of the garden. Gowns were hand-embroidered or adorned with paillettes or hand painted by the skilful hands of Chanel’s artisans were the collection’s true protagonists. For instance, the chiffon used to adorn a meticulously embroidered floral trench-coat reminded you of the breeze of the air during Spring and the crystals that floated on an evening gown or on the boots recalled the dew on plants in the first hours of a Spring day. We can say that with this collection Mr. Lagerfeld painted like Renoir or Monet, on a Spring day during an ethereal era.
The theme behind Guo Pei’s spectacular Haute Couture Spring Summer 2018 collection is the Elysium, the mythological Ancient Greek paradise. To represent this ethereal place, the designer uses magical and imaginative flowers, not the roses or daisies of the everyday life. “Nowadays” declared the designer “we use flowers mostly as decoration, but, in my case, I wanted to use them as a symbol of joy and as an inspiration for life. But what I wanted to convey here is that flowers and plants were those who gave birth and life to the human being.” Watching Guo Pei’s collection, it’s actually possible to feel the majestic power of Nature. For instance, the first exit of the show reminded us that “Mother Nature” that appears in all her beauty: a black model with tribal make up, dressed in an extremely intricate and flowered embroidered gold gown, posed as the Tree of Life gesturing on the catwalk as if she was the starting point of life. After her, models wearing blue short dresses with ruches and drapes or white and gold ball gowns, in which embroidered, almost blossoming flowers were captured, walked down on the runway of the Cirque D’Hiver in Paris. The entire collection was a homage to the women that, like a flower, spread out their beauty from the ensemble and not just from a detail or a dress. Finally, the wedding gown, the show’s last exit, had a huge train and mixed tribal details with precious and feminine crystal embroidery that made the model look like she was the Queen of Ice.
Cambodia and the charm of the temples of Angkor Wat, the colours of the rice fields and of the Vietnamese terraces, the lights of the lanterns of Hoi An and the Heroic Mothers of Vietnam (Vietnam’s interpretation of the Valkyrie) are the main inspiration for Antonio Grimaldi Spring/ Summer 2018 Haute Couture. The Roman designer who has defined his style with a bold and yet clean silhouette, reinterprets the colours and the religious spirit of Vietnam with his clothes. The Orient is seen in its most feminine way contrasted with military inspired uniforms in which dungarees, supported by crystal straps that reveal the back, and where shirts are embellished with platinum metal embroidery recall the ranks of generals. The sahariana becomes an evening dress, white shirts become long dresses, also worn over pants, with hand-embroidered collars. What is so special about this show is that it is possible to see how Grimaldi has matured in its style. In fact, the Roman designer created a delightful collection that embraced all kinds of women in their contemporary and multi-faceted lifestyles. The clothes weren’t that bold and futuristic as is usual for Grimaldi but were gentle and very refined, especially in the way they were worked, creating a unique sense of freedom of movement and femininity. In particular, a mauve long dress with handmade couture drapes encapsulated the spirit of this light and yet strong collection and of the modern way of haute couture – which must be easy to wear but majestically executed.