A Blush of Rose


Spring - Summer 2017


Haute Couture from Paris for the new season - Spring and Summer 2017 is looking beautiful.

Whether you're a student of fashion or one of the lucky international clients that buy from the steadily re-growing numbers of Haute Couture ateliers the appeal of Haute Couture, the highest form of artistry in Fashion, cannot be denied. Like a rare endangered bird slowly expanding it's population, so Haute Couture is having it's own quiet dignified Renaissance. I always knew that it would and that new clients, designers, petits mains and students of fashion contemporary design would turn again to this art form in greater numbers and give it the support to survive.

I have a selection of reports from well known and up and coming Houses in Paris including the wonderful London based Ralph & Russo to show how this branch of the Fashion family tree is well and truly alive and kicking.  

Beauty, Grace & Style


Ralph & Russo

Tamara Ralph & Michael Russo set themselves an ambitious task in establishing a British based House on the Paris Haute Couture schedule but they've done it.

A central design theme earl in the collection is also the use of the square motif and the silk day suit above to the left with open v-neck top, broad waist band and chic pencil skirt is another perfect dress for socialising in or going about your daily social engagements. Either red carpet or family dinners would be perfect. Echoing the lines of the 1940's and 1950's there's the nod to classic style modes that Ralph & Russo performs so well adapting to a new era. To the right another reworking of the cute 1960's mini dress with tweed accented in lace trim and light ruffles at the shoulder giving the look a sexy twist. It's another great dress to dance and party in using elegant simplicity that is the hall-mark of the House as it's calling card.

Centre above the squares become diamonds in a 45 degree tilt with a Ralph & Russo hallmark bodice offset by an open-cut skirt that descends to a trailing train. Diamonds and feather detail work hand in hand to create the next vision to the the right with a sheer bodice featuring feathers at the shoulders and also embroidered feathered detail through the lengths of the skirt. A crossed heart bodice and thigh split skirt sweeps all before it like a bolt of lightning in the red dress above to the right. The cut-away waist revealing the figures natural curve flatters as it sits on the body like a glove.  

With several years of showing collections in Paris, and their looks worn across the globe by celebrities and private clients, they are well respected as having mastered the art and craft of the most intricate highly skilled part of the fashion industry. Above to the left the opening look of the collection appeared almost bridal with a floor touching skirt sitting under an outer dress fringed with the most intricate gold embroidered brocade. A quietly serene piece that emphasises the instinct for good design. To the right a full length coat dress with jacket style detail featuring broad lapels and puffed elbow length sleeves is cinched in at the waist with a broad band. With a small train flowing behind it's every inch the spectacular red carpet gown that will give a regal impression. Showing their flare for creating many forms the centre piece works the lines of the 1960's mini dress with the geometric echos of the opening look translated into definition of the bust and central line of the figure. Something to shimmy on the dance floor in.

To the right layers of tulle in scarlet give the full skirted Haute Couture dream-dress look standing away from the body and with sculpted bodice gently escalloped around the figure. Contrasting in form by emphasising the waist as well as a full flowing shape it's another red-carpet dream. To the right above the figure hugging embroidered mid-calf dress is a sleek chic universally stylish piece teamed with afeather-light bolero jacket. Accessorised with a clutch it could be worn for red carpets or dinner dates and drinks parties.    

The open necked upper dress cut close to the figure and a skirt in five beautiful layers falling to the ankles, there's a shimmy and sway in how it moves around the body. The shape sits softly on the figure with the gentle layers of the skirt giving the effect of echoing the silhouette. It's a light airy piece perfect for a warm evening with drinks and laughter. Light embroidered detail on the skirt echoing the top adds a new dimension to the repertoire of the looks. To the right a coat dress in white with a navy blue body suit underneath re-works some of the classic in house designs for a new short length style. Centre above a trailing piece in midnight blue with Roses flowing across the surface in stunning detail is a light and airy piece for the formal events that will be comfortable on the hottest evenings anywhere in the world. Ralph & Russo know how to work with colours carefully using a signature palette of about 4 or 5 each season creating a hint of a seasonal uniform that the audience can identify with.

Another floor sweeping look that works with the House theme of a cape-train sitting over the body of the dress in bold complimenting colours. The midnight blue sits like a night sky behind the white clarity of the figure. A star like quality is added by the twinkle of embroidery across the bodice and around the lover legs leaving a white space to retain a subtler appearance. As ever, clients are able to bespoke their looks as they wish and go for the full embroidered look. To the right a sheer black dress swirls with intricate embroidered patterns in a vision of noir glamour. Soft hoops in the skirt length ripple around the ankles adding a little weight to the dress as it sits on the figure keeping the line uniform.    

A dipped hem tulle fantasy in black with it's layers of feathers creating an almost swan-like appearance sits under a sexy nuanced black embroidered lace top creating volume and making an impact statement. Red carpet and private party perfection and a piece again highlighting the play on contrasting texture showing the ability of one the mot highly skilled ateliers in the UK. The romantic thigh split piece in ice blue with it's feathering fringes and soft romantic flowers is a modern fairytale piece that will look as equally at home in front of the cameras as on a romantic night to remember. Centre above another masterpiece of embroidery in this dual dress and cape look plays with the one-shoulder look that has never really gone out of style since the 1980's. Elegant and demure, like much of Ralph & Russo's collection it will create the perfect tone on formal occasions.

To the right the ice-white floor length gown has a shimmering shine and twinkles in the light. It's lose style flows effortlessly around the figure making it another easy-wear piece for the warm nights of summer. It's a moonlight dream. A halter neck lilac floaty show-stopper piece above to the right breezes gently around the figure. Wherever in the world this is worn it will it catch the breeze beautifully and also help to keep you cool.

Champagne and platinum hues are a winning look for the summer months as they reflect the light so easily on warm evenings as you party late. The first look to the left has the unmistakable kiss of silver screen chic about it and with it's billowing lace detail at the shoulders brings a soft floral note to the silhouette. Descending to a skirt that's moulded around the hips and then free floating in the length there is a mermaid-like shimmer and fishtail effect when seen from different angles. Like many pieces in the collections from Ralph & Russo when fitted to you, it's a style you can't really go wrong in. The embroidered shirt dress to the right with it's tiny charming belt is possibly the most luxuriant shirt dress you will ever see. It's a heavenly piece that stands alone perfectly or could be combined with a single colour wrap.The detail in this piece is breathtaking. To the centre art deco symmetry comes into view with perfect clarity with a halter neck cleverly descending into a mini-cape and accentuating the hips with a beautiful grace. This is another dream piece that has Hollywood and Cannes written across it.

Taking floral layering to another level of floating charm the ice-blue dress in the centre is another red carpet romantic offering that could easily steel your heart as well as that of your admirers. Soft as a whisper. Another style-theme that was new to this collection was a type of tessellation of triangles jointed to move individually as the wearer moves. It's an interesting expression of design experimentation with the characteristic Ralph & Russo feel of neatness and precision yet a reverse of the light florals and laces. To the right the White goddess-like dress with intricate gold fringing appears again with rippling scalloped asymmetrical style emulating the form of a cape or even the beautiful shells that contain pearls. 

In a mirroring of the black dress above the white tulle skirted dress creating a visual appearance of feathers and with it's weaving lace detail bodice sculpts around the figure like a second skin in the way that dream Haute Couture should. The halterneck teal green dress to the right with it's slashed to an alternate side to several of the looks but still makes the same beautiful clear line statement and is beautifully wrapped at the waist. Floaty floral and a blossom dream, the tiered black dress is what happens when your idea of a floral tea dress meets the Haute Couture atelier. Light and charming it's a very flexible piece to take anywhere and will wisp your heart away. Broad sweeping gowns are the mainstay of what many clients will need from Haute Coutre Houses and Ralph & Russo give plenty of options to style clients this season. The bridal gown that closed the look at the collection is detailed with embroidery and crystal beading, lace and feathers to a degree that is a masterpiece of ostentation crafted into the wearable. It's in the atelier though, where fashion has it's heart and below are some shots of the all important design making process taking place. 

Above close-up detail of the opening dress of the collection showing the stunning detail of the golden embroidery hand stitched by the Ralph & Russo team. Above flowers being gently stitched together in perfect symmetry. Close-up of beading detail to the right. A model wears a dress that evokes the styles of the early Bourbon era in France with a tiny resemblance to Henry IV and his contemporaries representation in portraits. 

The process of crafting, designing and making is measured, paced work that requires a careful eye and patience to create the garments that will go to their future homes. Some pieces will be worn once, others may be worn several times and passed down a family before living in a museum one day. Whatever happens, they will leave the atelier ready to enter the world and meet the cameras or a room of guests head on and help create the look and impression that is what the client needs.

The dresses that are created by Ralph & Russo and fellow couturiers are works of art that also play a

walk-on role in the lives of the client who wear them. They are enjoyed and pass into memory evoking a myriad of feelings and there to make you feel extra special and confident in that the fashion supports you in the best way. It's an art, a craft, a skill and a passion and the magic of Haute Couture provides an influence to whole industry as well as very occasionally plucking inspirations from unexpected places and creating new legends.  

Alexis Mabille 

Romantic statements and guestures are at the heart of Alexis Mabille's collections and for his clients around the world that's perfectly fine. His Haute Couture evokes modern fairy-tales and this season tiaras came out in force in front of our eyes as the tulle and layered weaved their magical spell.


Interestingly in a reversal of the conventions of Haute couture climaxing with a Bridal look this collection, that retained a bridal theme throughout opened with a look in black. Playing with convention but creating, rather than breaking codes the curves of the veil slipped down to decorate the decollete line of the bodice creating a bandeau look partially revealing a waistband crafted in the style of a tiara. Slide slits and pockets make another break with formal convention while looking perfectly adaptable to the red carpet and for fun events. Alexis likes colour and usually opts for a colour palette that allows him to be expressive. Marine blue and violet in the next look with the Elizabethan ruff collar dropped down into out-sized jacket lapels form a beautiful gradation into the turquoise of the jacket sleeves. Latticed and wrapped around the waist the belt allows a swing from the hips in the walk that's both sultry and highly in keeping with the mores of the Haute Couture aesthetic.

This is sexy sweetheart dressing at it's most potent with no hint of ever losing dignity or a sense of refinement. The magenta dress above to the centre appears to have a waterfall of ruffles cascading to the floor at the front with a nod perhaps the traditional Spanish flamenco style at the neckline. The fishtail train of the skirt adds to the feel of sweeping red carpet glamour. The model wears a high tiara as in the previous look bringing a sense of tradition and heritage to the mood. To the right ruffles at the shoulder falling downwards at the back of the dress trace the winged lines of Angels with the brilliant clarity of red and a stunningly simply lined floor length evening dress. A modern regality is how I would term many of these looks and to the right the amber ochre mini dress fringed in gold echoing roman era colours is off-set by a long train worthy of a bride.     


But it's not all about the lady who is the centre of the wedding day that Alexis seems to be musing around. There are plenty of looks that will kit out stylish wedding guests too and the one shoulder dress above the left with it's bold ruffled flourish accentuating the detail at one shoulder and leaving the other bare. The jewelled waistband playing with the form and structure of the Tiara adds definition, making a bold statement and long sleeve gloves seal the note of modern grandeur in the piece. It looks fun and also right for formal wear.The teal green dress has hints of the ancient chain men's military clothing in the studded detail of the sleeves topped uniquely by crown like structures at the tops of the sleeves. Perhaps inspired by game of thrones of fantasy fiction, this continues the celebration of women in regal form with a train adding the defining note of glamour. Another red carpet piece daring to be different.

The marine blue dress above to the right continues the theme of statuesque long-line dresses with a nipped in belt and tightly folded ruffles across the neckline of the bodice. Without the veil it looks like red carpet perfection, and with it you see the vision of bride who wants to make a colour statement. Will Alexis have many clients who want this dress? Quite possibly yes, given it's dual purpose nature and the expanding trend for moving away from bridal whites. The embroidery on the flowers trimming the veil is beautiful to see close up. The veil becomes a feature in it's own right with a triple layer effect stemming from the neckline, across the shoulders and in the skirt. With a white body suit underneath looking like a super chic swimsuit this is a statement look to wear or request a slighter subtler variation of. It's clear from seeing this the amount of enjoyment that Alexis and his team have in their compositions. 



Turning to classic bridal whites and a softer pastel palette the boudoir chic feel come into the collection with an escalloped bodice fringed with tiara style crystal jewelling. Here the veil is transformed to create the outer layer of the skirt trailing into a train. The effect is of the headdress moving downwards across the body with the dress neatly fitted to the figure and a front split allowing ease to walk. The golden-ivory lining peeping out from underneath gives a light colour contrast and subtle chic bridal look. Lace itself becomes a feature in the next look with a playful variation on the traditional craft accessorising an ice-blue jump suit. Frothy and light it mixes heritage themes with a modern clean line aesthetic with complimentary colour tones combined with a light delicate veil. The white short length jump suit is a contemporary piece for weddings in warm sunshine. With a light jacket made from embroidered lace featuring detail at the cuffs and a further flowing veil it's a piece that will float gently in the breeze. An alternative look at the cross of the figure in the cross band of the waist accentuates the curves of the figure with a playful imaginative ballerina style piece crafted for the blouse. A full length full skirted primrose dress takes the collection back in a stronger colour direction using soft lines and a simple heritage silhouette.   



The tiara is morphed to form the bodice of the dress and the outer dress once again resembles the veil, showing how making a few tweaks to convention can create something spectacular. It's grown up sophisticated baby-doll chic with sexiness that still encapsulates a strong dose of sophistication and will hold it's own at any party or public or private event. The sheer outer lace veil of the dress, highlights the beautiful figure underneath as in the next red piece. A full length look with the veil again adapted to be an outer layer of the dress reveals the soft curves and delicate lace underneath of the lingerie style piece. Alexis is blending the wedding and post-wedding time here. Regal purple and bubble gum pink combine in a pyjama style piece creating a bold contrast with a slight nod perhaps to the bold colour scheme of India and the Far East. Aqua blue melds with the shiny white of diamonds in the skirt in an echo of the tiara that that is worn regally showing her confidence. Alexis used mirrors behind the models to ensure, in the true spirit of Haute Couture that all designs could be seen from the back as well as the front to give clients and journalists a full view. The final bridal piece with it's colour ribbons around the skirt perhaps symbolises energy as well as purity in the design bring a focus back to the simple elements of structure clothing the celebrated female form. Haute Couture is a world of dreams but Alexis is playfully making a palette of choices that look to have a place in making clients dreams come true.      




Taking the reigns of a Fashion House with a venerable name that has been closed for decades is a huge gamble and Schiaparelli in the hands of Marco Zannini and Caroline Issa has become one of the most keenly followed collecitons to come out each season at Haute Couture week in Paris.



The House that Elsa Schiaparelli built filled with love, light and many unconventional surprises had a unique fashion footprint in the mid 20th century using artistic themes in the surrealist style of Salvador Dali to create something that stood uniquely in the fashion sphere. Here we are in the 21st century with Elsa's vision living strong and a healthy client base amongst celebrities and international clients with Elsa's key symbols, hearts and hands infused into the designs of her collections. Elsa believed in love, people and emotions and in the salon her vision walked before clients. Bold colour patterns of circles and lines are explored across the surface of the dress and jacket in the opening look with beautiful heart detail in the shoes. Romance is key and in the next look a two tone scarlet and magenta heart pierced by two of golden cupids arrows is worked across a white jacket sitting over white shorts and a vest. Giant black dots add a contrast of colour and form offset by some seriously desirable thigh-high boots in Scarlet with ribbon detail.

The bold happy combination of pink and scarlet fringing seems to emphasise love with the caped sleeve in Grecian style it has classical glamour. The pink sleeveless dress with keyhole detail at the heart descending into a dual layered light skirt is a pure romantic piece with lilac love heart detail shoes making the light clash/contrast that's key to Schiaparelli's colour play. The mini dress with red satin sleeves and red hands gently protecting around the tunny and holding the heart emphasise the human emotions and human spirit celebrating the female form in a different, more epathic way than other designers define style




A golden dress with dragon embroidered wasit-band and fire breathing tongue hints at inner dtrength with a lock emblazoned on the front of the dress. A cape falling from one shoulder adds a cavalier style hint to the look with boots in imperial Chinese yellow completing the outfit. An up-cycled appearance look turning country casual into catwalk-ready chic with multi-fabric textile. A sheer scarlet vest is a perfect look for summer drinks and parties. Taking traditional textiles and making them a feature shows the connectedness that the fashion industry has today. Looking east once again a hint of Asian textile inspo appears in the piping of the jacket at the lapels and belt seems. This re-working of a traditional style is contrasted by the bold neons and print jacket sitting on top of a black silk dress. Sheer fabric shows the embroidery detail underneath revealing a delicate two part garment. 



Summer meadow flowers strewn across the fabric of a white dress make another connection with nature and the simple sash tie in red mirroring the collar and cuff bands show the love of nature that Schiaparelli often is embued with. The lobster patterned aysmetric dress with red half-belt takes another look at taking a classic style and inject a twist of Schiaparelli humour. Aquatic themes recur in the pleated shimmering lengths of the next two dresses shown with their metallic sheens emulating scales of the fish and lobster shells. Colour, as ever, is important with a vibrant feeling of life captured in the looks. Floor length and elegant you could wear one of these dresses by itself or as shown with the jackets. 



To the left a bright floral dress cleverly creates the flowers in it's design from images of fabrics creating a unique show piece gown. Matched possibly with a wrap or jacket or perfect by itself.

Weaving colour symbols together again with pleats the black dress with a red disc across the chest and wavy blue lines symbolising sun and water. To add a touch of magic to an evening the tulle folds of silk sitting lightly on the figure like a dream.

Schiaparelli have shown that Elsa's dream of making women feel strong and beautiful is indeed alive and well in the twenty first century.



Christian Dior

With Maria Grazia Chiuri installed in Paris at the Head of the House, Dior is setting sail on a great new voyage into the future. So what has the lady from Valentino brought to Dior so far? In her debut Couture collection we saw an offering that was recognisably Dior but also carried some of the moods and themes



not unfamiliar with the passages she displayed with Pierpaolo her design partner back in Rome. This is all to the good as Haute Couture needs to be able to carry it's own weight within the modern business structure of fashion Houses not simply be a spectacle that encourages sales of fine fragrance and lipsticks. The world of Haute Couture is often rarefied and stately with designers able to sell works that challenge but the bottom line is that it needs to be palatable to the audience, it needs to be Haute Couture that women will wear. The collection opened with a black hooded jacket and skirt playing with the symmetrical lines of the Dior classic Bar design meaning strength. Straight away the audience was locked into recognition. To the right a white sleeveless dress maintains the New Look identity but also originates in the gathered pleats at the base of the skirt. Plumes in the hair imitate regency era headpieces.

An outer layer of lace in the dress to the centre sits over a tulle underskirt adding volume and shape. The fine detail is worthy of any Haute Couture atelier and it's not often in the recent past that Dior have shown what they have been able to create in this way. The black coat dress with another tulle under skirt peeping out adds a touch slightly gothic play-fullness that we havn't seen at Dior in a while and is more fun than avant garde, while the quilted scarlet dress nipped in with traditional lines looks like another piece of classic couture worked into a new contemporaries style.  



Maria-Grazia was looking partly to the heavens for inspiration for this collection with gowns featuring constellations across the surface of floor length dresses. In a nod to the thematic, often nature inspired creations at Valentino she's bringing the idea of fusing nature the cosmos and fashion and also recalling the deep interest in astrology and superstition that Christian Dior himself had during his lifetime. The beautiful dress above to the left is a dream red carpet or summer ball piece that you can laugh and enjoy in. A light black bodice with sashed detail teamed with a full skirt featuring Taurus, Sagittarius, Leo and a constellation of boldly patterned astrological signs is a perfect example of how modern Haute Couture can look and seem so wearable. You can dance at a wedding in this or attend a formal event and be photographed and party in.

It's neighbour to the left in black again keeps to the themes of simple clear lines, tulle and a gently escalloped bodice adding a black sash tie at the shoulders to add a romantic twist. A comet blazes a trail across a midnight blue gown that spells fire in the sky and symbolic of a new epoch at the fashion house. Hints of the romance of the renaissance and Italy of Valentino return in the piece above to the right with a floor length courtly dress. Maria is clearly aware of what will sell and what her clients know and want. Many of whom will shop across numerous Houses.         



A dress with a forest worthy Midsummer nights dream feel to it in light green dotted with small flowers again fits the romantic mold of youthful hopeful romance that Maria Grazia so skillfully creates. Note that the models here wear light ballet style pumps, gone are constraining stiletto heels as they move across the mossy grassed floor in the Musee Rodin. A female face appears across the surface of the dress tot he right with birds playing around her head. Light wispy romance is captured in the acres of fabric. This is what women across all ages look to an Haute Couture House to create. Sensational evening and occassion-wear that they can enjoy. Quirky nuances appear in the off-centre ruching of the netted outer layer of the skirt in the lilac dress in the centre. It's form and style again readily desirable to the clients eyes. These are pieces easy to fall in love with and fashion is often has the romantic sense of instinct that draws the eyes and gives you the same feeling of 'knowing' that something is right. Blending primrose and apricot the look to the right is simplified in comparison to the fitted patterning of the next passage with it's linear embroidery masque style plumes.           



The allure of midnight blue velvet is captured again in the skirt with black lace tulle peepping out from underneath in an understaed gown that's sophisticated but not underplaying it's gmalour. It could be matched with jewellery to make a stringer statement if you wished. To the right a sash echoes the shape of the crescent moon draping from the bodice through to the length of the skirt. These are dresses to twirl in. Embroidery detail across the shoulders and upper chest in next flowing blakc look breaks up the black mono colour with light design. To the right the another gauze covered piece with a beautiful under layer in blush offers a 3D perspective on the designs of the season.     



Adding mettalics into the picture brings another level of expression to the designs, with earth elements bridging between the gound and the sky. This is a high volume collection encompassing both classic House styles and a heady mix of Maria Grazia's own established themes of romance, blending together to create a composite set of looks that will give clients realistic options for their wardrobes next season. Gauzey skirts, length, floral applique and colours that are soft and romantic will tempt the eye but also do justice to showing the incredible skills that the Dior Atelier has at it's disposal in Paris. Showing one of the looks also worn by a man hints to another small but growing client group of transgender fashion buyers who have great fortunes at their disposal to spend. Fashion is for everyone, beauty is the life giving pulse that beats inside Dior that the founder himself understood was essential to what women wanted. At Dior for Spring - Summer 2017 Maria Grazia and her new team ensure that they are welcomed with open arms.      





Donatella brought her gladiator-ix back to the stage in the opening look of her Spring Summer 2017 collection. A dress that appeared to have been knotted together gave the form and composition of a look that said 'freedom' to eyes that saw it. Soft pleats grazing the upper thigh allowed for a gentle swing of movement ready for the caress of the summer night breeze or the twists and turns on the nighttime dance floor. Capturing something of the ancient Roman



this mini dress packed a style punch rounded off with a millennial twist on the Roman sandal with twining tendrils spiraling round the calves looping just below the knee. Mettallics come out strongly in this collection and the above dress second from left, works with the theme of corded shapes woven around the figure Shimmering in different tones. It's an elegant look in long-line style split to the upper thigh to show the figure at it's most beautiful. This is a piece that demonstrates the magical abilities that Haute Couture atelier's create pieces that are technically superb. In classic Versace style this is an eye catching dress for the red carpet or for private events. Cobweb style knit features in the next piece with a hint of gothic romance in the black design. The dress sits lightly on the figure, like a spiders web, with the lengths of the skirt rustling with light sequined shimmering applique. Sandals with geometric patterning wind up the feet tying at the ankles with soft whisped bows. Blush pink tones in the dress above to the right overlaid with geometric folds of the lightest black gauze offer a two toned contrast with sheer fabric gradually descending to a feathered lower skirt and train. The model watches us in the mirror inviting approval or a comment on her look. As with all Versace it's a statement of elegance that carries a note of righteous strength.        



Above a more feminine tone shines through in a full length gown fusing the cobweb with ruched bands of fabric. Pieces appear in a cut-away tapestry style with material from the panels forming a train as the plumes reach the floor. It almost has the appearance of streamers or giant ribbons issuing forth from the dress and the outfit itself looks like a feminine celebration. Centre above a rose-gold draped piece accentuates the natural curve of the hips as a number of the looks do in this collection. Combining contemporary lattice cut outs with classical draping this look is innovative but still perfectly in keeping with the needs of clients looking to dress for the red carpet and private dinners and parties. Shifting back to a more classical aesthetic the next piece infuses the space age with tones of grey and blush in an asymmetric roman tunic style. Styled to reach the mid thigh this look is ruched with high precision using enough material to create a full length gown in creating a perfect chic ensemble. To the right another floor length piece takes the idea of translating a weaved style into a lower dress composed of feathers in such a way as to make it appear to ripple and float as the wearer walks across the floor.              



The figure hugging violet dress with the lustre of metal makes a more under stated entrance in the collection but nevertheless is every inch Versace and forms the most wonderful mesh of floral figure hugging style that fits like a glove. The fitted and fan shaped lilac dress above takes themes from Versace's looks in recent seasons and works them into a new guise with fans folded to create floral suggestions playing across the hips and into the fan of the train. An apt suggestion of the time honoured and loved paper or silk hand held accessory that has meant so many different things over recent centuries in the east and western hemispheres. To the right an ice blue dress captures a moment of fascination with inner structure of the garment with the folds of the fan made into fabric and the 'boned' soft construction guides of the dress made into a flexi-metal. It felt like Versace took a new direction this season further into dream-like fantasy and opened a door to a new chapter.        



Ulyana Sergeenko 

Ulyana likes to bring us fairytales, Russian stories with magic, laughter and maybe a little bit of mystery. Taking her places on the Haute Couture schedule for several seasons now she's firmly part of an international contingent of designers who have made their presence on the schedule to the delight of the fashion world. Her emblem is the Rocking Horse, perhaps initially a little surprising but a powerful hint at the suggestion of play and fantasy fun that lies within.       



Behind the scenes the stage is set for the unveiling of the new collection with dresses gently fitted likes gloves over the figure and make-up softly applied imagining how the clients will prepare for an event or evening out next season. The preparation of the 'total look' to support the Haute Couture image created is vitally important with designers contemplating the 'mood or mise en scene' of the collection carefully. Sergeenko naturally melds high glamour with a neat touch of sexiness. There is a rhythm and pulse of Haute Couture that demands a more rarefied level of precision beauty while also embracing the designers vision.      
Sergeenko uses traditional techniques and touches such as her monogram worked into the cape detail of the above dress offering a silent touch of support to the wearer by placing the initials of the designer behind the shoulder is a lovely touch. It also offers a client the possibility to request their own initials to be placed there or perhaps a personal symbolic emblem. The beading detail sewn onto a silky light gauze is exquisite and adds a twinkle and sparkle to the lustrous midnight blue. It's a dream piece to wear in the evenings on a warm summer night. To the right an innovative playful gold belt in the form of a snake gently sits above the hips. Head and tail intertwine to encompass the waist in a golden clasp perfectly cinching the waist with the tiered ruffles of the lower blouse forming an upper skirt above the trousers in three soft layers.       
Backstage is always buzzing but there's always a lot of quiet concentration as well as excitement. Models have their looks prepared and memorise the running orders alongside the hair and makeup preparation. I've watched backstage prep for several years at fashion weeks and the life of a model is not easy, their is always glamour and beauty bit these girls are working very hard to make the vision of each designer become real in every show that they walk. Sergeenko blends sexiness often with small hints that echo her homeland and one beautifully inspired piece was the golden handbag crafted in the shape of an incense burner with Roses threaded through the golden chains. It swung lightly at the wearers side hinting at fragrance coming forth in the warm summer months.          
All backstage SS17 Ulyana Sergeenko images credited to Emily Lundsten (C).        
Precision tailoring as well as a sharp eye for beauty is something that she knows well. Opening her collection with Supermodel and Super-mum Natalia Vodianova dressed in a black day suit she worked the nuances of sexy evening wear into a subtler form of chic that could take you to a nice lunch or business meeting or day time social event.The gauze gloves add a twist of vintage chic to the outfit while the asymmetric ruffles around the hips hint at a bustle extended around the figure to form a second outer skirt. Burnished look silk in damask rose wrapped around the hips and adding a flourish across the upper bodice and across the arms reinvented Parisian belle epoch era styling into a modern sexy contemporary look. This look rocketed to the top of my wish-list and is perfect for day or evening. This high choker adds to the faintly theatrical heritage themes with a central drop stone offering and angular contrast to the gentle asymmetry of the look. It's a piece of magic.

To the right a black trouser suit accentuates the waist with a sash band defining tonal contrast beneath the embroidered top and above the carefully tailored trousers. It's a great look to keep your cool in on the red carpet. The escalloped bodice is an area that Segeenko likes to work with in this collection and the two tone grey piece of light grey bustier and darker grey ruched skirt nipped in higher on one leg make a sweet nod to burlesque themes and the Belle Epoch era. It's neat and chic and you could dance in this piece as well as attending a drinks reception or a dinner. To the far right the silk black trouser suit with golden asp clasp at the waist hints at 1930's and 1940's style while also looking perfectly placed for the early 21st century. It's a truly times-less look blending grownup sophistication and elegance.               
Midnight blue diagonal cut ruffled layers in the skirt of the next look capture signature themes of the collection complete with sculpted bodice and front band completed with ruched ruffled shoulders. It's a sophisticated look with flare to make a great impression most likely in the evening but entirely up the client. The blue chinese style jacket flared at the waist owes it's origins perhaps to the traditional Russian and central asian men's military jackets given a style twist with the semi sheer ruched lace of the sleeves. Black trousers complete a 'new classic' feel look. A black dress and jacket to the above centre looks to almost entirely composed of ruffles of crushed silks. With a rose sash tie at the belted waist the mini dress could be worn by itself on a very warm evening. This is a designer who clearly loves to think of her women relaxing and enjoying their evenings in the outfits that she designs. A more demure sash front tied dress composed of the laced layers of fabric wrapped lightly around the figure to create a light whispy piece for the Summer. A beautiful white lace gown embraces the summer glamour of light floaty layers teamed with a coat feathered at the shoulders. It's another beautiful red carpet or event ook and the dress could be worn alone on hotter evenings or with the jacket to shield the spring or late summer breezes.                
There's nothing like a little shimmer and applique in a piece to add subtle detail and dress and jacket to the left are perfect understated black tie looks that show Sergeenko has ample scope to create looks for diverse needs. Vodianova's second look worn in the collection is an applique fantasy looking almost like tapestry made real in earth tones of moss green and browns and navy blues. Centre above the flowing majesty of this gown is pretty breathtaking showing what can be created with a simple idea for clear lines finished with precise craftsmanship and sewing detail. The flow in this dress and the look that come out next are hypnotic. The semi sheer dress to the right with it's fringed skirts offers a modern silhouette with touches of Sergeenko's luxury bohemian aesthetic in the lengths of the skirt. The day suit to the right with it's rose string woven bag brings a playful hint of summer to the collection echoing favourite summer beach styles re-worked into a luxury form for clients around the globe.                  
Floor length dresses in the later part of the collection present a range of looks. The pin tucked neckline of an earlier day dress returns in a crimson gown with feather detail at the cuffs. Again with hints of the 1930's and 40's silver screen style this look is animated with feathers at the cuffs. A sequinned vest with long gloved sleeves is contrasted by voluminous silk satin skirts in the next look tied with a black bow ribbon. It's a high glamour piece that like many of her full length pieces is versatile in it's client reach as it covers the figure. With a frou frou skirt and corseted bodice, the piece plays on the theme of underwear as outerwear but creates a perfectly desirable look for events. Black velvet trousers in the jump suit to the right make a contrasting match to a sculpted bodice                      
with embroidered collar and decollete detail. The black satin shoes that many of the models wore in this collection are the ultimate versatile accessory for wearing with a host of different looks. Subtle sculpting around the breasts is a feature of several looks in the collection and the long black dress above to the right shows this delicately under the caped collar.

There are looks here to please clients across several generations and for different occasions showing Sergeenko truly has a very strong grasp on satisfying the needs of a broad international clientele.

Vodianova's thrist look was a classic black evening dress in off the shoulder style perfect for summer evenings and receptions that may go on into the night. The cut of the dress at the front both allows you to show off your pins and also is an easy way to keep cool. Eschewing the traditional bridal gown for the closing of her 10th collection shown on the Haute Couture schedule Sergeenko brought out an elaborately embroidered coat and long gloves to complete her collection. Aptly choosing a circus in Paris for her venue she sealed her labels image as a House that has a sense of fun and play at the heart of it's ethos.                 
Julien Fournie

He's a newer name to the Haute Couture schedule for many international fashion watchers although he as granted his license by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 2011. Fast gaining international recognition beyond Paris, Julien's work is both fresh and also fits naturally into the luxurious glamour of the Paris schedule that sits at the apex of fashion. Fournie is French with a Spanish mother and
comes from a creative family. One grandmother was a specialist lingerie seamstress the other side of his fmaily where tanners working in leather for generations perhaps inspiring his early career in accessories. His earlist childhood memories involve drawing so a career in fashion may always have been too far away and these are works infused with an energy of passion and enjoyment. Paris trained, he was the last head of the Haute Couture House Torrente before launching his own company in the summer of 2009. His prior expereince has been extensive including working with Nina Ricci, Christian Dior, Givenchy, and Jean Paul Gaultier where he worked on stage costmes for Madonna.              
Opening with bold splashes of colour Julien set the tone in a lemon yellow dress flecked with dashes of colours looking like the outcome of a hybrid of Haute Couture atelier and artists studio. With halter neck straps and full scalloped cups in the dress bodice it looks to the mid 20th century rock and roll era for it's form of style and structure. Sash detail to the side falling from the left side cup shows a playful twist on the classic form. Bright colour strips channeling contemporary art brightly enter in the next looks shown as an Haute Couture version of the sarong skirt is teamed with a fitted bodice. Showing a slim figure with a nod to sporting theme is a feature of the early part of the collection. White trousers with a sash sash belt work up a charming look with a ribbon patterned bandeau top. It's a light casual look for a summer party or day time event and brings to mind parties on the beach or on boats. To the right impressionist art features again under a black tulle netting with another skilfully crafted bandeau top completed with a necklace. Another summer party piece that shows Julien in some respects is looking to capture the attention of the younger Haute Couture client base. An intricate black laced weave overlaid an impressionist print tunic dress, it's long sleeves elegantly reaching the wrist. For slightly more formal evening summer drinks this would be a great piece to wear.              
The day to evening dresses in Fournie's collection are show piece looks that again have a strong nod to youthful play and use of colour but could easily be worn by people across the generations. Above left a neat black dress is bordered with an crochet style collar revealing hints of soft neon colours underneath. It's an ultra easy-wear look that will suit many clients. A tailored skirt suit with bold winged detail at the centre of the button jacket accented with feathery applique adds a subtle eye catching touch to the piece. Colour is important to Julien's looks and a day suit in purple with casual denim style jacket transposed into silk takes the day wear look in the direction of fun sporty play. This is Haute Couture to wear to a sporting event perhaps or a Summer party. The jacket could also be teamed with the next look where a beautiful v neck sleeveless vest is teamed with art patterned orange trousers cinched at the waist with a large bow-tie. Taking a leaf out of the style files of the 5th element (I'm guessing) the look furthest right takes a fresh look at the summer jacket with a high cut piece in yellow buttoned to the collar in the midst of a sheer v-neck collar. Brightly coloured hot pants make this an adventurous style that some clients will love to show off their pins with.               
A pink lounge suit jacket and grey trousers offers a clean lined smooth approach to dressing for daytime events or more formal evening events. In my signature web-page colours I thought it was charming and liked the angles. A deep v-necked fit and flare purple dress with dropped waist and flower detail at the side is a perfect party dress begging to be taken out to dance. The bold neckline will also be practical on warm summer evenings and this is a great look to shimmy and move in. Fournie shows he's interested in all skirt lengths this season with the knee length followed by two mid calf length pieces cut into the classic mid 20th century style popularised by several legendary Paris Haute Couture Houses. The floral white dress is a perfect day time or day to evening look for parties, weddings or the races in particular but you don't even need an occasion if you're an Haute Couture client, you simply need to fall in love with it. The midnight blue dress complete with bomber jacket in lightly textured silk again shows the halter neck style and scalloped bodice cups framing the figure as the dress descends into the lengths of the skirt. Another dream piece to dance the night away in.            
Working a pink and black theme with a hint of rock and roll once more a pink halter neck bandeau top fringed with black lace is paired with a black circular hammed skirt decorated with confetti style applique placed scatter-style across the surface. You can have a lot of fun in this piece and it looks every inch a party favourite of the season to come. A black dress with a soft hooped hem echos another recent designers fascination with this classic mid 20th century style trait and the surface embroidered applique gives a textured and grander variation on the style seen above. Chic and still discreet, it's a little more of a head-turner. For a red carpet stunner the black thigh split piece next to the right brings thoughts of Cannes and a myriad of private dinners and charity gala's to mind with daring geometry off-set by long black gloves. In the traditional of Haute Couture Fournie closed the show with a bridal gown in keeping with the chic but relatively simplified feel that runs through most of his collections. It looks like we may be seeing many more works of his in the years ahead.               
Giambattista Vialli               
The Italian designer has been showing on the Parisian Haute Couture schedule in his adopted home city since becoming one of the few non-French designers to be made a member of the Chambre Syndicale de Haute Couture. His clothes are worn by Actresses, Models and European Royalty alike and his unique brand of Italian glamour is closely pared with the Parisian look and sensibility. Above to the left a white silk mini dress fringed with feathers and tailored in the wrap around sleeveless jacket dress with jewelled collar is a perfect 1960's inspired glamour piece. Silk was an important medium for Vialli in this collection and he even seems to have worked deliberate creases into a number of his pieces perhaps to accentuate the figure. To the right a flower stem runs the length of the left hand side of the outfit adding colour to the white of the dress with chains of crystal necklaces giving a faux regal touch to a pretty party dress.

Mixing lilac, gold and baby pink in the next look with sequined floral embroidery of the bodice contrasting with the silk of the skirt this relatively simple design believes the many hours of work that will take in going into preparing it. A slim silver chord tied at the waist continues the theme of using chords or ties through the early part of the collection to mark a 'joint' of the outfit at the neckline or waist. The white full sleeved coat dress echoing the style of the opening number is again accented by a corded tie necklace and completed with elaborate Chinese style embroidery. To the right an ankle length dress with floral motifs works the Spring fairytale magic that many clients and journalists expect to see come down the catwalk before them in an Haute Couture collection. Fitted perfectly to the figure it's light enough to be worn easily by the wearer through a summer day or evening. It's romantic look makes it a universal piece.              
Light easy wear above the knee dresses are a big part of this collection making a cool, easy style statement for the Summer. More looks came out including a two piece outfit allowing you to keep a little cooler as temperatures climb higher with detailed silk print. A sheer white dress with embroidered applique flowers and light ruffles around the neckline was again trimmed using the motif of grey feathers around the hem. Adding a gentle swooshing as the wearer walked it's a pretty feminine look. Flowing open skirts where a key direction for the collection for Spring Summer 2017 from Vialli. Floral tunic enhanced with flowing skirts so long the they formed the most beautiful flowing trains behind the wearer summed up Summertime luxury glamour. You could feel quite comfortable going to a fairy ball in a Mid Summer Nights dream wearing one of them. In the look centre above contrasting panels of ruched and un-ruched fabric sit opposed at harlequin angles with a thin cord cinching the waist. In the next look ruffle abounds with acres of the same patterned fabric gathered to comprise a slightly more elaborate look. The sugar pink gown to the far right creates a fantasy on the ballerina dress with a layered tulle ruffled short skirt dress gathered neatly into a fanned bodice and descending into an open floating train made of the lightest silk. I actually could be a bridal possibility if lengthened at the front perhaps but the gowns that walk the runways at Haute Couture shows can usually be requested in adapted styles by clients. The soft billowing seems to give the extra air of romance.              
Adapting the theme into a deep burgundy, a shorter dress fitted close to the figure with a light gauzy flowing train is another romantic piece that would work a wonderful spell on the red carpet. It's single colour focuses the eye on the design detail and simplified classic elegance. The floor length floral dress to the right is diaphanous in it's beauty swathing the female figure and moving wonderfully as she moves. The mini dress and train design theme is repeated again in lilac with ribbon detail fringing the hems in the next look in an apron style. To the right a hint of 1970's Bohemia arrives with a flowing lilac gown that will shield you lightly from the sun on hotter days and be a fun outfit to see you through the cooler nights.                
Dolce and Gabbana - Alta Moda

Running a coulple of days behind the close of the offical Haute Couture season Paris, Italian designers Dolce and Gabbana show what can only be described an Haute Couture on another level. It's high baroque bordering on the gothic filled with the decadence of Italy's rich past and often ornate religious symbolism.           
Perhaps only John Galliano's shows at Dior rival them in their splendor and grandeur that has the power to leave many of the most experienced fashion journalists wide-eyed, but somehow it still feels right that the shows sit a little apart from the main Haute Couture schedule in Paris. Firstly the design duo generally prefer to show in Italy and perhaps the nascent seeds of a home grown Italian Alta-Moda week is something we could look forward to in future years rather than Italian designers being tagged onto the Paris schedule. Let's wait and see, Rome was once a thriving Haute Couture capital in it's own right too. But back to the collections that the style duo pack so much into. Descriptively each piece is a feast for the eyes, many textures in one garment is the norm.

The collection opened with a black slim line dress featuring sleeves slashed at the upper arm and hair tied up in ribboned bows. The jewellery with it's antique appears to be museum worthy. But that's the look that Dolce and Gabbana are going for. Not straightforward diamonds, pearls or sapphire's from jewels of the last century or two but pieces that look like they've been passed down since the Renaissance. Every model is also 'crowned' albeit with flowers, feathers or ribbons. It's a nod to the ultra feminine but also carries the religious symbolism of the catholic churches adoration of the Virgin.        
Printed florals delicately placed on the surface of the dress give the appearance of hand painting in watercolour onto white painting paper. It flows like a real goddess gown. Next to it a beautiful second skin piece with flowers embroidered across the surface to appear as though they are growing across the wearer. Only the white frill cuffs give the game away.

Center above the broad skirted dress full length dress and it's layered tulle neighbour where carried out before the audience reminding everyone of the joy of seeing and Haute Couture dress the fills out across the catwalk. The demand for gowns of this type is still enormous and the in the era of the resurgence of Haute Couture (which I predicted) they still draw many eyes eagerly. The pink tulle dress is another piece that could potentially be adapted to bridal wear and will certainly make an entrance.

To the left a sugar pink dress with a super light frame is hooped in the skirt and ruched at the hem giving a broad bowl-like structure that recalls the large dresses of the mid 19th century. The bridal piece that closed the show plays with the theme of Haute Couture brides increasilngly shoosing to experiment with colours in their gowns and the clsong piece stands as a beautiful contrast to the first. This season Vialli is prepared to make any dream come true.                  
The pair are designing garments that have constituent parts that you want to look at carefully. Above the third piece shown blends wide fur trims and embroidery this piece would serve you well for early Spring in Russia perhaps and the look also compliments their style traditions. Unlike most Parisian Haute Couture collections Dolce and Gabbana show a series of unique rather than moving through noticeable 'moods' of a collection.

This isn't to diminish the astonishing level of craftsmanship that they show in any way. Their atelier must be going far beyond many in employing a huge team that can serve the needs of clients with technical mastery and give the magical Haute Couture and teaching a new generation of craftspeople many valuable talents that will be preserved. Clients are from every part of the globe and appreciate the sheer luxury of the fashion being created. Also running through the collection is a notably regal theme as well as an historic one. Women are dressed like Queens and Princesses from a bygone era who have suddenly been recalled to life and choose to wear Alta Moda.

Many people refrain from calling Dolce and Gabbana's bespoke high fashion Haute Couture, preferring to keep it in the Italian vernacular. I think this is fitting as it feels like your watching a cousin of the Parisian mode of high fashion rather than one of it's own.  With it's own special place established as the grand finale of 'Couture Week' and a devoted global clientele it looks like Dolce and Gabbana are carving out a new stream of their own within the world of high fashion.