Haute Couture Spring & Summer 2019
Spring and Summer Haute Couture week usually arrives in Paris when there is some pretty serious cold weather happening in Europe. This never stops the fashion faithful though and they arrive from all corners of the globe to see the thankfully expanding Haute Couture schedule offer it's best. January didn't dissapoint with feast of the creativity on offer of the highest order.
The House of Chanel has a unique way of drawing people into it's world and this season for Haute Couture we arrived at the fabled coast of South-East France and where welcomed into the gardens of Villa Chanel within the Grand Palais to see the Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2019 presented. The exactness of Haute Couture has an innate correspondance with the precision of the eye of Karl Lagerfeld and his design partner Virginie Viard. It's hardly surprising that for many this show is one of the highlights of the week. Ssam McKnight and his team dramatically swept hair upward this season echoing the height of the eighteenth century wigs whilst small flowers accented the hair styles around the left ear.
A shimmering Silver suit opened the collection, echoing the shine of the light on the waves of the sea. It's a piece striking in it's simplicity of composure that set the tone for the following collection. Cut so as to emphasise the vertical line and elongate the figure, the lines of the classic boucle jacket are transposed to the front seam split of the skirt with a border matching the line of the jacket. The collar line is cut in a soft dip to meet the central seam of the jacket, only seemingly slightly different from the jacket at the waist. It fits the client like a glove. From the metallic Silver of the first look, the collection moves to soft pastel day suits. A baby Pink tweed suit wraps the wearer in stylish softness with the Chanel hallmarks appear in the classic composition of the jacket. In addition an asymmetric fold sweeps down from the right shoulder with a midi length pencil skirt wrapping the wearer for the spring breeze.
Soft baby Blue escalloped high sleeves sitting at the shoulders sit above carefully traced lines brocade twine tracing the line of the bodice in a soft White. Cut to perfection the light immaculately woven tweed sits on the figure in a single seamless cut piece speaking to the expertise of the Chanel atelier. A Cream-White skirt suit nudges convention with an asymmetric lapel dropping from left to right across the neckline. The formality of a double-breasted jacket is softened with a similar brush of the pen. The midi length pleated hemline of the skirt echoes the interwar years when Gabrielle Chanel saw the business era expand and dress a second generation of women, now across the globe. Soft pockets sitting at the hips carry the Chanel mood of practicality with the utmost discretion. A dropped waist jacket and pleated above ankle skirt is both warm and universally flattering to a wide variety of figures. A Silver skirt suit blends features of the previous two looks. It’s square front facing pockets and modest angular lapels descending to a plunge neckline, it expertly blends the familiar and the innovative.
Chanel need to reach multiple generations of clients at a touch with this collections and given the heritage and legacy of the brand it’s a sensible idea. Taking the tailored lines of the jacket and making a playful twist with a square cut-away corner, a lilac jacket and skirt suit ably offer an haute couture play on a known mode. Deep Blue-Purple feathers circling the collar, cuff and hemline add a texture and colour contrast to catch the eye. In another look that would be also suitable for the evening a Midnight Blue suit with waistband cinching ribbon folded fabric sits above a matching satin skirt. It’s demure and contemporary again hinting at the lines of the 1930’s or Chanel’s modern woman. The Chanel Little Black Dress gets a transformation in a midi length with cape detail at the shoulders above the sleeves. Sleek and streamlined, it’s buttoned around the figure like a light coat. It’s Haute Couture in the most classic sense but as easy to wear as slipping on a glove.
An Egg Shell Blue tweed mini-dress with a light cape at the shoulders is a simple sophisticated versatile look for clients globally. It has the feel of a garment that will be very much in demand from clients this season. A tweed suit in Rose with Salmon accents at the lapels and cuffs of the jacket turns formality around with a new approach to the structured suit. Another easy look to add to the wardrobe it’s as perfect for daytime and date night. The open weave style of the classic Chanel tweed is brought into high relief in a dress and long jacket with an under layer of Rose Pink wrapped in large weave tweed. The cut-away design brings hints of craft to Haute Couture with a blouse underneath featuring gathers creating a diamond effect.
Soft pastels bring flowers walking to life walking in front of guests. Hand sewn in both fabric and sequins at the hemline, neckline and shoulders a Pink-Blue floral border gently off-sets the soft Rose of the dress bodice. It's a fresh style but not in any way radical as you would expect from Chanel. The small button sized flowers come to the fore in a bodice and skirt featuring the floral applique with deep Rose Pink lines tracing a line across the surface of the garment between the flower heads like a mystery maze. Tiny borders in the neckline and base of the bodice are echoed in the hemline of the skirt and a Rose ribbon at the waist adds a light hint of textile tonal contrast to the look. High relief applique brings movement and life to a dress and bolero jacket combination in sweet notes of spring as the wearer walks. Her shoes are silk satin created in a combination of the style of the mule and the ankle boot. They appear simple and flattering and as with many dresses in the collection bely the complexity of care taken to design them.
Blending the jacket and dress into one piece, the next look to the right shows a bodice finely embroidered with flowers essentially becoming the jacket when fabric is folded back across the figure with sleeves cut and an open tapered jacket line. A ruched Lilac ribbon at the waist defines the curve of the figure and this simple one-piece is, like much of the collection, very easy to wear. To the right, a dress with the 18th century hints of line that Lagerfeld and also Dior and Yves Saint Lauren have admired also uses this. The Mint silk fabric is folded back on itself, flower jewels are both present in the underlayers of the skirt as also in the outer shoulder cape of the dress. Tracing with the eye it is possible to detect that one complete piece of fabric may have been employed from the underskirt through the completion at the shoulders. It's a flattering piece that will suit a variety of skin tones. To the right a shoulder less dress with a sweetheart neckline descends to a sashed cross waist making a contrast to the Tulip dual layered skirt.
Black and White are two of the House 'Codes' that Chanel have spoken about in recent years and the first look to the left features a jacket in silk imbued with a variation of the houndstooth print. Broad lapels sit above a double bow emulating a Butterfly wither side of deep cut neckline. The pleats of a White skirt appear from beneath the jacket hem sealing the monochrome theme. This is an easy look to wear during the day or across to the evening. A jacket dress with long sleeves and a plunge neckline hints at the power dressing of the 1980's adapting the men's military jacket. It's another highly versatile piece that could take you from Boardroom to lunch or dinner or the theatre. A sheer Black cocktail dress fringed at the skirt with plumes of tulle running from the hips to above the knee and at the bandeau line offers a punchy take on the 1980's cocktail dress. A light open jacket sitting across the shoulders fringed in tulle completes the look and adds a hint of formality to the style.
Embracing the lighter days of spring the White of the next looks to the right perfectly offsets the applique and print flowers. A short sleeved jacket with flowers in Buttercup, Cornflower Blue and Rose recalls spring fields of the French countryside while a feathered mini skirt brings a fun contrasting feminine shape to the overall look. A halterneck bodice is cut away at the waist and banded in Gold with two tiers encircling the lower waist and hip. The fabric cinched into soft pleats continues in a separate skirt cut in a soft A-line that falls above the ankles in a soft golden banded hem. There's a hint of the traditional country clothing here and it's a sophisticated and romantic look. To the right a full skirted dress also carries the spirit of pastoral romance into the new season with a round collar and fringed skirt echoing heritage style.
Embroidery is an area that the French and British share as one of the key components of their traditional textile heritage and several feature pieces highlight the creative fun you can have with it. Above to the left a White linen suit features embroidered bands marking material breaks in the figure across the long line jacket. Teamed with a midi length skirt (that could possibly be a slip dress) showing the faintest hint of ribbed fabric, the beautifully embroidered bands also define three tiers as in the jacket. This is perfect wedding, christening formal wear look with broad appeal. The collection continues to channel heritage without a backward looking sense of nostalgia, more a twist and update. A shorter version of the jacket with a more open look sits lightly on the shoulders above a dress composed of a light bodice and gathered fine pleated semi-sheer silk. Light and carefree, it's perfect for formal occasions but not too serious and austere.
A tunic reaching below the waist transposes the brocade features from the jacket to a chic piece. A jacket could be added for formal settings to cover the shoulders if wished and the mini skirt cut in the same fabric as the dress will suit warm days. An embroidered halter neckline showcases the skill of the atelier making a feature of the carefully woven bands of lace with an embroidered bodice descending to an overtly pretty dress . Vertical embroidered lace bands running from the bodice to the hemline. It's softly romantic but also has a modern feel. You could wait this to a gala, ball, summer night party or even a fair. An off the shoulder dress, continuing the Ice-White theme perfectly places small sleeves in line with the bandeau neckline of the dress. Falling in graduated tiers through the length of the garment to the ankles with a small gathered tulle fringe, it's a beautiful party dress and a dream for warm Summer days. I see hints of Regency era style as we call it in the UK in several looks here but with a fresh feel.
As the collection steps more assuredly into eveningwear Black returns as the designers main canvas through a series of looks with thin Golden woven brocade banding the dress at the bodice and above the knee. Ruching is a key feature of this piece with silk gathered closely to give a feel of movement within the dress as the wearer walks or dances. It's a beautiful piece, that like many here could also sneak into the autumn wardrobe too. A side angle provides a glimpse at the intricate detail contained in the under layers of the skirt folded back on itself. Beaded bands of crystal flowers form borders around the bodice, defining the shape in contrast to the wide flowing style of the skirt. Again signs of another era echo with the breadth of 18th and mid 20th century skirts defining the line of the garments.
Centre above a Black cocktail dress with off the shoulder neckline and Rose sash at the waist forms a classical composition with a skirt fronted in Black silk and tulle gathered behind the wearer it shows an unconventional twist to the style. From Red carpet appearances to private events, this is a beautiful versatile look. To the right rosette ribbons of Rose silk garnish the right hand side of a dress to show both colour and dimensional contrast in an evening dress. It's bold but not startling and also has hints of the traditional Spanish style. To the right a more subtle invocation of the gathered side pleat addition to the outfit with boldness in the design created by shimmering sequinned flowers sewn across the fabric. A simple ribbon marking the neckline and crossing the waist to tie in a bow continues the simple style sense of innocent sophistication that the collection as a whole feels to evoke.
A beautifully beaded Black cocktail dress also uses the side gathering of fabric to create a flourish and curve in the figure of the wearer. With Black ribbon crossing the garment at the waist to emphasise the waist it gently tries to define the adult hour glass figure. The light slip-dress design of this piece and that of it's neighbour to the right cut in a very similar style shows how a single 'mode' can be worked to give a very different impression. Either dress could be easily matched with a jacket or wrap to banish cooler evenings and these super-adaptable looks that could be worn all year round if you wished. Centre and right above two dresses use a pastel base note and frames referencing the corsets and enhanced waist outlines of the 18th century in Western Europe again. Flowers become the chosen jewels of adornment with colour sewn across the fabric of the dress to strew it with the colours of spring. The Pink dress carries feathers to create an impression of femininity on an angular dress with plumes at the cuffs above the elbow echoing the dimensional use of space. To the right traditional textiles are recalled in Blue floral print banded at the waist and the hem by graduated thicknesses of Sky Blue ribbon. It has a feel of the girls dress made grown up I think and references the simple styles of a relaxed country wardrobe. Worn to a ball, or formal gala, I think this would also be a nice piece for a date night or film festival alike.
Pieces take on more elaboration in design as the collection progresses to potential Bridal styles. A Lilac knee length dress captures volume with ballooned sleeves mirroring the style of tiered skirts. Gathered in the traditional way of creating volume, it's an easy look for daytime or evening that sits lightly in the skin. Centre above an ankle length skirt takes hints of Edwardian style with a below the knee hemline giving way to a voluminous skirt. Again arms are cloaked in balloon sleeves met at the wrist by soft but closely fitted cuffs in the upper blouse and the waist is cinched with a Violet ribbon creating a simple sweet definition as in earlier looks in the collection. There something of the Rose and Violet cream fondant about these looks, if you were to make a chocolate analogy. To the right a thin strapped tunic blouse blends the colours of the flower bed in a peaceful harmony in a contrast to the sharp cut lines of the fringe. A double layer fish tail skirt gives a kick of movement as the wearer walks.
The breadth of the 18th century returns once more in a Rose dress with tiered voluminous skirt panels hanging from the hips. A simple bodice not too dissimilar from a blouse shape is cut with gentle angulation in contrast to the wrapping layers of the skirt. It's an ode to romance that would be a dream to wear and capture the eye and the heart. Centre below another Rose pink dress with it's tired layers and intricate bodice details. These Rose bridal looks are a dream come true and the hints of 18th century style show Lagerfeld's yearning perhaps to be able to cross time and dress the society figures of another era. They are fascinating pieces of broderie anglaise and again demonstrate a key area of the shared fashion heritage that runs between Britain and France across centuries. The final piece to walk in front of the seaside villa was a bridal gown formed from a swimsuit set with glass like crystal across the surface. It's the ultimate simmering piece and with a cap to match so as not to get hair wet, this would be the ultimate maritime bridal statement or perhaps something fun to pack for the honeymoon.
Images (C) Alexis Mabille
For smooth polished sophisticated Haute Couture, Alexis Mabille is a name that you need to have at the top of your thoughts. Seasonally he is offering an array of designs that are polished and sophisticated in the embodiment of what many visualise when looking to Paris for Haute Couture and there is also an angle of individuality in his designs that endowers them with a fresh prescience.
Prettiness is firmly in Vogue on the Haute Couture catwalk blasting away lamentations of sportswear creeping onto the scene. Clients around the world primarily thing of luxury day and evening wear to comprise a certain tone of sophisticated style that Mabille and some of his contemporaries in the younger generation of Couturiers are happily supplying in number from one season to the next. Listen to the women, they know what they want and Alexis Mabille is listening. A chic Black dress is one of the core pieces that many women will have in their wardrobes around the world. They can work in so many ways and the opening look I chose to show above to the left with it's Black silk bow tied across the waist is actually wrapped over from the main body of the dress. This stunningly constructed one piece is ready to rock the dance floor and appear in front of the cameras. Turning the day suit into a piece of superb evening wear a Midnight Blue jacket relaxes the classic military style borrowed from the 19th century male wardrobe and teams it with a dress generously cut around the figure. The side stripe of military uniform is converted to a border that delineates the wrap-around style yet the whole look is unmistakably feminine.
Possibly the most elegant jacket dress you can imagine appears next to the right with a pristine White silk shirt underneath. Acres of Black silk flow across the figure to the floor, draped in harmony with the understanding of the form that is expected of Haute Couture. A buttoned waist band puts a formal suited twist on a look that gives a purposeful feeling and still a dress that you could dance in. To the right a quilted silk jacket buckled at the waist descends to a skirt dropping just below the waist with a shimmer of Purple and Black pleats. A diamond circle at the waist holds the look in place with a Black silk ribbon.
A Magenta blouse tied with a black silk bow pairs to a flowing skirt in the same shades with tight pleats at the waist descending to smooth lower lengths. This look shows one of the modes modern couture to construct a look based on complimentary contrasts. This seems to work in many ways across the fashion spectrum and as seen here can offer the possibility of conjuring many options to suit clients that are not too radical. It flows with easy elegance and would be appropriate for the Red carpet around the world or a high profile VIP person to wear at an official engagement. Smooth and light, silk, a natural fabric is a perfect companion in the Summer months. To the right a fiesta of colour arrives on the catwalk with a floor length dress referencing the flamenco traditions of music and culture of ancient Iberia. A perfect ensemble for warm evening events in the summer months.
A Midnight Blue palette returns in the next two looks with a dress featuring beautiful long lines sweeping down across the figure in perhaps a Moroccan influenced style. At the right and left shoulder intricate embroidery if soft florals is off-set with gauzy gathered tulle spotted in Red and White. A beautiful bow at the neckline off set to the right continues the theme of a sophisticated prettiness. To the far right a trailing dress appears to move in a continuous shimmering sheet of fabric around the figure and flowing behind in a train. A hint of the angular appears in the shoulders forming a subtle contrast with the flowing fabrics. It's another Red carpet gem to stand, or indeed walk alongside many in the collection.
A rich chocolatey Purple draped in the form of a Roman woman's day dress almost, clipped at the shoulders is bordered with a gauzy mist of tulle dotted to give a third texture to the garment. With the front of the dress beginning at knee length and descending to a train behind the wearer, it's an easy look to wear on warmer evenings. A floor length dress with long sleeves supported by shimmering stone clasps at the shoulder and above the elbow blends the minimal at the shoulders with the fully draped skirt swirling around the wearer. It would fit the mood of a drinks party or film screening. Continuing the theme of colours from the jewel box, a bold Emerald dress cut in satin silk in the bodice is similarly clipped with crystal clusters at the shoulders and above the elbow with a flowing double layered skirt falling to the floor and encapsulating a train behind the wearer as she walks. A cocktail dress cut in panels with cut away sleeves flows to a soft skirt circular cut skirt with a dipped hemline. A crystal circle shimmers at the waist of the wearer offsetting the Emerald lustre. To the right a Ruby long line dress hugs the figure with generous fabric cloaking the in soft satin silk and tied at the waist with a large bow. Bows are a Mabille signature theme and why not?
Bright florals fall across the fabric of a Rose-White dress with the petals of one flower reaching up across the bodice. It's the most natural idea but one I haven't seen before and gives the garment an extra sense of life. Cut close to the figure this look captures the essence of cocktail and Black tie glamour for the months of sunshine when flowers are in bloom. To the right a Scarlett dress features a blouse style bodice with generously cut sleeves sitting above a fold-over sash tie around the waist gathered from fabric of the skirt itself. Voluminous fabric wraps envelops the legs rippling as the wearer walks and descending to an elegant train. The bow forms the bodice itself of the next look continuing the Scarlett theme. Sitting at an angle with a larger bow fold sweeping upwards across the left shoulder and a smaller one under the right. A sculpted bodice sits above woven lace falling from the hips to the mid-thigh with an outer layer of sheer silk descending to the ankles floating around the wearer as she walks thanks to the lightness of the fabric.
To the centre right a popular mode from one of the previous collection is revitalised as a beautiful floor length deep Rose gown also features a cape as part of a single garment. The off-the-shoulder style wraps around the figure like a protective glove and there is a hint of the traditional angelic silhouette here too perhaps emphasising beauty in symmetry and line. It's breathes romance in the expression as much of the collection. To the right a sweetheart neckline captures the curved arches of the drawn heart in it's bodice with paired buttons between the neckline and the hips echoing the formal blazer jacket style. It's an imaginative expression of duality. Pockets on the hips seal the transformation of the blazer to the dress. A dipped hemline enhances the appearance of the flow and movement of the deep Rose fabric as the wearer walks and it's an elegant understated look that could be worn with a jacket or wrap.
A Pink fizz of a dress brings the cocktail to the cocktail dress in the first look above to the left. A simple above the knee belted tunic dress is transformed into a memorable sparkler with a light velvet dress overlaid with dotted netting. This vintage era fabric often used for millinery in the past brings an extra dimension to a look in more ways than one. It's an easy piece for everything from Red Carpet duties to family events across the Spring and Summer season. A halter neckline dress weaves together delicate lace and sheer Magenta silk pressed into tiny pleats at the waist before descending to the flowing lengths of the skirt. It looks Indian to my eyes in several respects and also echoes traditional Roman ecclesiastical dress with it's broad lace borders. Transforming traditional elements of textile work and bringing them to the catwalk shows that these skills are just as relevant and fresh today as they have been for centuries.
Centre above a Champagne lace dress with long sleeves and a belted waist incorporates a double layer of embroidery in both White and Ivory. It's a modest look for day and evening and a truly classic timeless piece that would suit many wearers across the globe. The bow theme returns with a fascinating triple bow tie design descending the front of a Gold satin dress. With the ties revealing the figure, it's a complementary look for toned figures and the smooth golden silk moves as the wearer walks like liquid as the model walks. To the right, a different tone of bright Gold shimmers across the surface of the figure with golden netting swirling around the shoulders like a misty cape. It's an ethereal composition and one of unquestionable glamour that would light up a Red Carpet or Gala entrance and also shield the wearer a little from the breeze.
A beautiful set of dresses in Imperial Yellow bring another strength of colour to the collection. To the left above a floor length dress teams the detail of a shirt with laced sewn neckline and embroidered lace detail met with the a generous full length dress skirt belted at the waist. Acres of fabric cloak the wearer and sleeves cut open to the mid upper arm echo the ancient styles of the Imperial Chinese Court dress. It's a breathtaking piece, classic and contemporary and easily spans the array of events that you may need to wear it to. The models all wore wonderful hair piece detail around the right side of their hair lines that blended millinery and face make-up in one. Eye lids where swept with Magenta Pink deep to the eyebrow line across the collection creating an Angelic, yet eagle eyed impression. Lips and cheeks remained nude so the eyes held the attention of the face as the wearer walked.
Centre above a plume of feathers surrounded the bodice of the dress that descended to a fitted waist composed of a panelled bodice. Descending to a full skirt continuing the panel theme the volume speaks pure perfection and style with the precision of the craftsmanship readily admirable but at the same time not overpowering to the wearer. It's something that Mabille gets right again and again in his looks. This is a perfect piece for formal balls, Red Carpet, (I'm thinking of Cannes already) and could easily dress clients across the age spectrums. To the right a show stopping dress adds aeronautical volume to the cape with puffed fabric creating a balloon-like demi cocoon around the wearer. She's making a confident statement as she walks into the room and the body of the dress in Midnight Blue with cloudlike flourishes sewn with shimmering thread and crystals make a magical romantic contrast to the bright Yellow. Sun and moon, the day and the night combine to create an image of strength and beauty around the figure of the woman. She is godess.
A cocktail dress in Black uses sheer curved panels of lace shaped like escallops to emphasise the curved lines of beauty in contrast to the column form of the dress. Sculpted in elegance, this look carries on the figure perfectly from the bodice to the floor length hemline. Shimmering sequins of the middle panel face forward offer an undulating play with light. It's a perfect glamourous piece of eveningwear that could be the toast of the Red Carpet this season. Like so many pieces here it also has the ability to live long in the wardrobe through the seasons. Add a wrap in the spring breeze for an extra ounce of glamour. An Orange bow tie across the bodice placing vertical tapers across the hips above warm Rose culottes trousers signals a part of the collection playing with bold colour contrasts. It's pretty but at the same time a serious fashion statement that will draw admiring glances and keep the cameras clicking.
Centre above an Imperial Yellow accent to the dress with Clementine neckline cape and the main bodice and skirt of the dress Magenta cut in a circle to flow around in ripples around the wearer. The garment has a beautiful movement all sealed with a diamond circle at the waist. It's an essential cocktail dress with an extra touch of vamp glamour. To the right, a Magenta satin dress cut in a single piece from the bodice to the knee length hem is overlain with a chemise lightly embroidered with florals motifs and lace stitching at the neckline. It's a passionate bolt of colour. It's twin to the right, a Lime off-the-shoulder shirt dress T's up the best of fine separates tailoring and of Haute Couture dress making with the neckline accented with two dark Midnight Navy Blue bows on a band across the neckline. This garment like many in the collection features pockets showing the Haute Couture tradition of being practical for ladies as well as a superbly finished piece.
These two vibrant colours in a taste of India fuse in the next look above to the left with a Magenta lace bodice tied underneath a caped jacket. Uniting both colours on the outer and inner sides of the fabric this look is an optical spectacular piece. Note the skirt that folds around the figure almost in a leaf like shape. It's gentle wrap enhances the plant-like quality of the garment and the model is almost like a model flower fairy brought to life. Nothing delicate in the neatness of the lines though, she is all confidence. To the right an evening gown in Hot Pink is tied with a broad bow at the waist to cinch the figure a little but without losing the shape. Generously folded fabric sweeps around the figure with broad elbow length sleeves in a natural harmony with the lengths of the dress. Incorporating a train behind in a dual train-cape moment it's one of the most demure looks of the collection. To the right a Magenta translation of the Golden Yellow dress above breathes an elegant air of style into the collection channelling Balenciaga and mid-20th Century Parisian chic.
To the right above, an Aquamarine fishtail dress again embodies a dual style composed of shirt and dress in one garment. It's an illustration that you can combine two forms of traditional clothing items together in one piece and create something new. The same jewel colour appears in the feather bodice look below to the left with the fluid lines of the dress skirt cloaking the wearer. It's a dress wishing to be taken out on the Red Carpet and shown the light of day. To close the look at the collection Mabille offers two very different versions of a bridal gown. Firstly a grandly dipped hemline flows in an arch around the wearer creating a raised hoop effect. Light embroidered lace falls from the frame in the image of a waterfall with a long-line lace dress underneath showcasing exquisite embroidery detail. Both the layers compliment and flatter eachother. To the far right an angelic silhouette frames the figure with the lace of the bridal veil made a cape descending to a train behind the wearers. Her dress of an outer tunic of White cotton and a tulle underdress of a mille feuille of gathered pleats provides an engaging style that will happily walk it's way up any aisle or catwalk.
Images (C) Alexander Vauthier
This season Alexander Vauthier blended smooth and sexy in equal measure with style in a largely monochrome collection with hints of gold. There where dresses, suits, skirts and cravat neckties all taking their place for a Regal march of splenour.
A chic cocktail mini dress makes a feature of one of the key trends this season in couture and one that I personally believe was championed by Alexis Mabille, the Bow, sits tied across the bodice of the dress. The distilled essence of monochrome infuses the look with a clear note of elegance. White satin tied around the bodice contrasts with the Black shimmer of sequins of the Tulip shaped mini-dress. This is a piece asking to be invited onto the dance floor and would be a sophisticated showstopper at any event and a gem in front of the cameras. A Black tuxedo suit complete with waistcoat blends the masculine and the feminine in a graceful swoop. A ruff collar emphasises the duality of the delicate appearing also in the masculine design and slim line cigarette pants nod to the influence of Yves Saint Laurent and the mid-20th century. Gold buttons at the jacket and waistcoat hint at a sharp eye for detail of the wearer and enjoyment of the finer details.
A high waisted jacket is sewn with Golden and Silver thread showing abstract natural shapes across the fabric. A White blouse with firm collar and Black silk neck tie also borrows from the gentleman's wardrobe and in combination with the jacket gives the hint of the matador costume. Black velvet trousers are replaced with a tulip shape mini-skirt and scrunched down boots complete the look. Pristine White blouses are a key aspect in this collection and a White blouse with pin tie is paired with a finely pleated skirt with crystal buckle to give a refined note of Haute Couture excellence. A Black coat with winged lapels completes a sharply tailored look for Spring embracing a work and play ethic. To the right, ruffled curls of silk surround an off the shoulder mini dress that's a sure fire Red Carpet hit. This dress is a statement of strength and the dipped tips of the fabric hint millinery expression and the summer formal wear season.
A bow tied into a plumed shape trails generous ribbon lengths across the shirt and a sequinned jacket features broad lapels and cuffs in an emphatic nod to the classic jacket form given a re-work. It's at once 'easy' with it's off the shoulder nonchalance and also highly refined in it's detail using jewelled buttons to close the cuffs. The sleek bow is matched by Black slim line trousers reaching to the mid-calf offering a duality of texture in the monochrome style of the look. The shimmer and sparkle of the dance floor returns with a look reflecting quite literally the late 1970’s and early 1980’s disco era. A mini dress with voluminous sleeves cascading over cuffs at the mid forearm creates a pretty volume contrast to the fitted bodice and peplum fringe skirt wrapped around the waist. This is a dress to party in and celebrate a good pair of toned pins and the Blush-Champagne colour suits the full spectrum of skin tones.
A Clay jacket and pencil skirt teamed with a White blouse pinned with a cravat to seal a look of statement high elegance. Why shouldn’t women use tiepins in their crafts, it looks beautiful? The skirt features a broad waist band with peplum folds around the waist and invisible deep pockets at the hips are contrasted with traditional pocket flaps of the high waisted jacket pockets. It’s an elegant work and play outfit that could easily turn into a trusted wardrobe favourite. A finely woven puff ball plaid mini skirt and waist coat create a modern classic look with a vintage feel. A ruff collar White shirt with cravat acts as a fine tailored underlayer just as it would have done in earlier times and the sleeves rolled up suggest modern practicality. To the right, a White blouse, Black silk shorts and a broad lapel White dinner jacket turn the men’s tuxedo style into a day or evening wear outfit.
A memorable feature of the collection was a White blouse with sleeves fanned out in the shape of wings around the figure in a halo of wings. Brushed cotton Black trousers pressed with firm lines define the Parisian monochrome elegance. Fine pleats across the tuxedo shirt are signed off with a muse of a silk wrap around the neckline. A simple neck amulet and pearl bracelets worn at the ankle add a personal touch to the cosmopolitan uniform look. A jewelled mini dress in Blush uses similar peplum skirt lines to the shimmering look two galleries above with a loose fitted shirt jacket. The fabric is dotted with large crystal shapes and an over-sized bow of the same fabric sits off-set on the head. In the same hue cast in metallic a pair of slouch boots give a playful twist to the appearance of the full look.
This same metallic fabric is formed into a cocktail dress gathered in ruched bands crossing the figure at the bodice with a dropped sash tie at the waist. Individual plume rosettes at the shoulders add a flourish to the silhouette each individually shaped. To the right an immaculate White shirt is tied with a single folded ribbon of Black silk pinned with a twinkling cravat pin. A finely pleated skirt descends to the ankles capturing fluid movement around the figure.
The simplicity of elegance of an evening dress created by wrapped folds of softest Cream-Ivory fabric crosses the body from the upper arms to the waist diagonal. A puffed mini skirt resting just below the hips is contrasted with broad flowing ribbon sleeves that trail behind the wearer. The visual effect of the flowing Ivory produces a silhouette defines the flow of elegance. A broad circular dual layer satin collar makes another confident statement of glamour on a satin mini dress with ruched bodice. As with other looks in the collection, the abundant use of fabric speaks of the perfection of Haute Couture.
A slim White trouser suit with a single button at the waist is an effortless piece if Parisian wardrobe magic that will be needed by clients around the globe. While some playful looks will be snapped up the staples are always a sure sell for designers. A beautiful leisure-time look in the form of a perfectly cut sweater and long sheer skirt in Blush striped with crystals sewn on the horizontal falling to the apex of pleats showing alignment on the vertical. The high neckline of the sweater and the dropped boots give a snug, cosy feel. A fantasia blouse festooned with ruffles echoes the broad styles of traditional Spanish dress or even the Franco-Italian Grimaldi clown. It’s celebratory garment that is toned-down with a pair of Black slim-lined trousers to make a beautiful look.
A Bridal theme is celebrated in the mini dress above to the left with a tulle veil wrapping the figure and the twinkle of a jewelled peeping out from underneath. As with most Haute Couture pieces this look could be worn as is or adapted as bespoke allows. An extension of a ruffled collar to fall the full length of a mini dress like a waterfall of symmetry. This Blush dress is another fun look that is calling for a party to go to and would be an excellent Red Carpet piece in awards and film preview season. Centre above a single shouldered Black mini dress with White polka dots across the tulle surface of another perfect party choice for the Summer months. The classic fabric is back en Vogue around the world and would make a timeless wardrobe addition.
To the right a shimmering suit with loose fitted open jacket and ankle length skirt is bordered with silk brocade. A fitted White blouse with cravat tie continues the elegant statements underlined through the collection. To close my look at the seasonal offering a shoulder less dress with glittering bandeau bodice tied with a bow and a long Black velvet skirt reaching the ankles. This is wonderful Ball or Red Carpet look that could also be teamed with a wrap or a jacket.
Images (C) Christian Dior.
The circus came to town with for Dior’s entrance into the Spring-Summer 2019 ring. An acrobatic interpretation of new season style carried over into the looks themselves. A Black above-the-knee dress with a dipped hem with a broad raffia neckline with bow tie lies under a velvet dress shell. It’s a perfect cocktail dress to wear across any season. A Scarlett trouser suit with pressed trouser lines and military detail jacket reflects the ring masters uniform of the traditional circus. To the right the same styling is translated to a full length Black jacket. Each have pockets on the hips showing practicality at the heart of style. Centre above fine lines of Black on the horizontal in the bodice and Scarlet chevrons covering the mini-skirt. It’s a dress for a performer meant for the spotlight. To the right a Black dress with a sash wrapped across the waist formed from the lengths of the dress. Simply fringed at the neckline, cuffs and the sash border, it has a soft feel of warmth that feels like a scarf wrapped into a dress.
Models wore circus clown scull caps to protect their hair and heads whilst doing acrobatics and they walked on the glitter of twinkling boots and shoes. A White military jacket-style is lengthened and cut to the form of a tunic line dress but finished and lined with the jacket style. It’s rather a double jacket look as a tailored short jacket sits over the dress sitting open above the hips to show the dress detail. A new take on formality. A classically cut White long dress carries hints of the style Maria-Grazia Chiuri used at the House of Valentino but with hints of Dior line. Flame-like flickers perhaps from the fire breathing performers fringe the surface of the dress at the bodice and waist and the semi sheer lengths of the tulle skirt. It’s a romantic piece and if worn without the cap is a truly versatile look for the Spring-Summer wardrobe.
Flickering flames appear as panels rising up a tunic dress with a Black tulle ruff collar reminiscent of the circus clown. Whilst makeup is kept nude with strong Black eye liner and a tear-drop making a presence, it’s the clothes themselves that make the greatest impression. A burnished Gold dress composed of tightly folded pleats wraps around the shoulders before twisting to flow across the bodice and through the length of the skirt. It has the mark of timelessness about it and it an easy piece for clients to wear. The flickers of the flame appear again in a tunic line dress with accented waist and semi-sheer sleeves. The Blush tones underneath give a natural off-set to the vibrancy of the colour.
A woven caramel bodice resembling raffia brings an arts and crafts feel to a mini dress with tulle layered in strips around the lengths of the skirt and at the bandeau neckline. A floating shoulder less dress makes a feature of pleating with fine gathers at the bandeau bodice line repeated through ruched layered gathers in the upper dress and more free flowing dress lengths in a pastel wash of Blush to smoky Violet. The Ringmaster’s suit with it’s military echoes returns with trousers cut at the mid-calf and Gold brocade weaving in symmetrical shapes. The Grimaldi clown suit is transformed into a pretty party dress with large Black diamonds and Red dots add the jocular notes of clown costume. To the right a Black dress with it’s broad ruff collar and fitted bodice has hints of 16th-17th century vintage with semi-sheer ballooned sleeves and trousers completing the look similar to that worn by a man in the renaissance era.
Another faint echo of Valentino appears in a Golden skirted dress emblazoned with illustrations below a velvet bodice and whisper-thin tulle blouse. Simplicity is the word in the next look with a White summer dress cinched in tiny gathered pleats at the bodice flowing down to a broad skirt imitating the lines of 19th century dresses without the hoops. The freedom of the fabric to swirl around the figure chimes with the carefree fun of the circus and Summer days. A Yellow-Gold silk dress weaves fabric across the figure to form the bodice above lose flowing lengths of skirt. It’s a light and easy look that would suit many for balls and Black-tie events with a flourish of ribbon at the shoulder. A sheer White blouse and Black embroidered tissue skirt offer the lightest formal ensemble for a Summer event, easily accompanied by a jacket.
The woven theme returns in a longer dress with bodice woven with a soft rainbow of pastel threads. Strands from the weave descend across the soft tulle rainbow skirt in streams like the maypole ribbons of Spring. Creating a carefree raffia texture it’s a look that bridges the bohemian and the elegant and would charm at a Summer ball. A White silk blouse and Black trouser combination suit show detailed hand stitched embroidery and a Golden neck tie clasp. A Blush Rose floor-length dress centre above is wrapped in snaking curves perhaps symbolising the movement of the circus caravan and through towns and countries across Europe and the juggling motion of acrobats. The broad neckline invites a piece of jewellery to join the piece and it could be worn with a wrap in the cooler spring.
A rainbow of soft colours falls down a mini dress in tassels and voluminous layers of Nude Blush tulle make a puff skirt mixing a party look with the performance of the big tent. To the right a sheer Blush blouse and harlequin skirt of Rose Gold and Yellow Gold recalls the traditional 18th and early 19th century Europe. It’s serious in it’s style though and would make an impact at events in the Spring carnival and Summer Ball seasons.
For the slimmest figures a one-piece Black trouser bodysuit flatters a toned look with White Sheer long sleeved blouse worn underneath. A fringed broad collar adds an extra touch of Haute Couture precision style. Curled wave peaks like the outer seams of the big tent circle a cape worn over a sheer nude dress is two party looks in one. You can wear both or either and have a fantastic night out. The classic simplicity of a Black jacket and skirt suit combo’ shows Haute Couture detail in the added volume from the pin-tucked plumes at the shoulder. It’s classic and cosmopolitan and readily stylable to different situations. A ruff collar curled around the neckline adds a theatrical fun twist.
The monochrome suit breathes new life into the classic look. A jacket tapered with sewn ribs at the waist flaring across the hips sits over a sheer skirt recalls the classic Bar suit made by Dior in his first collection to capture the attention of the world’s fashion press. It worked and created a legend that the house periodically returns to re-work. Brocade style embroidered work across the surface of the skirt adds the finesse of Haute Couture. A mini dress with sheer nude leggings sewn with Golden giant sequins brings the fun of the fair to the catwalk. Panel pleats on a Champagne mini dress sewn with crystals and a voluminous tissue blouse with ruff collar is serious fashion.
The ruching effect employed through this collection appears again in the scrunched tucks of fabric in Cream around the bodice and shaped into a bow in Black. A full skirt uses a fascinating combination of warm Chocolate and Cream in a marbled effect that reminds me personally of desert. Fringed with a pleated tulle outer skirt, it’s a yummy dream of a dress descending in degrade to warm Cherry marble in the lengths. A long line jacket dress combining the classic New Look Dior lines and the circus masters tailored coat offers a simplified formal wear option. A daring dress takes the male tuxedo down to its basic elements in the form of a tunic with silk gazaar infused with pin prick spots and horizontal lines.
Another metallic pleat floor length dress is offered in Salmon with a pretty bow tied across the upper waist beneath a plunge neckline creating multi-tonal experience. An aquatic theme appears in the fluid tones of Silver that rush across the surface of a mini dress like sliver fish. The confetti of the circus tent enrobes the legs in nude tights shielding the wearer from the chill autumn breezes. The outside clown collar accents a sheer blouse accompanied by a shimmering Silver threaded skirt covered with signature sun, moon and stars symbols.
The Harlequin European clown pattern appears again in an Umber toned dress with a playful concertina fold neckline descending to Silver diamond applique running vertically down voluminous layers of pleated organza tulle. Without the cap, it’s a versatile Haute Couture party piece. Abstract visions of clouds showered with the twinkle of stars cover the surface of a mini-dress with broad hip detail referencing the volume added in traditional clown costumes. Centre above a modern Ice-Blue Fairytale dress with medium width straps sits at the shoulder before crossing the bodice and pluming at the upper arms. A confetti of Gold dust shaped in abstract forms reaches down the beautiful layers of silk to the feet. It’s a perfect Summer formal dress for clients across the ages.
A Black jacket and short trouser suit puts a spin on the traditional make tailored look with broad lapels in smooth satin silk pressed to perfection on an above the waist jacket. To the right a swimsuit shaped bodice is complemented with a broad ruched waist band leading to an open floor length skirt lengths. All in White and lightly fringed at the edges, it’s an Haute Couture look that’s ready for the spotlight or a fun Summer private party.
A sheer blouse with billowing sleeves descending to finely embroidered voluminous cuffs it a versatile separate Couture piece in it’s own right. Teamed with a harlequin patterned silk monochrome skirt tightly folded into the concertina shape of the clown’s costume, it creates a memorable look for the ball. This collection particularly reminds me of the Venetian, Italian and French carnival seasons of the 18th and 19th centuries. A White sheer tissue bodice with ruff collar and long line Black silk skirt form a new type of suit combination ready for the ball.
A flowing ball dress begins at the neckline in Petrol Blue with colour washing out to pale cream and then gradually deepening into a warm Blush colour. It almost follows the colours of the dawn sky as your eye moves across the fabric. The simple elegance of the style seen to the eye is contrasted by the sophisticated colour blending of the fabric. To the right another circus performer’s outfit is reimagined in a swirl of Silver and stars with waves of sound and motion captured across the surface of the garment. To the right to close the look at the collection a Golden silk dress tightly pleated carries an Egyptian feel in the wing-like cape of the garment and soft lengths draped around the wearers figure in ample abundance.
Iris van Herpen
Images (C) Iris van Herpen
Iris van Herpen is one of the most interesting designers on the Paris Haute Couture schedule that catches the attention of journalists and potential clients each season. Her designs feature a sculptured approach to fashion and this season elements of stratigraphy used in cartography appeared to feature in the collection.
A Midnight Blue dress with an Angelic hint saw wings created from fanned sleeves radiating from two escalloped bodice points. The beauty of this outfit beyond the clarity of the colour of the dress and the fine pleating is the sense of flow through the garment that is achieved. It appears as though the dress is one single piece of fabric pinned and draped across the figure to create a mesmerising and Angelic flowing look. An aurora of colours bursts forth in the next dress with burnished flames slipping from the shoulders. Soft colours of nature’s dawn contrast with the sharp architectural style pleats that emphasise human design. Symmetry and natural flow of colour elements mix in harmony and the similar bodice style is repeated from the first look in the series. Broad sleeves and a diaphanous skirt hint at a look from previous centuries. An essential feel of elegance runs through this collection.
A vibrant Scarlett wraps around a model with lines defined across the silk of the fabric like the stratigraphy of maps or the isobars of meteorology. Perhaps I see too much, but I feel it captures the elements of nature held within the form of women. Fabric is folded around the figure like flickers of a flame. To the right a shorted version of the earlier dress beginning in Umber at the shoulders and descending to Lilac in the lengths ending at the knee. The model wears a striking face mask echoing the close lines of stratigraphy and encircling her face and creating a third theme to contrast within the outfit.
The flickering flame of deep Red descends to Purple across a manifold layered dress again echoing stratigraphy lines. It falls across the figure of the wearer like a waterfall made in fabric. Another transposition of the Umber to Purple tie die colour wash is present in another full length statement dress that would draw admiration on the Red carpet. A single shoulder, White dress like it’s Red counterpart to the left is composed if leaf like sheer layers of silk creating a floating movement of it’s own as the wearer walks and moves through a room. It’s a romantic contemporary fairy-tale of a look that has an intelligent feel of design exploration about it. Lines don’t mean angles and the impression of flow of energy and line across the dress is constant. To the right a sheer White blouse comprising the upper bodice of the dress descends to a floor length skirt beautifully created as the neighbouring look in swirling feather light layers.
Van Herpen creates beautiful kaleidoscope colour images by mixing two colour tones, here Yellow and Violet to create a dreamy image evoking floral shapes across the flowing surface of the fabric. Capes are a popular feature in this collection to create elegant volume and three looks above use this to beautiful effect. A second look works Yellow through Umber, into Violet tones rounding the hem of the garment is a bold sweep of colour style. These same tones are blended with an Ice Blue to Navy in cloud-like patterns float across the fabric. Light and airy these pieces move with the gentles breeze and to the right, a festoon of ruffles clouds the wearer and surrounds her like petals of a Blue flower. Symmetry is important again here with dimension carefully considered around the line of the figure. This is a spectacular look for editorial or a Red Carpet.
Van Herpen returns to her interest in line and structure with a White dress using tiered curved layers across the length of the garment from neckline to hem. It’s a look that would suit an elongated figure well and shows the abundance of ideas she has drawn from this theme. A hint of the Japanese silk gown appears in the upper Red chemise of a dress to the right beginning at the shoulders in Red and descending through Orange, Blush and Violet to a rich Purple base near the ankles. It’s an international piece with broad appeal. A Red mini dress uses the closely layered effect to create a floral rosette around the model wearing the look. It’s a piece of fiery passion with a White-hot heart at the centre that will bring a party to life. Taking this further a dress using a Purple colour theme extends it ‘petals’ out further with Violet and Lilac melting away to simple White at the centre of the flower shape. The wearer is at the heart of the piece as it blooms into creation. A beautiful collection taking a bold innovative line.