PARIS COUTURE WEEK: A TALE OF TWO CITIES

With the spirit of revolution in the air, fantasy and reality collided on the catwalks of Paris Couture Week
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PARIS COUTURE WEEK: A TALE OF TWO CITIES
DIOR COUTURE SS18

“ONLY THE INEVITABLE THEATRICALITY of my life interests me,” sighed Leonor Fini from the Dior Haute Couture show notes. Continuing to beat the ‘We should all be feminists’ drum, Artistic Director Maria Grazia Chiuri chose the Argentinian surrealist painter, designer and illustrator as her muse for her depiction of powerful women in her art. Chiuri was also drawn to the fact she was “the incarnation of the then-revolutionary idea that one must always remain independent and reinvent oneself as the representation of all possible realities” – a metaphor for the optical illusions coded within a collection that unfolded as a monochromatic masquerade ball.

The party continued at Elie Saab. Ever the fantasist, his ’20s-inspired Haute Couture collection conjured “a time when the sounds of glasses clinking, people chattering and the rhythms of jazz fill the air. When dancing, singing, and ritzy parties in velvet-clad, crystal-chandeliered music halls go on all night and all day.” The dress code for such occasions? According to Saab, soft, airy silks, fluttering feather capes, bejewelled headpieces and dazzling Art-Deco embellishment aplenty.

A.F. VANDEVORST COUTURE SS18

This was in stark contrast to the militant flag-waving at A.F. Vandevorst’s 20th anniversary show, a reimagining of 40 looks from the archive. Sartorial subversion seeped through both the military jackets and army trenchcoats, but also in the insubordination of the styling – halterneck gowns slung over tank tops, jackets over coats, and hoodies cinched at the waist with corsets.

Anarchy also appeared in Maison Margiela’s Artisanal collection, however John Galliano challenged the status quo with his technical use of fabrics – fashioning ski jackets and parkas from reflective prism film, PVC, and floatation foam usually found in life jackets designed to turn holographic with a flash of a camera phone.

Of course, such insurgence is what we’ve come to expect from John Galliano. However, the last place we’d predict the renouncement of glamour was on the catwalks of Middle Eastern fashion house, Maison Rabih Kayrouz. Spliced between the floor-length gowns were shearling aviator jackets, unstructured trenchcoats and louche tailoring – such an astonishing departure for the region that a neon sign suspended above the runway read, “It’s couture baby,” as if a reminder was needed.  

However, there were some Haute Couture collections that successfully merged fantasy and reality. Don’t be fooled by Philip Treacy’s everflamboyant millinery for Valentino. For beneath it, it belied Pierpaolo Piccioli’s emminently wearable interpretation of Haute Couture as daywear replete with chinos, trenches and pussy-bow blouses.

Meanwhile, Clare Waight Keller’s masterful collection entitled Mysteries of a Night Garden may have been conceived as “conversations between structure and motion,” but this manifested in tiered ruffled maxiskirts worn with black polo necks, shoulderrobed with a tuxedo – skilfully capturing how a multifaceted, modern woman would want to wear couture now.

Images: Getty Images

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