A Blush of Rose
Paris - looking to Spring 2016
The Spring and Summer 2016 Haute Couture collections in Paris heralded some exciting green shoots for the industry. It wasn't long ago that the doom sayers where ready to relegate this whole sector of the industry to the Museum's of the world but Haute Couture is alive and growing steadily with many young designers launching labels and coming through. The news that Bouchra Jarrar will head Lanvin continuing the Houses exploration of millennial not-quite-minimal luxury is exciting news for the industry as she is skilled hand creating her own line of Couture that is luxury but also relevant to the market.
Valentino took us on a tour this season in their style inspiration from the glorious and power of Rome with hints of Hellenistic Egypt, trough the romantic decadence of renaissance Venice and the work of one of it's lesser known designers during the 20th century, the Spanish born Mariano Fortuny. Above all what we saw this season was beauty, recognisably classic and stylish with a step in a new direction of exploration. Pierpaolo and Maria Grazia have skillfully defined a new era of Valentino's history providing continuity while also pushing the boundaries of creativity each season with stunning craftsmanship from Rome.
The first dress above to the left shows the fan-leaf style of Egyptian Papyrus leaves popular in the late Roman era. Flowing lengths of lightest sheer silk enrobe the silhouette creating shifting movement in form. The Art Deco influence is unmistakable with the contemporary feel of anytime and any place. Scarlet in the next dress to the right makes a bold statement of Roman strength and Venetian spectacle. A bohemian twist enters the collection the next two looks shown both back and from above where multiple fabrics make a high fashion tapestry.
Centre to the right in purple one of my favourites from the collection with rich velvet in imperial purple embellished with golden brocade and accessorised with a fascinating chain-style necklace and belt, the ever present serpent crown and sandals that would make Hermes himself proud. Maria Grazia and Pierpaolo have produced a number of flowing white looks this season that could also double as potential wedding dresses as part of their offering and for a bride channeling the glitz heritage of Italy's rich history they would not be left wanting. To the far right another long-line look channels Imperial splendor sending Fashion for the Gods into our consciousness once again.
The needs of Valentino's clients are as individual as the clients themselves and every designer has the pleasure and challenge of creating a themed collection that traverses different tastes and wishes. So many of these looks are what I would describe as portable in that you could wear them at parties and events in the summer from weddings to warm evening drinks parties. The beautiful pomegranate coloured dress above to the left decorated with moons and stars and styled with the beautiful Romanesque neck jewellery it radiates a natural sexy innocence. Plunging Grecian necklines across the collection show a style that is confident and give ample scope to explore symmetry and scale within the design.
Regality itself is a key theme and the proud statement of beauty is accentuated by the neckline cut to above the waist. White with it's purity embellished with themes of design and themes of nature is a mainstay of this collection in an echo perhaps of the Roman Vestals, weaving a unique spell of power over society. Classical motif's and nature images appear in different places in seeming harmony. One very interesting diversion from Italy's rich treasure trove of history is the inclusion of a Japanese style robe emblazoned with Dragon in a beautiful design featuring embroidery that illustrates boldly the superb craftsmanship of the Haute Couture atelier. The snake, an ancient representation of limitless time, and also often wisdom weaves it's spell across a dress in a winsome naive-style representation on the dress farthest to the right complete with diamond lozenges in an almost heraldic echo. It's beautiful and very fun too. Haute Couture doesn't always have to be a serious business even though the artistry, craftsmanship and hours of preparation are in a league of their own.
We speak of Models as Goddesses in our common culture and these looks reviving form and style of the ancient world where women who could sought to emulate the imagined perfections of deities will make many dreams come true this season. Above to the far left this black dress sits lightly in figure while the belt around the centre of the dress anchors the flowing fabric to the body. It's beautiful with the deep velvet red and gold subtly off-setting the light black lace. Nature elements return again in the next look weaving vegetation in a three dimensional expression of applique excellence across the length of the garment.
Gold, the eternal metal that adorned so many buildings and statues in Ancient Rome is woven in a lose chain-mail or fish net style of the outer shell of the next two garments. The thread of gold is also an allegory of time and while wistfully thinking of narrative to illustrate the eternal beauty of this style simple truth that strikes me that these are high glamour dresses that could be worn across any time. You will look amazing shimmying on a dance-floor in at a Black-Tie/Red Carpet event. Diaphanous, flowing white dresses bring an Angelic charm above to the right and these super light weight looks suit a multitude of figures too as do many pieces in this collection. Valentino are casting their net wide in terms of the appeal that the collection will have. I think they are both heaven and I would certainly be happy to wear one to a party on a summer evening.
Perhaps in a gesture to the artisan expertise of the craftsmen and women of Venice over the centuries the metal work jewellery in this collection is a steady beautiful constant feature. The chains that cross the body also have a symbolism of restraint and speak of a composed form of elegance. Grace under stylish control.
Above to the left the asymmetric lines of ruche detail in the black dress draw the eye across the figure ephasising line and beauty. Pleating features prominently across several looks and was a powerful design tool in the ancient world. I adore the black, white and plum looks above and see a cinematic quality in the strength of their elegance. Strong rich colour statements and an Imperial sense of longevity make this a striking trio of pieces.
Roman's and Venetians celebrated life and beauty with passion and the Green dress above with it's verdant foliage is an ode to the beauty of Spring and Summer as leaves and growth appear to spread out across the surface of the skin itself in the sheer bodice completed by a flowing train. It was a piece that emphasised the skill of the artisan's in Rome and also fashion and nature in harmony with the body. Valentino's strong line in stunning sheer garments showed no sign of wavering with light and flattering pieces providing a great series of mesmerising options for clients and couture devotees alike.
Sumptuous long evening gowns are what we dream of in haute couture and for those is us who look to it as a form of Fashion art it's fascinating to see the defined style that is now coming from Valentino. Clients can have an idea of what to expect while the team still find new ways to explore each season.
Ulyana set hearts a flutter again this season with 1980's pop vibes blending with a neo 18th century lines and a playful nod to the Christian Dior New Look of the 1950's. Stephen Jones did the honours designing Madonna-style caps worn through the collection. With tendrils of hair gently teased underneath gave a street style chic crown to some of the looks taking us back to the vibrant carefree days of the 1980's where Boy George was a style inspiration for girls and boys alike. It all felt natural and the collection had a strong feeling of cohesion while feeling fresh and an an explorations. Nothing "Borderline" here.
Petticoat detail dresses delicately layered brought a touch of summer time fairytale fantasy to the collection. It was plain to see the influence of the traditional textiles that Ulyana brings into her collections with lightly embroidered beautiful lace pieces fusing rural heritage with the the international 21st century luxury fashion market. The lemon and white coloured dress above to the left uses the mini side hoop form of undergarment blended combined with early 20th century bodice creating a stunning fresh visual. The black trouser suit employs focus on the waist that many of the looks of the collection do with ruche detail at the shoulders and a beautiful variation on the peplum at the base of the jacket above the hips.
The blue dress centre above is has both the both playful pleasure factor perhaps recalling some of our favourite childhood summer dresses while also embodying the highest style of haute couture that will make clients and observes sigh with delight when they see it. The cornflower blue breathes pure blue skies into the mind and like many pieces in this collection, it makes you want to dance. Disco glam returns in the next piece with a super-glam trouser, corset and long sheer coat that trails the floor beautifully. The classic 80's line super-model esque dress in a teal-blue to the right is a piece defining the figure superbly and it's hard to think that these dresses won't be hugely popular with the clients internationally.
Ulyana also looked to the life of pre-revolutionary Russian Prince Nicolay Yusupov and his lifestyle of extravagant excess. Above to the right the goldfish dangling from an earring chain is a re-telling of Nicolay's habit piercing his goldfish with earrings as they swam in his pond. This symbol of luck from the east adds a carefree twist to the knee high black boots and ruffled white dress combo. Above to the left beautiful lace detail in the lemon dress gives quiet hints of old world feminine nostalgia set off perfectly with boyish boots and hat. Centre above a perfect summer dress swayed down the catwalk light as a summer breeze with detailed applique embellished with crystal and hints of lavender found across the dress it will twinkle into the evening with front buttoning emphasising the easy-wear nature of the look.
Either side of the dress are tow pieces that show one of the collection styles of mid-thigh square cut style skirt and fitted jacket. You see two versions here with the skirt and jacket in black with detailed lilac embroidery around the base of the skirt and light mint green dress with cherry blossom flower applique detail. It's the 1980's with a twist and updates and full of pizzazz and sparkle. There are a clear number of hit combinations in this collection.
The feel of effusive celebration in this collection melding the exuberance of the modern Russian and international clientele of Ulyana's and the high craftsmanship of the Atelier. Lightweight black suits with jackets or simply a bodice appear incorporating a bodice or a corset to a lesser or greater extent to give definition to the outfit. Above centre the bodice in metallic grey forms a tempered juxtaposition with the floral skirt and balloon sleeves. Like a sexed up piece of the 18th century spun into the early 21st; it's a perfect party outfit. Making a slightly more dramatic entrance next to it the mint green dress with bandeau detail bringing black and green together in subtle juxtaposition uses crystal in applique in the most delicate way creating cool shimmer.
There's a touch of the theatric about this collection and in a small homage to the Grimaldi clown perhaps the black and white piece is layered in fringes and a little mask dances across the chemise with gold and silver charm chains hanging about the waist. Ulyana moves effortlessly from party chic to full formal style ball gowns and the full skirted floor length dresses offer sophisticated choices. The white-blue dress below to the right plays beautifully with the bandeau bust theme and could be accessorised with a wrap or a jacket for cooler late evenings. Layers of tulle skirting abound in Ulyana's bridal outfit complete with jacket at the close of the show with a corset-framed jacket giving a touch of 80's power-chic. For something alternative or maybe the pre-wedding party the pink dress centre below with visible underwear is an appealing party dress mixing coy playful layers with glamourous secrets underneath.
Ulyana's sweetly playful Rocking Horse brand logo is more than just a lullaby. With a thriving salon established at 4 Granatniy Lane in Moscow the future is looking very exciting for Ulyana. She's one of a group of young Russian designers that have emerged from the cohort of Fashion buyers turned Fashion makers amongst the young international Russian community and just as the wealthy young Russian's who came to Paris around 100 years ago ahead of the Revolution they're making their mark on the home of Haute Couture once again.
Hand painting onto silk has to be one of the purest skills that we associate with High Fashion and Haute Couture and the first outfit that Haute Couture Diamond Duo Ralph & Russo brought out above to the left featured exactly this. Cornflower blue, pink and green make a delicate light colour palette and light floral touches throughout the collection. The next look to the right is a spellbinding composition of floral sheer lace woven across the figure with the hips gently framed by short side petticoats. Feathers trim the skirt of the dress sewn with hundreds of Swarovski crystals in the next look and this sleeveless dress can be worn beautifully by itself of with a jacket or stole. The full white with off the shoulder dress with cinched waist echos both the 1940's and 80's in different ways. To the right lavender flowers circle the shoulders and decollete in another dress that looks destined for the red carpet and black and white ties dinners. You would also look like the most immaculate hostess if wearing this piece 'at home'.
While sticking to several tried and trusted themes such a florals and exploration of structure and form; Ralph & Russo also manage to come up with a large fullsome collection each season providing enough breadth and scope for regular clients to keep coming back time and again and attracting new ones. To the left above you have another example of the figure hugging sheer dress crafted from the most delicate lace embroidery. Light as a second skin it fits the wearer like a glove. Next one of my personal favourites a pink-peach dress with fluted-skirt carrying more of the signature water-colour floral detail from this season.
Centre above a beautiful camisole and floor sweeping bow tied silk robe shows more of the hand-painted detail that drew so much attention as part of this collection. Playing with colour contrast the next look to the right with navy blue bodice and long gloves has a natural two tone harmony with the skirt of the dress. As with all of Ralph & Russo's looks the shoes are perfectly matched to the dresses that they accompany. Harking back to the 1920's a little the dress above to the right again shows the skills of the atelier in embroidering lace to the highest degree with applique and crystals. This dress has a beautiful 'waterfall' effect to it and the flowers appear to move as the wearer walks in the piece. A train also makes an impact when entering a room.
Another beautiful cape dress above is another of my personal favourites from the collection. Combining midnight Blue and Rose pink in a harmonious duo it's about as luxe as you can imagine Haute Couture to be and also may give a bit of warmth if you're returning from a ball at 4am on a Spring-Summer morning as you can wrap it around the shoulders by grabbing the hem. Lighter pieces that just slip on the the figure in silver silk and peach satin capture a 1940's- 1950's slim line silhouette featuring perfectly draped ruching detail exhibiting delicate asymmetry.
To the far right one of my favourite looks from the middle of the collection, a floor sweeping gown fit for a Queen in Rose-Platinum that has the most phenomenal flowing movement when you walk in it. Light as a feather it's accompanied here by a beautiful white bathing suit as under dress and is the most wonderful piece of beauty in it's own right. I looked at it and imagined twirling in it. But on a serious note Haute Couture is in part supposed to be exactly this, the fantasies of the highest forms of fashion design that we have made real.
The look here above to the left again married Rose Pink and with a Blue swimsuit (yes it's time we had more Haute Couture Swimwear and Ralph & Russo are taking this seriously) and like with several other pieces in this collection a flowing gown jacket and a piece of swimwear look perfectly natural together. Moving to classic lines an off the shoulder dress in black, grey and white is a perfect staple to take to a number of occasions and like many pieces in the collection could be worn through many seasons.
Looking Red-Carpet ready the sheer broad skirted dress in the centre with it's waved layers has a natural slight bounce in it's movement as it moves that is mesmerising. While it's contrasting companion to the right with plunging Grecian neckline and thigh high split would look perfect for dinners, drinks and even board meetings where you would like to make a great impression. Feathers and ruching appear in the look to the left that could be worn for Black/White tie receptions or bridal. Whether enjoyed in private or worn by one of the many actresses who patronise the House this dress has high impact value.
Bridal wear is a key staple of the Couturier's offering and Ralph and Russo come up with a number of 'suggestions' in their collections each season to meet the needs of many different clients the world over. Above to the left a deeply embroidered bodice descends into a full flowing skirt with shoulders covered by a cape that descends into a billowing train. Next to the right a dress heavily embroidered with Swarovski crystals cloaks the figure in a closer elongated form gently suggesting the curves of the female form and wrapping round into a smaller soft style train. The beauty of the design in this piece is quietly understated like much of the bridal part of the collection while retaining the power to move onlookers to silence when they see they detail of the garments.
To the right a floral design again uses the cape that becomes a train as part of the dress. A fluted skirt draws harmony with the gentle span of the cape and the train of flowers that falls over the fabric echos the strewing of flower petals traditionally part of marriage rights all across the globe. Lastly the current season Bridal gown that famously takes several people to turn on the catwalk when it shows. Covered in thousands of crystals and taking hundreds of hours to create in the atelier the Ralph & Russo finale Wedding dress presentation is in itself a 'moment' now in Haute Couture week in Paris. It's a testament to both Ralph & Russo's dedication to maintaining the traditions of Haute Couture along with creating many new innovations and also a strong statement in the Couture sector that dresses such as this are still desired by clients the world over.
Schiaparelli launched their Spring-Summer 2016 Haute Couture collection by inviting us to a Tea Party in a somewhat Anglo-French style that cut a fine line between keeping up the spark and wit of Elsa's original vision and the dynamism of exploring new ideas in this second life of the House. Floor length dresses brought the table to the catwalk with bold prints cut in clear long elegant lines. I saw a very fun playful juxtaposition between the domestic setting and the glamour of formal evenings out where you would wear these full length outfits.
Schiaparelli under the guidance of lead designer Bertrand Guyon the House that was re-awakened in 2012 after a 60 year slumber is forging a new path often attracting clients who are new to purchasing clothes from Haute Couture Houses. This can surely only be a good thing for this resurgent branch of the Fashion Industry. The traditional tweed knee length skirt suit gets a makeover of sorts with the rich fruits of life covering the outer layer of the suit above to the centre and tea pots of varying styles adorning the jackets of the next two pieces.
There was an feel of going to afternoon tea about these looks or perhaps being let out of school for a special afternoon tea with friends of the family. The white vests carried another hint of the down to earth nature of the collection with an eye and a heart placed centrally below the neckline. This is playful fashion at it's best with enough energy and life in it (I want so much to avoid the word quirky) that it' easy to see why a new client base is being drawn in or traditional Haute Couture clients are ordering these pieces for their daughters.
Alexis Mabille is known for several things on the Haute Couture schedule in Paris and one of them is his infallible reliability to create chic, elegant and often touchingly demure looks for his sophisticated international client base. Women know what they are likely to see from him each season but at the same time Alexis always leaves room for many surprises. His collections don't rest on their laurels, far from it. And he more than any designer reminds me in some ways of the energy, vision and vigour of the young Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent when they where working in Paris many decades ago. Alexis does a wonderful job building and developing his own House but part of me wonders if his final destiny may well one day be perhaps be with one such place.
This is classical Haute Couture with a completely contemporary feel and Alexis has mastered the art of multi generational appeal without anything looking too conservative or frumpy. Looks range from plunging decolletages to round necked with shoulders covered. This is discreet luxury that many Haute Couture clients and fashion followers/students love to see and for the clients there are looks here that they can visualise to order with one or several different public or private events in mind. Haute Couture is a language of high fashion and I think for many people it is also about the pure enjoyment of clothes too.
Above to the left a masterclass in lace work forms the corpus of a semi-sheer black lace dress with beautiful dentelle lace at the collar. It's one the pieces that you look at and have a moment and realise why you love Haute Couture so much (not that you can ever really forget). Next another cocktail hour dress that would also make a great suit piece when teamed up with a black jacket. For something with plenty of style and a slightly regal feel the white dress with black lace collar in the centre with long midnight blue coat is another statement of classic elegance.
Floor sweeping glamour returns in the next two pieces in black with escalloped and Grecian necklines giving gentle emphasis to the figures natural beauty while keeping true to the tone of restraint and simplicity. Hugging close to the figure, by too close, these are practical pieces of high fashion that can be worn up the red carpet, up a staircase and also take a spin on the dance floor after dinner.
The tailoring on the figure is sublime and Alexis skillfully compliments the figure of the wearer in all of the looks of the collection. Full flowing white pleats are almost like a definition of Summer we may think of Grecian island beaches or even recall Tennis skirts but the ease at which this sits on the figure and moves with the wearer also allows for maximum cool on hot nights. Working the stylish monochrome black and white theme the nest look teams a dress and a jacket together with vertically cut away sleeves putting a new twist on suggestions of the conventional. Yet this look will take you anywhere formal or black with style.
Centre above is possibly my favourite look of the collection with sheer lace enveloping the figure from shoulder to knees before culminating in a skirt of crystal embroidered beauty leaving something of the night-time sky trailing gently behind the wearer. Bringing fish-net to the fore the sheath style dress above to the right makes a very glamourous statement and with a touch of daring could work very well on the Red Carpet at events this coming season. With a flourish of the 1980's statement dress with hints of Edwardian/Belle Epoch style bows beautifully decorate the front of this black dress in another look that will excite photographers in public, and also be a cherished dress for life away from the camera. This look is fun and luxuriant and a dream Haute Couture piece.
Using the traditional full skirted line in a small echo of 19th century dresses the next outfit to the next look also in midnight blue and white is a contemporary style with a blouse rather than a bodice top. Neatly belted like a number of the looks in the collection the folds give volume and accentuate the figure. The looks of modernity never quite stretches to minimalism in this collection (much to the appreciation of the clients I'm sure) and the belted jacket dress with set pulses racing in any city in the world with the feathered hem offering movement in the breeze of a summer evening.
The next two multi-layered floor length pieces in black and midnight blue are spectacular evening gowns that offer an extra touch of drama and splendour. The lace train of the blue dress sweeps the floor beautifully and I also think it's just possible that this could make an alternative bridal dress too for someone looking to make their own path. Above to the right the Lace dentelle shoulder-less cat suit with feathered decollete is a glamour statement that would also look wonderful with a jacket long-line or bolero style at the shoulders.
Alexis has always struck me as a designer who really is truly devoted to making a woman feel beautiful and elegant and I think a simple truth is that he can create entire fresh collections of sale-able clothes that are not going to be too challenging for a wide international client base. Women all over the world simply need and can order the dresses that he loves to create. The semi sheer skin toned coloured wrap dress above to the left with it cascading Lace detail an black bow belt is a light captivating piece with a flattering natural line. Tulle layers and sparkle come next in a playful re-working of the layers of a ballerina's skirt.
White and midnight blue return again in the next look to the right with a Spanish flair to this look in the layered lace embroidery of the upper dress with it's long broad column skirt trailing the floor as the wearer walks. It's another perfect look for evening receptions in the Summer. Bridal style can come in any form as may clients chose to bespoke their ideas and use the Haute Couture collection as a base. In theory all Couture dresses can be tailored in this way but in practice few people take advantage of this. To the right to close this look at Alexis' offering for Spring and Summer a shoulder-less dress with column and cape offers a bridal style that borrows from some of the traditional lines of Haute Couture evening wear from the mid 20th century. Whatever way you should chose to go for you Bridal commission I think Alexis would guide you with a safe pair of hands.
Plates, food and sunlight from the Anglo-French kitchen garden where a welcoming sight and there was something very hearty about these down to earth aspects of life being brought into the realm of Haute Couture. For Guyon this is a return the the essential elements of day to day life in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris the previous November. Centre above the Egg itself the cradle of many forms of animal life and a universal base for cooking appears with bold symbolism. It's also a beautiful sun shedding light on a new day and a symbol of hope for the future. Fine china and cutlery embroidered and pressed onto the dress surfaces in leather create an alternative applique across dress. I can imagine what fun it would be walking into a restaurant in a Paris/London/New York wearing this.
We are also reminded that Elsa installed a dining room in the basement of her Paris home for her staff to eat from and hired an Italian chef to provide the cuisine. Legumes feature broadly and aesthetically provide a more varied palette for an artist to draw on than meats. This life of the kitchen garden be it in Britain, France or Italy takes on a new form in a surprisingly harmonious translation into Haute Couture. Food and the plates that they're eaten off are portrayed with the most stylised realism and even the traditional netted string bag of country farmers is translated into floor skimming elegance in the skirt of one of the outfits above to the left. Several of these looks, the pink and blue radishes dress and the (I think Rose Hip) dress to the far right are so beautifully cut that if you saw them you wouldn't really look deeper for those meanings though as this is Haute Couture that speaks for itself piece by piece.
As the collection moves gracefully into the evening wear the motifs become more sanguine and a calmer form of elegance takes hold. Napkins and cloth prints translate into long evening dress designs that sit lightly on the figure and are perfect for Summer evenings at party or perhaps on a boat. The colours are light and beautiful with no fear of using contrasts in a way that Elsa would have surly approved of. This takes us back to the heart of what Elsa believed in, namely luxury fashion that was serious but also fun. There's a lot here to suit different tastes and as ever with Schiaparelli its the extra details that are added in that make a special difference. Detail in brooches such as enameled potatoes or representations of other vegetables.
Mono coloured dresses feature more prominently as the collection draws towards it's triumphal conclusion drawing the eye more neatly to the definition of line and style of the garment. There is huge scope here for clients that are looking for formal-wear for a variety of occasions.
All designers aim to surprise us to an extent of course but with Schiaparelli it's more the case than with other Houses that you really can't predict what may come next. Meaning this in the best possible way and adhering to Elsa's wish to shock and surprise. The sexual undertones of the collections created during her lifetime are gone and in an age of greater transparency you may agree with me that such statements may have lost their effect. Women are freer now and the language of love is spoken with out restraint or need for code.
Guyon has shown that he has been able to fashion a number of staple looks by his second collection for the Maison. Here either side are some of the closing evening wear looks with a possible mauve bridal gown should you wish to be more daring in your choices. Whatever the future holds for Schiaparelli in the next few years it will certainly be interesting and with a clear ability to cater to the traditional needs of clients looking to stock their closets with floor length gowns or more adventurous contemporary pieces Schiaparelli is a House with plenty offer and no passing craze.
There are times of change currently at Dior with the departure of Raf Simmons it's lead designer opening the way for the successful team collective continuing to illustrate that it is possible to run a Haute Couture House with a cohesive design team rather than needing to have a figure head designer as a absolute necessity. This current pragmatic solution seems to be working well for everybody and Dior didn't disappoint this season.
For Spring - Summer 2016 Maison Dior brought us into an evening setting where midnight blues, a colour Dior have worked with so well since the inception of the House many decades ago, blended with a lightly restrained sophisticated colours on the lighter and darker end of the spectrum. The collection opened with a stunning piece showing the creative vein that now pulses at the heart of Dior. There is an undoubted fresh 21st century nuance and style in the looks but this is still recognisably Dior drawing inspiration from the founders principles with echos of the New Look that Dior gave to the world traceable through the collection. Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux are effectively the current Creative Director and deputy of the House;
The first look above to the right illustrates the dynamism of Dior now; off the shoulder cutting with right angles and asymmetry in pure white form the bodice sitting above a skirt created in fabrics complimenting each other in colour while contrasting each other in texture or style. Horizontal lines, stella bead work and curving, swirling shimmer of sequinned embroidery create the most gentlest of clashes that feel like a natural melodic fashion expression. The second look from the left continued this perfectly with a tricolour skirt moving gently across the hips as the model walked and a bold off the shoulder bodice giving a contrasting tone, texture and form to the piece.
Centre above a dream contemporary couture coat with a beautiful light dress underneath. Where the first two piece where cocktail dresses of perfection, this complete look would take you to weddings, the races and evening dinners in style. Chiming with the key notes of Dior the Black dress brings the New Look to 2016 in a fresh new off the shoulder style. This shoulder-less look has since appeared in numerous collections at different Houses. Sassy, classy and beautifully sexy, this is dress that have obvious appeal to clients across a broad age demographic who are looking to add a piece of classic Dior to their collection. Next to the right again 3 different texture and print themes merge together in this fun piece that looks great on it's own or would work well with a black, midnight blue or other mono coloured longer line coat.
This may not have been a collection pushing the boundaries but for many it is very welcome. I will be honest in saying that for many this is a step closer to the recognisable and enjoyable House of Dior that many people clients perhaps more that fashion press had felt was wavering in the Houses' offering on former seasons. This seasons collection may be offered by a young team, that's true, but they have crafted a collection that is in true harmony with the history of the House. Many aspects of this collection resonate with the true background and meaning of Haute Couture. The black suit above left employs beautiful applique embroidery of the Haute Couture Atelier. The wrap detail skirt that creates an impression of paneling is replicated in the next look with jackets sleeves at the mid forearm to allow for warmer days and show the smooth skin the wearer. Apparently when women bare their forearms it's a sign of confidence in their sexiness and this collection does Discreet and Sexy in a fantastic way.
All through this collection the delicate emphasis of the waist continues the classic Dior Aesthetic with a softer approach. There's been renewed interest in the Gardens that Christian Dior knew in his childhood in Grenville in the coastal town of Normandy which is now the home of Christian Dior Museum. Dior's love of gardening perhaps inspired the floral elements of the collection. The asymmetric design centre above with sheer upper off the shoulder blouse and thigh split skirt is a fun enjoyable piece bringing Haute Couture to a younger audience. You can party the night away in this or wear if at an afternoon tea or garden party in the country. To the right a classic line coat gets some stylish embellishments at the collar and shoulder and a new off centre line hem with front fastening buttons adds another note of asymmetric playfulness. This teams willingness to push the boundaries tastefully with structure also pays a quiet homage to Dior's earlier career in design before fashion. The beautiful black cocktail dress to the right is a classic piece of Haute Couture to enjoy, sexy statement style.
Above to the left this chic and sexy piece with sheer lace design in the lightest dentelle in deep navy blue is a statement dress that is perfect for parties on warm nights and it's a look that has a season less classic air about it. The gently pleated skirt swings loosely on the hips balanced in classic proportions and symmetry. Sheer midnight blue lace again features in the next look in this double layered dress with cut away skirt carrying floral print. It's another beautiful piece that could be worn with a jacket on cooler evenings; or without; and that plays with volume in a subtle way in the skirt. There's an eternal femininity in the dress that shows flowers running across the surface of the skin.
All through the collection high heeled shoes with ribbon bowed ties at the ankle add a versatile twist to the designs on show. Adapted by colour to match with different looks these shows are flexible coordinators. Working angles in another way the white dress is both on and off the shoulder in one look showing how this team have been able to make pieces that are challenging, but not to the point of alienation of the client and buyer audience. Sheer beauty returns again in the black layered skirt to the right echoing a layered tutu effect emphasising Dior's devotion to creating lightweight designs for women to wear crafted with the most delicate and complex stitching. To the far right is a fascinating re-imagining of the classic Bar Suit with white jacket, slightly less fitted than in the original classic, adorned with flowers and tulip shaped cuffs. The broad skirt is adapted to a lose fitting pencil skirt cut-away at the thigh to elongate the figure.
The charcoal grey dress above plays with volume and shape in a way that works for many potential clients and the structure is contemporary without being too challenging. Carrying forward the on shoulder/off shoulder neckline idea from earlier in the collection the volume of this piece and the navy dress far right above are along the lines of the classic Dior ball gowns of the past but with a pared down aesthetic. Above the pink dress with a floral border at the decollete plays with my personal colour theme favourites creating a pretty chic and versatile cocktail or occasion dress that's very versatile. The trouser suit above to the centre open across the chest is sexy and confident without losing any of it's feminine charm. As the collection draws to a close the long black coat-dress swaying to below the knee is an overt new spin on the Bar style but it is very now. The word timeless can be over used in fashion but this garment certainly does deserve that epithet. This collection isn't a pale shadow of the Dior of the past however just a refined green shoots stage I feel, drawing from the past and adding new fresh touches that don't disrupt the harmony with the past while the genesis of a new era of Dior takes shape.
Bouchra Jarrar *article amended following Bouchra's appointment at Lanvin.
Since joining the Haute Couture schedule as a guest member in 2010 and a full member in 2013 and with some solid work under her belt in houses such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Nicholas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga and Lacroix she brings a background and understanding of the industry to her presence in fashion. She's quietly worked away and been a fascinating understated figure to watch. I covered her several seasons ago in my AW 2013-14 collection round up and shortly after Paris Haute Couture week she was named as the new Head of Lanvin's Atelier. It's a great opportunity to head a major House as Creative Director and hopefully this will give her the platform to expand upon her ideas.
For Spring - Summer 2016 she brought out her seasonal take on style at the apex of the luxury industry. With the military themes still very much in place the collection of 22 looks opened with a long line jacket embellished with fur over a silk camisole and trousers. Bouchra's take on luxury is, by her own words, supposed to be a practical vision that women can translate to their wardrobe. She flits between masculine and feminine modes of dress successfully softening down the military lines with gentle textures. Silks and dentelle laces wisher through the collection and for me this collection has hint of the belle epoch era, perhaps Russians in Paris or the luxury of the late colonial era of the 19th century.
Working with long line military style trousers, nipped in waistcoats and ruffled Chantilly lace collars in the next look this softened vision of beauty becomes gender neutral. Neither French Naval Captain or wife. Centre above the sheer lace dress and jacket blending long silk sleeves and aviator lapels with fur collar is a statement party piece spinning a vintage twist on style. To the right a white silk evening gown used ruched pleating dropping from the waist for an asymmetric flare. The high halter neck style gives for opportunity for the fabric to ripple across the upper dress. To the right the fur gillet overlaying the jacket is perhaps quite warm for a Summer night but the pastel tone of the jacket softened the overall look of the piece for a female audience.
Softening down masculine looks is certainly something Bouchra has a knack for and the black trouser suit above is one of her classics in this vein. This collection could have gone further perhaps in exploring more nuances of style as there are many ideas simmering here that could be expanded upon but what she does, she does very well and there is enough variety. The light white frothy tulle skirt of the next look off sets the crisp lines of the cropped military sleeveless jacket. The boots add a touch of youthful rebellion and but this is a look for women across any age. the sheer blouse in the next piece could be matched easily with a camisole for the more cautious and again Bouchra works in the broad style military trousers There a mix and match possibility here with the blouse also matching skirt in the previous look as the jacket matches the trousers.
The beautiful evening dress to the right shows that Bouchra does have the scope to perform well in the evening wear department even though some critics say that she often doesn't do this, I disagree and can see why Lanvin have chosen to appoint her as Creative Director of the House. There is a rhapsody to silver screen 1930's-1950's glamour in this long line piece and the mid calf length hounds tooth fabric coat adds a further layer of old school fashion given a creative twist. It's a grown up dress for a grown up occasion.
Broad lapels are something that Bouchra is fond of using in many forms in her collection again working them into the look above to the left. Beautiful embroidery complementing the deep blue velvet is a beautiful texture adventure paired with white sailor-style trousers pressed to the seems it's a formal piece that is box luxury with hints of the utilitarian. It's a luxury spin on the naval theme with the enameled buttons in military alignment giving a clear style focus.
Centre above two dresses in lilac and black illustrate the delicate feminine shapes that Bouchra can create when she's not adapting the men's wardrobe. Her two themes are poles apart and it's interesting to see what she can create when she focuses on one clear theme.
With fluted gathering of material across the upper dress that subtly hides the figure large billowing sleeves and dipped hem skirt gently catch the breeze and move on the figure. The black dress with it's cut-away shoulders in fluttering angel-like style with the diaphanous skirt offering comfort and style and it a perfect party number.
The halter top of the white silk dress above returned to match with sailor trousers to give another style possibility above to the right. And lastly next to it a black suit and jacket makes a clear strong style statement that would last well in your wardrobe across seasons speaking to the versatility and wear ability that Bouchra seeks to put into the wardrobes of her audience.
Feathers played a prominent part in some of the pieces that Bouchra showed and here in close up either side you can see two jackets that apply them to the designs. The jacket to the left uses them in detail and with hint of native American influence perhaps. There are more exciting times ahead for Bouchra now and this season marks her next step into heading one of the leading Haute Couture Houses in Paris in it's chapter of an illustrious history.
This season Donatella took us in a sporty direction with hints that she is talking a new look at how see puts together her collections. In 'go-faster' the lady at the helm of this Italian Powerhouse showed that she is still keeping the shorter locks that she debuted last season. The sexiness and the silhouette that Donatella loves to focus around where all there with the usual dose of international style savvy referencing, at times, the long lines of the seventies era and Disco decade that Donatella loves to play with. And with fellow designers Alexander Wang and Ricardo Tisci in the front row she is now teaching the next gen'.
And here below is Donatella backstage with her girls. As per the Versace mode they are all glammed up and look ready to step out into a car, onto a helicopter or plane or glide street to an evening rendezvous. But look closely, beyond the winged eye makeup and softly styled hair for women who are very wealthy and very busy is a row of healthy pretty happy looking girls. Versace have worked the vamp look in recent years, sometimes with quite a hard edge to it; but now there are signs that the image of the Versace woman is softening a little more but she's still a Tiger that can and will roar on the Dance Floor or wherever else you may find her. The closing two looks of the collection showed fashions tendrils reaching out to the audience in hypnotic suggestion. The spirit of the Medusa-like vamp is still firmly in residence and with Gigi Hadid closing the show in the finale piece the collection looked as strong as ever.
Opening with a colour pop of neon yellow appearing in the first look that came down the runway Donatella set the tone with a series of two colour outfits. Braces worn on the outside of the jacket and a flying zip ribbon and bandeau bodice seam edged colour into the piece. Next to the right neon orange joined the show with a belted seam reaching across the bodice of the dress over a gauze like sheer sheath asymmetrically completing the upper half of the dress. In deconstructing of the traditional frames of the dress Donatella throws down the gauntlet to anyone suggesting that her style has become too routine or formulaic.
Also to note, as with the next outfit the colour seems to enter the outfit where it's forming a type of restraint, a safty harness where the white surfaces of the fabric show the fabric simply sitting neat on the figure. With precision laser cut detail this look centre above is a contemporary classic white suit. Cut to perfection to show those pins to maximum effect the design cleverly emphasis limb length. To the right is probably my favourite looks of the early part of the collection. If you want a party dress for Summer nights, in a club, at a beach party or on a sizzling roof then this is one for you. Worn alone or with an array of possible jackets it's a piece I would wear for years. Cabling and chord wove their spell in the next piece above to the left. Tendrils and wisps reached across the surface of the figure suspended between fabric and almost at some point seemingly holding it together. Chords in harmony with the body.
Wrapping fabric across the body in a drape with outwardly visible ties and knots continues as a feature with the powder blue dress above to the left taking a deconstructed/reconstructed approach to the traditional classical draping that Donatella has favoured in the past bringing Rome and Greece back to life. The softness of the blue together with the softness of the drapes makes a pieces that could appear challenging or even stark feel gentle. Donatella uses the thin lines reminiscent of architects drawings to frame the form of the dress above in mostly white and the electric blue to the far right. There's something about the intricate attention to design on the outer layers of the garment that is splendidly representative of the anatomical complexity of the form underneath. Where outwardly there are straight lines. But whether designed by nature or by hand this design makes a seriously flattering addition to the figure.
Moving towards a more classic Versace look the white suit with layered seems at the curve of the elbow, shoulder and upper breast nods toward the contemporary trend to allow movement of joints more freely by making the design of the garment more amenable to the figure. Borrowing hints from sports gear this cross pollination of haute couture and haute sportif is an excellent idea. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley sailed before the audience, a vision of marine blue beckoning us all to the Summer seas and the pool side. Cue thoughts of the Greek Islands with their Sapphire seas and blue-domed chapels. This was a piece of bias cut heaven slashed to the top of a supermodels thighs it's a dress that ticks all the Versace boxes and just the type of piece that clients will look to Donatella to create for their wardrobes this season.
Working the idea of playing with lines; above they intersect and create a picture looking like a Spirograph drawing from the 80's and 90's in the white skirt, jacket and top combination. This swirling tessellation with waves of volume in the skirt cuts a playful swish on the catwalk. The sleeveless jacket and cropped tops also give the look an echo of the American cheerleader uniform but on the catwalk in Paris this message is something entirely different. This is luxury for teens and their mothers generation alike. Next to the right laser cut mosaic patterning fitting the figure like a glove brings the aqua blue of the swimming pool and tiled floor to the clients wardrobe. As the lenses clicked away it was hard not to get the feel of Summer. While some designers are bringing a multi-season feel to their collections, sometimes even their Haute Couture Donatella is creating collections that still look recognisable of their season.
Contrasting close fitting golden kaleidoscope with billowing white silk the dress centre above is the perfect flowing Summer evening gown that will make the right impression at the Private dinner or event or on the Red Carpet. As with many of the pieces of the collection you see it walk in front of you and easily visualise where it would work. This really typifies Donatella's style, it's high fashion and it's very wearable high fashion. To the right above two looks that will look fantastic in the evening with Royal blue and black working together to create a perfect midnight effect. Short mini dress shows the legs to perfection and this is a colour combination that looks great with the customary light an but also with all skin tones. For something a little more demure you could opt for the floor length dress to the right and this and it's shorter counterpart could easily be teamed with a black jacket for cooler evenings or slightly more formal settings. The lattice design weaving across the figure is a work of beauty in itself and captivates the eye with the beauty of the female form.
From the electric energy of royal blue to the neon beaded lights that blend yellow and orange with royal blue, there a hint of gypsy sexiness that is classic Donatella in this piece and long may she delight us with these dresses. Slashed high to the thigh and tracing the weave of bias cut with the strands of colour the lose femininity is intoxicating. Ribbed to create an almost ripped look the next dress with yellow underlayer makes a crisp statement with dual colour tone. Coming as close to punk as we may see from Donatella this and the longer dress above with Red underdress below the lace shift make great use of partially concealing colour. A more striking black and yellow-gold dress once again shows Donatella's ability to play with structure and design with straps and shaping simultaneously binding and liberating the figure.
To the right above a classic lose Summer shift dress in white with neck open to the chest reveals the toned figure and accents of gold. Once more the lose knots appear in a thread chain that both adorns and supports the outfits structure as well as forming an adornment within the garment itself. A little like a rope of pearls or diamonds with without the stones. As with the two outfits below in white and orange it's fascinating to see the knots slip and weave their way across the surface of the garments. At times it looks almost nautical in inspiration or vine like impersonating life growing across the surface of the dress or, fashion meets tech here, a glimpse of the dress itself coming alive here too.
Below to the left the beautiful black dress with fibres spinning out across the body is another show-stopping red carpet dress that will have the Versace faithful and new clients alike beaming with pleasure in front of the cameras. Twisting in a myriad of different directions this piece is both sculptured to the figure in the upper part and free flowing in the lengths of the skirt. The two dresses in white below with sheer chain mail top and for to the right with a sporty swathed layers look both emphasise the beauty of the woman's form in different ways. The model below to the right was my personal favourite of the show, she looked statuesque and beautiful and abundantly healthy and slim showing how the Versace woman looks stunning as she moves, loves and laughs her way in life.
Jean-Paul Gaultier - the party continues.
Jean-Paul Gaultier has a glint in his eye and a spring in his step as the party opened at the 'PALACE' Disco themed collection for Spring-Summer 2016. With plenty of bold statements with occasional looks to the past but also exploring new shapes and ideas. Since making Haute Couture the focus of his business Jean-Paul Gaultier has given himself the space to devote himself wholly to the craft of Haute Couture that drew himself to the industry as a young man.
Haute Couture still allows the designer to the freedom of ability to dress clients at close quarters to their specification of suggested looks that appear on the catwalk in a way that Ready to Wear, as beautiful as it is, doesn't allow. Now with 3 decades of industry experience behind him to draw on he is reaping the benefits of years of tailoring know how in the atelier creating looks that are measured and refined but also with a spin of counter culture and rebellion about them. Opening looks of this collection continued the themes of masculine city-banker striped trouser suits in one or two looks with strong leanings to the classic men's tailored dressing gown jacket with it's casual sash-tie in some places an actual tie. These looks cut in silk and satin sit lightly on the figure and are easy comfortable pieces to wear. The classic 80's power suit got a re-dressing with a bold exploration of fabrics and a casual line in cutting. This early part of the collection comprised an eclectic group of suits with printwork fabrics in abundance and also a tribute to Le Smoking of Yves Saint Laurent.
There's plenty of sex appeal here in the true Jean Paul Gaultier style that we love and the suit above to the left delicately emphasises the curve of the women's form as well as keeping to the structured masculine lines of traditional men's suits. With hats set at the jaunty angle in the asymmetric style that accentuates the natural symmetries of the face the quietly coquettish Jean Paul Gaultier girl is sultry and as smoldering as ever. Marrying suit and dress in one the next look to the right with sheer black lace and one shoulder style. Off-set with it's box square patterned tie and clutch purse this floor sweeping floral design. It's a sexy touch of magic many of us would love to wear and is Jean-Paul at his best. Centre above lose cut trousers and slim line jacket in the classic black suit with decollete visible beneath the tuxedo jacket are the stuff of Red Carpet dreams that will make the right entrance. It's a great party piece for any occasion and you could wear it across any season. A piece to really love as the best Haute Couture is.
This is a collection that felt pre-dominantly evening wear focused with some fantastic outfits that look appropriate for any time of the day. Rouch and ruffles always add to the Burlesque feel that Jean-Paul Gaultier is known for and the Red Silk dress centre was one of my personal favourites of the entire collection. You could wear this to a dinner or party with or without a jacket and it would also look good in-front of the cameras as well on the red carpet. You could have great fun shooting an editorial piece too with it my photographer eye also tells me. Accessorised with black leather Kidd gloves, understated heels, the eye is drawn to the detail of the design and embroidery. Puffed out 1980's style frizzy perms and triangle blocks or gold hoop earrings channel bold confidence.
Glitter and shine is pervasive all around with the party sparkling and the glitter balls rubs off on the models as they twinkled down the catwalk. Young Madonna meets with a 1990's Brit Pop insouciance in the suits and dresses deftly giving both masculine and feminine twists to a gender neutral approach to shape and form. But these are women and there is no doubt, be she a teen or a matriarch the Jean-Paul Gaultier woman is always found with strength. He's known for his iconic Madonna's the sacred, contemporary and rabble rousing in one go. The Madonna of music and pop culture and film of the Madonna that he brings to our eyes in this collection and she is as beautiful and vibrant as ever. Never taking themselves too seriously the models where relaxed with an air of cool confidence on the catwalk. In France people are still keenly aware that it's not just what you wear but how you wear it that's keenly important and in truth this too often forgotten in many other countries. It's the wearer that really "makes" the fashion look that you wear.
Colour scheming in much of the collection is straightforward with each piece usually in two, at most three different colours. Contrast makes a strong statement as well as the sympathetic layering of white lace over marine green and floral colours. The Bomber Jacket makes it's Haute Couture debut on the catwalk coordinating with several pieces above offering a new spin on the 90's casual. Sleek black trousers and light embroidered tops offer a casual-style Haute Couture option while the pop princess dress to the right with lace ruffles and fitted black outer layer looks like a dream piece to enjoy.
Barefoot glamour on the catwalk is a great way to show a relaxed attitude in the clothes. Lose long lines and swinging hips portray the ease of the style with an elongated tuxedo sitting over the hips with sash tie detail. Stonewashed trousers and a necker-tie give a high-glamour casual feel to the look and the midnight-blue court shoes add a twist of stronger colour. Looking faintly David Bowie-style by way of tribute the next piece a beautiful sheer universal evening wear number will suit many occasions. Blue-silver accented with black jewellery and champagne-sand coloured shoes make a delicate combination. Taking a bohemian theme the centre piece above with swathes of floral and square imprimed silks is a beautiful alternative to a more conventional outfit. It's bold and like many of the looks suits women of any age. The black jacket and silver slashed skirt to the right is easy luxury to wear to any society event with or without the boots and the broad lapel jacket winged across the shoulders is a classic in it's own right. The flowing open robe on the look to the right is pure theatre glamour that will turn heads and be a fantastic piece for a client to enjoy. Black tuxedo trousers take on a new life with the sheer nude embroidered halter top creating the most delicate balance of beauty of the masculine and feminine looking like jewellery for the body.
The theatrics move up a gear as the collection enter the later looks and black plays a greater part in the collection. The model half-veiled by her head piece in a subtly dramatic black dress with orange train works the vamp look to great effect. Eve makeup for this collection is moody and full with vibrant lips giving a clarity to the look by off-setting the colour of the dresses. It's all about statements as this Princess of the Palace walks out using many different fashion languages to express how she feels. Above the dress with bandeau bodice and flowing open sheer wrap skirt makes a beautiful elegant train for warm summer nights. Gold Arabian style jewellery echos the hot climbs of the east for Summer while centre above the top, trousers and jacket combination have a powerful night mood about them. You wear this piece standing on the stage of a concert, to a party or a dinner anywhere else in the world and course in front of the camera at any event. Playing all out with shapes and textiles the while fur jacket with it's fish-net tights and court shoes intrigues us about the woman behind the mask.
With a broad stroke of originality the dress for right is a 3-in-1 creation of corset, train and sleeved jacket. Truly unique. Below left another one of my favourite pieces shows a metal-fame corset cinching together a diaphanous trouser suit wrapped in silk and light to the touch. Glass in hand this Jean-Paul Gaultier woman is every in the Glamour Queen of the night and you can sense the air thick with heady scent and music around her. This collection from Jean-Paul was meant to be a celebration of a new era for his House and he has achieved this. There are looks to linger over and many options for clients old and new.