Haute Couture Spring & Summer 2018
In the midst of a chill winter across Europe and the United States, Haute Couture offered many of us a reason to smile and look forward to the future. The Spring and Summer 2018 collections offered a selection of options and a creative flourish of imagination combined with the impeccable skills of the craft of 'high sewing' known in France and across the world as Haute Couture.
With a devoted following that stretches far beyond the ranks of women who can buy these garments to wear, Haute Couture is today a recognised art form of creativity that draws the eyes of the world when it shows in January and July each year. The French, are quietly proud of this pinnacle of the industry today being shown in their capital but it should be remembered that it's origins also have a British fingerprint too.
Opening in the beauty of a French garden the collection was set in the harmony of classical elegance before the clothes appeared. The first looks played with the customary tweed woven suit developing the classic in new permutations with a lighter touch. The opening skirt suit also heralded a trend for total coordination within a look with the soft boots crafted in the same materials as the complete look. In Rose-Mauve it sets the tone of sophisticated neutrality and cut to fit lightly on the figure it's sympathetic to the wearer. Three tonal lines across the jacket announced with tweed piping softly break the line of the jacket and allowing the garment to appear to barely move as the wearer walks. Sitting at knee length this piece is classic but the next look with it's dropped waist pays tribute the 1980's and 1920's eras, the latter in which Gabrielle Chanel herself made such an impact on the style of women. The long satisfying series of day outfits that open the collection moving through both dresses and suits varies between bolder and softer tones.
A Lavender dress and soft boots are completed by soft Black gloves bringing back the classical element of style to the look and protect the hands from the lingering chill of early Spring. With it's A-line skirt gently descending from the figure below soft pockets it's a chic one-piece that could be worn almost anywhere and not just in the daytime. Boucle beloved of Chanel followers receives the tiniest hint of 'arts and crafts' in a more open-weave style in the following suit. With defined borders and canny deep cut double layered pockets this coat dress creates something new in the classic CHANEL style. A soft Damask Rose jacket and skirt create another fresh look with classic vibes. The skirt is slit at the front to the mid-thigh with a soft second layer beneath and again the Boucle weave adds a three dimensional texture to the garment exploring the richness of the fabric. An elegant mid-calf coat dress carries hints of vintage subtly blending different eras. Hints of the 18th century men's riding coat and Neru/Military line collar with the lightest of touches are composed into a single garemnet accessorised with fingerless Rose-Pink gloves. Many looks here use my favourite colour scheme elements so naturally this collection captured my eye very quickly and I felt in harmony with many of the design elements.
An iced Lilac suit continues the raised Boucle weave theme and places a delicate emphasis on the craft production techniques behind the creation of the fabric and the variety of ways that the classic tweed look of Chanel, grown from the founders experience in UK, adapts as time moves forward. A leap of the design imagination sees the very low waist or higher hem (whichever you prefer) fringed in feathers appearing in the form of a beautiful Rose jacket offset with black at the hem and in the accessories echoing the lines of dresses in seasons past. The five buttons at the upper jacket descend to a fold that allows the coat to open as the wearer walks to stop her getting too warm. Next one of my favourite looks, a warm Rose suit and soft boots in the same fabric. Crafted with fine piping at the seams to draw the eye almost unconsciously to the exquisite cut and form, this is a perfectly tailored piece that focuses the eye on precision.
In all of the looks that where brought out the models are crowned with flowers in Pink, Black and White underneath a Black net veil adding a seal of formality to the French Garden Party. A beautifully fitted high waisted jacket superbly compliments/contrasts a long-line skirt, both with 1-2cm of fringing with more at the mid fore-arm cuffs. The next look to the right plays with the structure of the front of the jacket in a novel way placing a lower seam at the front in a bib cut sitting over the upper skirt. A softer adaptation of the military jacket collar defines the neckline with signature buttons defining the line of the garment with precision. To the far right a broad circular collar with a line of button descending in a fine panel to the hip pockets has a 1960's feel with round styled skirt gently pin-tucked at the waist hemmed with fabric offset at a right-angle. The relative simplicity to the eye of these pieces draws attention deservedly to the beautiful weave of the fabric.
An Icey feathered dream of a long jacket and skirt, the former trimmed with pretty floating strands adds another option for bringing the winter tweeds into the summertime wardrobe. Charming and understated you could have lunch or afternoon tea in it or take it clubbing should you so wish. It's vertical cut single pocket across the stomach has the echo of winter muffs of bygone eras and also the cut of sports jackets, but this is Chanel Haute Couture and thankfully Chanel steers away from the athleisure trend. The Black sleeveless look next to the right looks to be a charming party or day dress cut to perfection that you could wear in a variety of settings. Gorgeous and universal. In the true spirit of Gabrielle Chanel the next look to the right fuses male and female style in the sweeping lines of the male jacket taking the morning suit rules to heart. The jacket is given substance by the full broad shoulders that appear through most of the jacket looks in the collection, adding emphasis to the completeness of the Haute Couture creation. A seamless elegant Cream-White tunic dress sits underneath with the look of impeccable understatement that is the DNA of Haute Couture in Paris. For a slightly rebellious twist fingerless Black gloves pair with soft boots replacing the tweed day suit looks early and firmly establishing the mood of the collection in Black and Cream-White here. To the far right the lines of the morning suit are played with gain in the cut of the jacket and upper button detail recalls the men's coat of the 18th Century French Royal court. A square cut coat with underlying dress works in two obscured front pockets crossing the figure while also incorporating the classic Chanel upper jacket pockets.
In recent years Korea has proved a fertile seed bed for Chanel and as the peninsula moves towards a brighter future, subtle elements of traditional Korean costume come into the collection almost as a quiet celebration. A White blouse with sheer sleeves matches a flowing broad skirt with Rock and Roll vibes and pretty watercolour painted design. A ribbon belt at the waist gives simple style definition. A Blush-Rose shimmering above the knee dress is topped with a Magenta ribbon tied in a sweetheart bow with trailing length. Set at the traditional place at the top of the bodice for a tie it is off-set by the soft veil-like outer circle it's a charming addition to a wardrobe. To the right the themes from the look are adapted further with a mini dress featuring beautiful painted florals accented with a longer train. This could be a bridal piece if you so choose.
Ruched layers of Black tulle form the dropped waist skirt to complete the intricate flower-sewn bodice that sits above. It's a fascinating garment that appears to partly be a continuation of the flower headdress crowning the models look. For parties, drinks, dinners and Red carpet moments like much of this collection it feels like a breath of air, looking forward and not back too greatly. The crossed halterneck Black dress to the right with it's cascade layers is asking for a shimmy and was one of my Mum's favourite looks from the series this season. It's sassy but still demure enough to be acceptable in many places as you would expect to be understood by such an experienced hand.
Rose and Blush in it's many tonal guises transforms dresses almost into flowers themselves across the looks placed above. To the far left ruched Rose pleats fall in layers at the waist in a blouse and at the knee length and hem of the matching skirt. Soft tulip sleeves gathered just slightly at the elbow herald the dynamic float of the lower layer of the ensemble. With matching flowers adorning the hair and Rose Pink boots at the seasonal mid-calf it's one of the single colour looks that emphasises the beauty in simplicity. Adapting a former style used by the House in Haute Couture of seasons past Lagerfled created a spectacular satin silk sleeved fitted dress with trimmed with Rose feathers matching perfectly to the colour of the soft second skin boots. It's hard for the eye not to be drawn by the purity of the colour and the discreet hidden pockets quietly continue the visible reference to the best of Haute Couture craftsmanship.
A broad flowing circular skirt with tiny fringe is accompanied by a flower panelled blouse and gauntlet shaped gloves. Black soft boots contrast the dress unusually here within the collection but don't look the slightest bit out of place. A shimmering fit and flair sleeveless dress shows you what a Mermaid may choose to wear to an undersea ball. Perfect for a Garden Party with a jacket if required or an evening reception it's shimmer is off-set by the gentle bordering of light feathery plumes delicately completing the visual division of the dress into two. Petals adorn the soft boots and the wisps of finely woven tulle worthy of a sugar-plum veil flutter beneath the skirt length. To the right a hint of Flamenco inspired beauty in a Black layered gown cut closely, yet comfortably to the figure until flaring into a broader skirted base. Quite reminiscent of the Edwardian era looks in some ways of Chanel's youth, before she began to influence new styles of dressing, this look is elegantly beautiful and could be treasured by clients across generations.
As the looks move more firmly into the evening-wear genre, more shimmer appears with crystals twinkling across the garments walking out along the catwalk. A Silver-Blush dress scattered with crystals including soft boots and gloves creates a perfect evening wear look. We know of Chanel as a famous House worn by women in the industries of Film and Music but looking at this collection in particular, I'm also struck by how well the pieces film on camera. All couturiers create clothes to their best standards of course, but these also look ready to be filmed. The key is in the understatement reflecting the way that this naturally looks better to the camera. A Black satin evening suit comprised of blouse and lengthy skirt with fishtail offers a new twist on conventional style. The soft Apricot satin of the next look centre above offers a gentle contrast to the contemporary dipped layered hem design. The dropped waist utilises a popular classic theme but the cut makes the piece look completely original. Taking a step back into the 18th century the broad skirted layered tulle dress features a jewelled bodice extending to the full length of the garment. In a halter necked design it's a true piece of our times but I'm sure some women of previous times would have loved to have worn this in Paris and elsewhere. To the right crystal embellishments shimmer like mother of pearl across the bodice of a gown and descend like stars across the span of the Ivory-Cream skirt reaching to the soft boots. This look is as ornate as it is romantic and heralds the part of the collection that blends evening and occasion pieces with potential Bridal options.
Bridal is one of the key areas for any Haute Couture House and Chanel has the diversity in it's creation to bring out a variety of designs that will suit a number of different possible approaches. Chanel can create bespoke what any bride would wish for and many designs will be classic but here Lagerfled shows that with glitter and shimmer anything is possible. The dropped waistline of the 20th Century appears alongside embroidered crystal detail in the bodice cut low with a bandeau girdle. This beautiful ball gown invites the dance or the Red Carpet. To the right a shortened skirt and elongated bodice shows the adaptability of the elements of the principle parts of the classic historic ballgown embellished with feathers to create two essential elements to the gowns composition.
To the centre above the classic knee length cocktail dress is set in star-like crystal accented with tulle at the shoulders and in the skirts to form a small train. Fingerless kid gloves and boots complete the statement. Feathers float around the waist of the next dress with a tunic overlayed in soft gauze descending to finely embroidered trousers.
Length returns above with a stunningly embroidered Silver dress is delicately crafted again to match seamlessly with the boots and to include the overlay of a beautiful veil-like train.
A jewelled setting at the waist forms the centre of the look. To the far left echos of the earlier lineal definition across the pieces can be found in the jewel clustered bands accentuating the structure of the upper dress.
Flowing beautifully through the length of the garment it floats around the wearer and incorporates the most stunning collar.
Next to it another bejeweled mini-dress is lightly overlayed with tulle veil worn as an outer layer to the dress descending into the train. In full fantasy mode the closing piece harmonised the male and the female with the Bride or the Groom perhaps wearing a White tuxedo complimented with a trailing outer gown of feathers. Who says that only brides can wear Haute Couture as a dress?
Julien Fournie is one of the most interesting of the younger up and coming generation of designers with their own label. His collections are eclectic and international in feel but still work around a core group of key design harmonies that create that feel of 'meant to be' natural composition that all really special Haute Couture Houses have the knack of conjuring. Opening his series of looks for SS 2018 an Olive dress cut luxuriantly in flowing fabrics introduced metalics as the first of his key themes to dominate the collection. Split to the thigh on the left side of the garment and tied with a simple double chord, it's understated elegant perfection. Hints of the sweet Cherry Blossoms of spring made into an electrified technicolour of beauty appeared in several looks shown here above first in a sleeveless jumpsuit. Swishing around the legs of the wearer as she walks, there is ample volume to keep cool during the summer heat and quietly dazzle with the detail that has been created in the atelier of Fournie. You can see both warmth and cool in the piece depending on your perception. I see a Summer day fading gently into dusk.
A smart blouse neatly fitted to the figure is perfectly matched with a neat pencil skirt cut perfectly to the figure. Geometric design in the blouse contrasts with detailed floral print in the skirt creating a complete summer daywear look. A blouse with cut-away detail around the neckline and centre buttoning is pared perfectly to Midnight Blue culottes. A sculpted halter neck dress to the right above in the softest Apricot-Cream colour with blossoms painted across it's panels is a perfect cocktail piece that is just waiting to be taken out to a party or a quick sailing trip around the coast. From day to evening it has great appeal and is very flattering to a well kept figure. The metalic tones give an extra radiance of sunlight without ever seeming harsh.
Julien Fournie launched his Haute Couture collection in 2009 following a successful career already at Houses including Nina Ricci, Christian Dior, Givenchy Haute Couture and Celine where he was Headhunted shortly after joining by Jean Paul Gaultier himself. This lead to him working on some of Madonna's most memorable tour collections. His earliest memories are of drawing around the age of three years, the favourite pastime that he enjoyed and he is from a family of artisans including a grandmother who was a highly sought after Lingerie Seamstress. He graduated from the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 2000 receiving the Moet & Chandon prize for Best Accessories. Today his work attracts a growing following in France and around the world. The signature double chord belt tie at the waist features in the division of the first look above to the left with light bustier top and trousers cloaked in an outer sheath. It's a contemporary day into evening look that could easily be worn at private receptions as well as on the red carpet. A sultry spin on the classic Haute Couture day or evening skirt suit in Midnight Blue silk with detailed embroidery uniting a cinched waisted bodice with escalloped neckline pared with pencil skirt and high waisted long sleeve jacket. It simply shines under any degree of light.
A soft Apricot suit comprising open jacket with gilded applique detail flowing across the fabric in hints from the Garden and culottes cut high at the waist are cut flatteringly to make an easy summer glamour. Sash ties and bows at the waist add an extra touch of prettiness. A Shell-Pink jacket with hints of Chinoiserie in it's design takes elements of the side buttoned military jacket with slim waistband delineating the line of the figure above a flowing Peach dual layered skirt of satin and embroidered silk. It's a perfect summer formal look with touching prettiness. A bronze sheath dress floats over the figure like liquid, billowing around the ankles metal fusing with the whisper of satin.
Coloured Japanese inspired print streams down an ankle-length dress bias cut with a contrast of both print and bold Crimson referencing a Japanese silhouette at the neckline, fastened across the bodice and in the print of the fabric itself. The romantic garden scenes of the famous cherry blossoms are transposed here with pristine accuracy and enhanced with digital graphics. It's a chic sophisticated piece for formal events and special moments around the world this Summer season. A Midnight Blue bodice sculpted closely to the figure is teamed with a flowing ankle-length skirt and long jacket. The fabric is sewn gently with Gold in light floral patterns to give the garments a celestial shimmer twinkling in a midnight sky. It's a Queenly piece. Centre above the influence of Japan appears again with a jacket cut in Japanese style with the intricate shimmer of dawn and dusk colours at diagonal panels of the jacket. Completed with an obe belt it forms a suit with a bias cut semi-sheer skirt wrapped around the legs of the wearer. It's clean-cut modern elegance and has an easy international feel to it. For parties or public engagements it's a demure elegant head-turner and will suit clients across all age groups as many of the pieces in Fournie's collection do. Playing with length and visual stratification the bodice of the next garment above to the right in Egg Shell Blue and deep Navy. It's glamorous full-skirted sweep behind the wearer is pure Haute Couture elegance moving gently as the wearer walks.
A White dress in geometric printed fabric is layered with a broad netted outer dress swirling around the figure. It's a beautiful potential Bridal look peppered at the upper bodice, arms and hem with tiny Red dots in a romantic confetti. Tied with the double chord motif at the waist it has it's own simple style note that strikes a chord of individuality. A Scarlett full length dress scooped out a the neckline with clash-contrast Coral under-layer and halter is accented with light flowers trailing from the shoulders. It's strikingly elegant and makes a confident statement embracing both heritage and innovative design in the piece. It's a perfect cocktail or reception dress and has star impact glamour as do it's companions here. To the right, an intricate fabric in antique Rose creates a slimline cocktail dress cinched in at the waist by a belt and broadened by soft Peach shoulders and sleeves. It captures hints of the elegance of the 1940's era in the pin tucking detail leading to the gently broadened shoulders. A perfect piece for dancing in.
This soft hue is carried forward in the next dress with embossed floral motifs running across the fabric as well as the delicate print of flowers. This full length dress channelling the 1950's and 1960's is given a style juxtaposition in the wide obe belt of brightly layered fabric. Here also the double chord tie makes an appearance at the waist giving this gown an off-centre look that seems fitting. Sky Blue and Lilac make a pleasant combination in the next look revealing broad legged culottes beneath draped outer skirts. It flows beautifully in the breeze of Summer as shown above and is cinched gently at the bodice high above the waist below gentle folds of silk. Moving like a beautiful mirage it has a dream-like quality that is also captured in the next dress below shimmering through Lilac, Silver, Teal and Blush in a fluid note of elegance.
As the collection moves forward hints of bridal tones enter with a Blush-Apricot dress to the left expansive in romantic layering and swirl. Stunning embroidery reaches across the surface of the fabric with satin silk swathing across the wearer. A bodice cut open to the waist and tied with a double chord loop descends to a full satin skirt fringed in gathered tulle. Playing with length, a side-flourish extends to the hem downwards from the waist. A trailing Blush-Pink gown tied at the waist in double chord encompasses the design of Japanese style in the jacket crossing the body with a flourish. Flowing expanses of silk trail around the wearer rippling like liquid in a 21st century re-imagining of a heritage gown. Pure Hollywood. To the right a Rock-and-Roll bride in a halter neck-lined dress exudes discreet style in a quilted texture. Charming and elegant, it's a perfect Chapel-to-Party gown.
Ralph & Russo
Ralph & Russo remains the only British Haute Couture House to show on the official Haute Couture schedule in Paris. It's an achievement quietly noted by Tamara and Michael who are in themselves a modest pair in polar contrast to the luxuriant flamboyance of the brand that they have created. Tamara herself is the fourth generation of her family to trained in creating fashion garments and both a passion and a fine eye are revealed in her work. As the mood for more experimental forms of creation took hold in Haute Couture after the later part of the first decade of the new Millennium, Tamara knew that globally many women simply wanted a designer who was creating fresh ideas around the classic structures of Haute Couture pieces. Ralph & Russo duly delivered skilled craftsmanship from their London atelier to an awaiting audience.
The opening garment of the collection fuses the classic Kaftan with the floor length long-line evening dress to create a look that transcends geography to create a mood of chic elegance. Soft Ivory-White embroidered with flowers flowing to the ground and accented by crystals in a plunging neckline are set with a cluster reaching below the waist. Sleeves with tassels forming shimmering long cuffs reach to the mid-calf with a small train flowing behind the wearer. With a somewhat stately air is looks like the robe of a free-spirited Queen. A single shoulder dress combines some classic print feel from Ralph & Russo with new statements including a sweeping silk sash at the neckline and tassels hanging from the left shoulder and the graded bias cut hem from hip to ankle in perfect measure. In a Blush-Peach tone, it's warmth gently complements any skin tone and the soft folds falling across the figure with the greatest of care expound femininity.
Set with jewels and crystals the next dress is a fantasy of nude silk over-layered with beaded crystals encircling the figure like a glove. A froth of tulle layering around the shoulders and a little below the knee adds a second dimension to the outfit without ever becoming 'too much' for the eye. A smart day dress nipped in at the waist echoing double breasted jacket style incorporates the neatest tiny box pleats in a drop-waisted skirt. It's a light and easy piece to wear during the day for work or play in a soft Baby Pink. Understatement is a key feature of the House and even when a look is composed of simple elements, such as the long-sleeved shimmering dress above to the right, Ralph & Russo know-how to bring the eye something pure and distilled.
A waterfall of light Coral ruffles descend the figure of the dress furthest to the right in graduated waves of beauty with fabric hinting at the lightness of the garment. Feathers and Crystals in alternating layers express dynamic and versatile texture duality. A gauzy veil across the eyes as worn in some of the other looks enhances the feel of mystery. Feathers move lightly in the breeze around the wearer and the Rose Blush and Platinum colour scheme are a flattering kiss to the skin. The metallic theme is further continued with a Silver silk mini-dress with a simple twist in the fabric at the front of the skirt adding a bowed effect in a stylistic touch of genius. Velvet trim at the cuffs half way up the upper arm provide the elegant tonal contrast with the fabric of the dress and broad hairband set with bejewelled applique. As with many pieces from Ralph & Russo, it has the feel of a stand-alone work of art. A fantasia of pleats gathered and swirled to perfection in lightest Baby Blue above draws the voluminous lengths of fabric into pretty delicate flowers, jewelled at the centre. It's a Fairy Princess Ball Gown and would make a fantastic entrance at an event this Summer. Descending from the bodice to a full broad skirt it fits the elegant proportions of traditional formal evening gowns.
To the right an Aqua Marine close fitting bodice descends to a side split skirt revealing tightly pleated acres of silk in watery cascades. This is a Mermaids party dress and you would be the Queen of an Undersea Ball wearing it. Intuitively the garments made by Ralph & Russo also seem to 'understand' the camera and this piece in-particular, alongside many from the collection strikes me as something that would look incredibly good being filmed. A light wisp of fabric crosses the shoulder and falls to a train behind the wearer. To the far right a Silver mini-dress with hints of Lilac is hand-sewn with the most exquisite embroidery detail and gently ruched across the hips. Lengths of silk gently swish around the legs of the model as she walks and the look of harmonious composition is a dream.
A single shoulder White dress with tiered ruffled layers falling in an asymmetric line across the figure is bias cut and styled asymmetrically across the figure falling to a train behind the wearer. The look emphasises height and length but as with any Haute Couture could potentially be adapted to suit figures of slightly different proportions. Hand-sewn applique petals flutter over pristine White fabric on a dress that quietly mesmerises from round-collar to floor. In a fit/flair shape it forms the elegant broad skirt that is adored by Haute Couture clients. In a daring sleeveless style it's appropriate for high Summer parties. Folding gently around the figure, it's still light and easy to wear across an evening.
An off-the-shoulder fishtail gown with defined bodice seamlessly flares into the lengths of the skirt while fringe detail falls from the shoulders to the hands. It's a poetic adaptation of the sleeve appropriate for hot Summer evenings. It's a modern classic composed in the language of elegance mastered by Ralph & Russo. Playing with opposite angles, a Black dress with a single shoulder flourish mirrored at the left hand waist above a side split. Descending to the floor and framing the curves of the figure, the train drifts gently behind the wearer as she walks. Perfect for Red Carpet moments and formal occasions, the fabric is rich but still feels light enough to be worn across the duration of an event. It's a beautiful dancing dress too. Tiers of light feathers cascade down the model above to the right shimmering in the light breeze as she walks. Midnight Blue, Violet and Black swirl to form a sleek long line cocktail or Black-tie outfit that catches the eye.
Midnight Blue wraps around the form in elegance with a button-down style and feathered thick collar fringe channelling a 1930's look. Softly following the line of the figure the dress is gently cut at an angle descending to ruching at the knee of the right leg adding a touch of Edwardian glamour to a high-luxe contemporary piece. A net veil partly covering the face with head band adds in a twist of silver screen era glamour. A festoon of Blush-Rose Pink flowers ripples across a broad skirt creating the illusion that the model is wrapped in petals. A Black bodice sewn with crystals descending to sheer silk creates a natural harmony happily in my theme colours but also in a modern fairy-tale. To the right again the same colours work into a perfect colour harmony with a Black long line dress feathered at the bodice.
Gently wrapping the figure in soft velvet the garment descends to the ankles perfectly robed by the trailing Blush-Rose Pink jacket. Wide cuffs at the elbow and broad lapels hit a strong note of confidence. A Grecian Goddess gown in hot Magenta-Pink is neatly pleated in the lightest fabric. With a hidden high split at the left hip and a stole incorporated into the gown trailing like the lengths of the skirt it's a dream-like piece. To the right some of the most intricate embroidery to be seen at Paris Haute Couture Week can be seen in Mauve-Silver set against a Dark Grey silk. This look also features the daring thigh-split that will allow clients to show well toned legs. If you're a little more shy it is often possible to request an adaptation of a look also. A fantasy creation in Rose Pink melds three different embroidered fabrics into another classic modern fairy-tale piece. In an Ice Cream colour it's a grown-up elegant piece beginning in florals at the bodice, descending to gathered tight layers of tulle at the hips and flowing down into a diamond cut-away dual layered tulle full skirt. While it makes a clear statement to the eyes, it's light as a glove to wear.
Hints of Toille de Jouy dance across the fabric of the dress to the right cut in a House-favourite style of Ralph & Russo with a contrasting broad collar trim. With a built-in cape this look is sophisticated and perfect for day and early evening engagements. To the right Platinum shimmer is gathered at the waist to craft one of the most simple but impactful types of statement design that you will see in Haute Couture. Crafted from a single cloth, this look encapsulates the feel of timeless femininity and Film-Star glamour to perfection. To the right bead-work comes to the fore in a sheer dress that is split at the right side and falling to the ankle. Tied at the belt and with an off-the-shoulder band wrapping around the left arm, a secret support above the left shoulder holds it perfectly in place across the figure. To the right hints of regal ermine reappear in the form of a feathered light jacket wrapping the shoulders over a twinkling floor length Soft Peach dress. Crystals bring light to look with generous fabric falling wearer in an charming almost Queenly sense of glamour. A Blush halter-neck dress includes a combination of features from looks in the Ralph & Russo armoire. With crystals descending through the halter that doubled as a necklace down across the upper dress trim and through the length of the outfit to the delicately illustrated flowers, the shimmer weaved across the surface. Both sleeves and hem are fringed and move dynamically around the wearer. With hints of the early twentieth century party style it's an Haute Couture piece packed with fun.
Above to open the row, a Rose-Pink dress richly embroidered with feathers at the elbow and lower sleeve strikes a modern regal tone. The hind half-circle of the hem is also trimmed with feathers adding a sense of theatre to the garment that we love to relish in Haute Couture. Centre above a one-piece trouser suit bordered at one shoulder in a Romanesque style. Flower set at the border at the waist, neckline and shoulder it is a Sugar Pink look that is coolly sophisticated.
Making the tassels a central feature, the a Lilac dress in three tiers, one at the bodice and two in the skirt is a uniquely inspired piece that will keep the wearer cool through a hot night as well as drawing admiring glances at a party. To the right a Safron Yellow gown crosses the figure with draping as well as incorporating the tassel feature and sweetly twisting fabric around the bodice. Soft Buttercup curls trail down the gown furthest to the right with tendrils running across the fabric a little like the arms of a Jellyfish. This semi sheer gown is just asking to be taken out on the hottest days of Summer and could be danced in and enjoyed all night.
The soft Summer note of Buttercup appears again in a diaphanous flowing masterpiece of glamour. With a jewelled kerchief bodice of draped chain-mail forming another combination of jewellery meets gown, the lightness of the fabric of the dress floating around the figure creates a neat juxtaposition. A new look at the tweed daysuit creates a subtle day to evening formal look. Styled perfectly to the figure the boat neckline and lightness of the fabric mean that it's a sensible choice for warm days and nights. The tiered ruffle theme meets with a chain-mail concept in the next look fusing feathers, metallics and embroidery in the look that isn't 'trop' to the eye. It's a calm statement of glamour with the confidence to call attention. A favourite in my family, the Black dress centre above softly hugs the figure, casually with one shoulder covered in an incorporated sash-style and the most beautiful crystal floral embroidery seemingly growing across the surface. Perfect to dance in or have fun on a dream date.
Working in a classic silhouette of the Ralph & Russo look a White dress references the lines of of the 1930's and 1940s in a dress that fits to the figure like a glove. Golden applique swirls around the bodice descending across the hips and falling from the knee to the hem. Its a statement of elegant simplicity that shows how the House wins the hearts of clients. A cool off-the-shoulder look in Black lace embroidered with sequins in clusters sits lightly on the figure. It's an easy-elegance piece that would suit a variety of different figures and quietly romantic. To the right another look that works from the theme of a classic tweed day-suit combines a peplum fringed light jacket with a skirt in perfect harmony. Another great day to evening choice. Looking East to India and the Arabian continent where so many friends of Ralph & Russo are based, the bejewelled White coat dress finds it's routs of inspiration on these shores. Embellished with precision that has to be seen at close quarters and through the Ralph & Russo backstage footage this piece, alongside many others is a something that you will remember amongst many others. This look could possibly be worn as bridal but also for Black and White tie occasions to create an elegant show-stopper.
Another twist on the classic suit with feathers floating at the cuffs and floral rosettes at the shoulder and hips makes a modern elegance statement. For a flowing high summer ball gown there are few more classic statements than the look centre above. A sleek Scarlet bodice is swathed in lengths of fine-pleated sheer silk. A one-shoulder sleek gown is a fantastic touch of elegance to add to a collection and this look particularly has red carpet appeal to my eyes. Note again that jewellery appears as though it's incorporated into the dress itself with the applique on the neckline. To the far right the finale piece, a bridal gown, closes the collection in traditional Haute Couture style with a lavish gown that shows the full expertise of the atelier. While not all Houses continue to show gowns like this at Haute Couture week, this is what clients from around the world still look to find or more often adapt into a bespoke version of shown gowns. When it comes to a wedding many people still find that tradition rules in the heart alongside their own unique additions to the ceremony.
Today the House of Schiaparelli remains faithful to the design influences of it's founder Elsa with her flair for colour and spontenaity all evidenced across the collection. The first look strode forward with confidence in a bright colour statement with a green shirt-dress enveiled under a bright block coloured coat. Tied with the thinest of chord belts, this faint hint of restraint barely contailed the geometric power that spoke of the strength of woman in the collections first breath.
Taking the Macro to the Micro a finely embroidered skirt utilises geometric pattern detail in small scale through three descending panels of a skirt bordered at the base with White cloth featuring a feather. A burnished Gold blouse with Magenta ruched tuxedo style detail also has overtones of the famous Lobster that Elsa Schiaparelli liked to feature and the insects that appear in places through the collection. Although appearing in the traditional 'Day-Wear' part of the collection it isn't bound by strict definitions and could easy be a Day-into-Evening look. Next to it Elsa's humour appears in the look composed of White blouse with insects placed across the surface pared with Khaki-Grey loose pressed trousers and a wide weave net bag. This look speaks of adventure and exploration but easily blends into the city or countryside.
The classic summer staple dress that we all need is here in lightest Grey gingham with a soft V neckline and a ruched draw at the waist. Sitting easily on the figure, it's a charming piece of contemporary elegance. Tonal contrast comes next with a sheer White blouse again playing slightly on the male tuxedo look sitting in juxtaposition with a pannelled mettalic below the knee skirt. Accessorised with an almost out-sized tote that combining boucle and feathers the wrap-around strap sandles complete the easy-chic summer look.
Mixing mystery and enchantment with animal themes the dress to the far right features a protective eye at the right shoulder of this Ink-Black dress. A Green serpent coils and a panther lazes on a tree branch under the stars. What does it mean? Elsa's reverance for the harmonies found in the beauty of nature are woven into the glamour of a dress to be worn by a person bringing the sureal world of society a small step closer to nature's core. The eternal charm of the silk Black tuxedo jacket is given a playful twist with feathered detail at the bodice and hip pocket jackets at the waist. Tied with a silky-smooth belt at the waist, this long sleeved complete look is an elegant day or evening piece that could be worn to Lunch at smart restaurant, drinks reception or on the red carpet. In Baby Rose Pink to the right the next look is it's non-identical twin, with a wrap across jacket style and again the detailed raised hip pockets. With high leg shorts underneath it's another complete look with a twist of Brown in the belt to give a break in the colour of the garment.
Nature returns enveloping the figure in a Brown mini-dress with white leaf prints clustered around the surface of the dress. Feathers and some lace at the neckline of the sleeveless garment balance the outfit into two colours. The model carries a tote in woven style that echos the dress in the whisped feathers around the upper part of the piece. It's free spirited but at the same time crafted with the decorum we know of Haute Couture. Layers of floating tulle, evoking a ballet dress style, add grace and beauty to a silhouette in any season of the year and the piece above in softest Ivory with it's simple thin belt epitomises the ease that one craves for glamour in the hot Summer months.
The theme is broadened to the sheer Lime Green of the skirt of the next dress floating gently on the figure in contrast to the faint sense of discipline in the White jacket, open collared and double breasted and pulled to chinch the waist in sports jacket style. Furthest to the right Neon colour hints adorn the next garment with ruching at the bodice softly illuminated and colours descending in natural un-sequenced steps to the hem. It's another super-light piece that you could wear through a warm hot evening. Layers of tulle again create the magical romance of a modern fairytale piece, whilst also tuning into the cosmopolitan sensibilities of here and now. A bandeu neckline dress escalloped around the bodice descends to the waist tied with a thin Neon chord-belt. Against the background of an almost antique colour, this hint at the 'other' captures the Schiapparelli sense of irreverence perfectly. The skirt of the dress descends in tiered layers gathered to create gentle flowing waves of fabric with the finest of traditional linen layered horizontal pleats barely visible.
Playing with sheer fabric the next look to the right combining Black and wispy Grey gauze also takes hints of the antique in the echo of the 15th-18th century dress bodice and flared voluminous skirt. The eye finds a contrast of lines and a subtle compliment to the curves of the figure. Perhaps taking inspiration from India or the Balanese east the single shoulder created in sash style with applique detail descending across the surface of the fabric speaks of India, Thailand and some parts of the Pacific. The jewel-work is fantastic and worthy of the sphere of Haute Couture with a nod to the playful in the mixed length of the skirt. A dream Black-Tie Summer piece.
To the right floating feathers surround the wearer as she walks and the sheath-like dress takes on the appearance of a Mermaid's look to wear to the Gala, ball or Opera in high Summer. A beautiful red carpet piece. To the centre Neons return again in waves reminiscent of anenamea's of the sea with colours moving from subtle to bright across the garment as it descends to the ankles. In delicate Blush-Pink, Apricot, Lilac and Magenta tones cascading across the figure of the wearer. A tunic shaped bodice with a plunging V neckline banded at the waist with a chord belt descends to a skirt with cool loose voluminous layers. Soft dabs of colour that look as though they came straight from the artists palette wash gently over the surface of the sheer fabric floating around the wearer. The emblem of love, so dear to Schiaparelli, is styled into the form of the Hot Pink dress in the heart-sculpted bodice. En-robing the decollete and descending to the waist where it joins with the dress' skirt composed of luxuriant quantities of fabric swathing around the figure. It's a romantic dream that still captures a strength on confidence.
Above a plunging neckline in neon Coral blends two-tone with the swathes of sheer Magenta fabric. Criss crossing the waist a thin Black and White belt offers a colour juxtaposition and defines the waist. Hints of historical form and style appear in a Shell Pink bodice matched to a tiered dipped-hem layered skirt. Softening convention at a stroke the gown sits lightly on the figure to be a soft whisper of a piece to wear to a Ball or Red Carpet event on a hot Summer evening. Bare shoulders could be wrapped in stole or a bolero jacket to see out to the cooler early hours of the morning. Geometric shapes formed into banded layers present the main theme of the next look. Again a simple V neckline descending to the waist is used before meeting the broad line skirt flowing to the ground. The colouring is bold but never stark while pastel tones coalesce with the hues of earth and sky. Another midsummer nights dream. Neons that take inspiration from nature, a peaceful scene is evoked in the embroidered riverside reeds and rushed surrounding the figure of the wearer. The fluidity of water matched in the flow of the garment around her figure as she walks. Schiaparelli was very interested in bringing animals into her brand often the more unusual in terms of an association with fashion, such as the lobster but she believed in bringing the supposed juxtaposition of nature and fashion together.
Taking the theme of mosaic detail further an embroidered fringe border runs down the bodice of the dress to the lengths of the dress skirt where it disappears into billows of fabric. A smokey marbled effect of colour across the surface of the fabric in Grey, Green and Pink contrasts with the detailed embroidery and throws them into high relief. Magical elements including unicorns and imaginary creatures cover the surface fabric of a sheer Black silk dress with a tapestry of ideas running from the bandeau bodice neckline to the dress hem. As with many other garments in the collection a thin chord belt defines the waist elegantly and provides the wearer with a simple elegant option for a Black-Tie or Red Carpet occasion. Butterfly's and Moths of many species flutter with movement of the next sheer Black dress to the right, their Golden wings appearing to move with fabric. In a metaphor of beauty they adorn the outer shift and greet the viewer face on as the woman walks. The strength of Black and Gold quietly sealing a confident statement. To the right, a classic sequined evening gown. Using lines reminiscent of the traditional 1930's and 1940's era of Elsa the shapes formed seem to echo the patterns of veins of the leaf across the surface of the outer dress, further cloaked in the lightest gauzy sheer Black silk fabric. Pure elegance from the neckline and gathered trim at the waist to the tied bow at the base of the shoulders descending to the train skirts.
By tradition Haute Couture collections close with a Bridal looks, either a single dress as a 'tester' example or a series of possibilities for clients to contemplate. A semi-sheer dress taking influence from the form of a Butterfly appears first to the left with wing tips seeming to extend across the shoulders and the hips of wearers. In a light expression of femininity it's sheer outer layer echoes the delicacy of the Butterfly's wings and a soft train that could be enhanced to incorporate a veil falls behind the wearer to her ankles. For a touch of free spirited feel with hints of First Nations style the patchwork effect of lace panels sewn together fringed with feathers at the upper skirt hem and at the shoulders. It's a dress of wishes and dreams. A Blush coloured dress with high neckline and long sleeves conforms to more traditional style of elegance.
An outer embroidered shell is decorated with floral rosettes in a light fresh style of Summer romanticism. Flowers lead the way in the next style with a hooded White robe evoking medieval gowns and beautiful embroidered flowers reaching up, as if growing across the surface of the dress. An angelic sheer dress closes the collection appearing to take influence from both traditional Native American Culture and the soft European and Near Eastern forms of Angelic representation. White tulle silk gathered at the shoulders forms winged like shapes and subtle panels are suggested by the ruffled seams bordering the lengths of the dress skirts. No flight of fantasy, it's an elegant creation in the lightest of fabrics to make a Bride feel at her most serene on her special day.
For Spring-Summer 2018 Valentino took a welcome, if somewhat unexpected turn back to the realm of simplified styled classical elegance. With Pierpaolo's former partner in design at Valentino, Maria Grazia Chiuri installed at Dior, it has occurred to me after seeing this collection if Pierpaolo has possibly his eye on the succession that is one of the of the most contemplated ever in the fashion industry; that of the House of CHANEL, Dior's peer. Time will tell but this season there was plenty for those with an eye for classical contemporary Haute Couture to take note of at Valentino. Above to the left a Beige gown dress is luxuriantly folded around the figure to ward off the chill of early Spring. With ballooned sleeves and a collar extending the length of a scarf, complete with fringing, it's tied with a pretty Aqua bow to the left side of the waist. It effortlessly combines volume with discreet tailoring in a light-weight ensemble. To the right an Aqua bow-tie appears to extend some of it's fabric to the waist in a clever variation of the scarf-vest. In a harmony contrast with two shades of Purple and Lilac it continues the theme set for the collection of composing garments primarily of just two or three defined colours. The clear tones ring out like musical notes.
The Purple transfers to a skirt split from hem to the knees at the back and at left and right side of the legs. Tailored in a long-line style it sits with a generous cut on the figure with fabric elegantly rippling over figure. A Safron sash tie at the waist with outsized bow and ribbon lengths trailing to the floor. The Lilac transfers to the blouse (or upper bodice) as well as the inner lining of the skirt. It's beautifully draped in a an adaptation of the cowl style that also mirrors the sensibilities of the 1930's and 1940's 'Hollywood Golden era'. It could be worn by a client today, and doubtless will be but could also greet the eye in a coloured version of the black and white portraits of the film stars of the past. A Magenta silk blouse with a simple circular neckline is styled in similarly elegance with a long sash side tie trailing from the left waist. Pared with Scarlett trousers cut widely on the length the natural flow of the look it completed with a luxuriant gown dress in Platinum that melds the style of cape and coat into one. For cooler evenings or to ward off the sun in very hot climates it's a beautiful addition to an Haute Couture wardrobe. Underneath hints of an Eggshell Blue blouse appear.
To the left a ribbed White blouse appears from underneath a deep Midnight Blue jacket cut generously around the figure. With it's wide-legged culottes, it's one of the outfits that would be particularly well suited to engagements in early Spring or through the cooler nights of the Summer months. The vibrant power of femininity flowing through this collection is very evident. Above to the left a giant Scarlett bow sits at the left shoulder with it's ties perfectly falling across the neckline and left shoulder. It's perfectly pared over a off-white silk cape with a parting allowing movement for the hands and arms. A Rose-Pink pencil skirt with a flourish of stencil embroidery at the left hip below the line of the bow is a sweet chic addition to this look using my favourite signature colours. A sheer blouse with shallow ruff neckline and linear embroidered detail is a perfect elegant feather-light Haute Couture blouse. Matched with Turquoise trousers with elegant ruffles at the waist in an echo of 17th-19th century style little boys trousers and fitted to the waist with a draw-string tie in a bow at the waist. It's a beautifully romantic piece capturing this spirit that runs across the collection perfectly.
Centre above an Ivory dress evokes thoughts of petals and the fairytale Thumbellina. The Teal ribbon-tie at the waist pinches the floral petal shape of the bodice into a fan-shape escalloped across the figure. Arms are swathed in petal-sleeves and this most simple of harmonies gives the sense of a classic simple powerful use of colour and cut. Classic luxury shifting Valentino back to it's roots this season, the next piece channel's Haute Couture's fantasy vein with a gown and head piece composed of feathers. Billowing around the neckline 'acres' of luxuriant fabric cascade around the women's figure. Invisible sleeve openings at the side of garment allow for arms to gently reach out of the garment and also cool breezes to travel underneath to garment for comfort on long summer evenings. A Claret sash is tied at the shoulder with lengths trailing to the calf in another echo of regal court style of former centuries.
A fine Rose blouse with gathered pleats sits under a Damson Rose light sweater sitting over a Lilac silk ruffled skirt. Ballgown flair meets drawing room Haute Couture here in a beautiful contrast of tone. As the collection moves more decidedly to evening-wear the elegant 'show stoppers' kept coming. At times this collection began to feel more French than the Italian that usually inhabits the Valentino sphere but the note is set at the highest pitch of Parisienne Haute Couture. A sheer dress of Nude bodice and White silk skirt is decorated with the most delicate applique floral motif's flowing from the neckline to the hem. Light and elegant, it's a perfect Summer drinks or party look. To the right a sleeveless Black piece is completed with long sleeved gloves to ensure that arms are respectably (mostly) covered.
The most simple elegant choice for a Ballgown for Black or White-Tie Summer season events. This and it's neighbour centre above would be perfect for Black and White parties. A balloon Black silk cape sits across the shoulders of the wearer allowing arms to be tucked inside or freely escape. A White floor length gown skirt uses the charm of voluminous well cut fabric to the most glamorous effect. Like many of the pieces across the collection it will suit clients across several generations and is well and truly timeless. Making a bold yet demure style statement in Scarlett the strapless dress with a subtle shimmer and small train behind the wearer is a highly styled cocktail gown that could be worn at a variety of events across the Summer Season. It's a silky smooth, almost retro type of chic that channels elements of the 20th century and classic Italian style. Fabric ripples around the figure creating a watery look.
Above, a hint of the experimentation of the Valentino of the earlier seasons utilises hints of ancient padded armour in the studding of the dress bodice softened with billowing sleeves and lengthy silk skirt. For hot nights on or off the Red Carpet the Black wrap-gown closest to the right takes the simple playsuit and en-robes it with the timeless sheer dressing gown. With it's ruffled collar and hem with pretty Baby-Rose Pink sash tie at the waist, it is an angelic addition to an Haute Couture collection. Staying with the theme of using two colours, the next dress offers another dream-like Black or White-tie option. The most beautiful gauzy White silk-satin embellished with delicate embroidery featured gentle gathering at the collar and the cuffs to recall antique hints in the fresh Spring-Summer design. Aubergine returns at the waist with a single broad silk ribbon tied behind the model as she walks, falling to the lengths of the hem behind her. This is the Haute Couture that isn't branching into conceptual art and what many women around the world are looking for.
To the right a shimmering Silver floor length gown is sewn with hundreds, if not thousands of crystals and partnered with a beaded jacket. Taking a journey further into florals the next look centre above features flowers lavishly printed across the surface of the Teal fabric. With ruffles at the neckline, across the voluminous shoulders and downwards into the lengths of the dress, it's flourishes fall in waves across the wearer. A dipped hemline descending from above the ankle-line at the front to form a train behind the wearer accentuates the heightened elegance of the garment.
Taking the traditional Black and White theme to heart a plunge V neckline supported by high-ruffle shoulders. Black Roses still look pretty and charming rather than severe and the volume and ease of movement in the gown align to the best traditional aspects of Haute Couture fashioned from the most advanced fabrics. The bandeau neckline returns in a shimmering Silver gown with a Claret bow. Looking as ready as it's peers for a Gala evening this piece is cut to be equally flattering to the figure as the other dresses in the collection. Lilac appears again in a floor length evening gown with White gloves elegantly rising above the elbow. Pleated at the lower bandeau neckline, it is beautifully simple and also adaptable to many society or private occasions. The lengths descend gracefully at a gently broadening angle to the floor with a gentle train and the fabric light enough to be worn through the hottest of evenings. The collections other mood, florals painted elegance appears in the second look to the right in a muse of watercolour and pencil sketching that floats delicately over the paper-White dress fabric. Sleeveless to cater for the warmth of Summer nights. Cut on fit and flare style this dress flows broadly from the waist to floor is classic elegant style.
A more daring neckline to the right reveals handkerchief style upper support flowing downwards at the giant Black tied bow to the broad full skirt. Garden flowers are sketched across the Grass Green backdrop and fabric bringing a cooling feel to a hot evening with it's train falling lightly behind the wearer. Floral blooms continue to the right with soft Blue and White flowers ringed in a Red halo floating with a light-catching shimmer across the surface of a bandeau neck-lined cocktail gown. Tied at the behind with a large bow leading downwards to a train the look hugs the figure gently showing curves with ease but not in the least constraining.
To the right Empire and Regency lines appear in a flattering garment that both shows and hints at beauty in the two layers of floral detail that are visible in the layers of the garment. It looks like a 21st Century gown for the Assembly Rooms of Bath, the Ballroom of the Brighton Pavillion or a Lanesborough House ball. Light and airy, you will be able to pass the evening in complete comfort in this piece. Light and airy, you will be able to pass the evening in complete comfort in this piece. A flowing outer gown festooned in flowers of Pale Blue and White is accented by a ruff collar and hides a close fitting mini dress underneath. This is one of many pieces in the collection that possesses fantastic movement and would make a chic party or dinner date look.
To the right a full length dress with broad skirted abundance strewn with flower heads across voluminous fabric. The full skirt descends from the cinched waist with ruffles at the neckline of the bodice and around the shoulders. The head and decollete of the model appear to be emerging from a flower head itself. It's ultra-feminine and the strength of the garment doesn't overpower the wearer due in part to the careful use of two simple colour tones.
Sheer romance weaves it's spell in the next two garments in contrasting styles showing both shoulder-less and high ruff collar variations for the heights of the Summer heat. These are flattering pieces to wear and will see happy clients through hot nights whilst also protecting from the breeze of Spring evenings with their gathers of fabric. A Scarlett sash tie at the waist to the left if bowed behind and trails to the floor as part of a train and to the right a Violet flourish at the shoulder descends to the floor in another gesture of style that echos Bridal wear. Scarlet returns to make a statement of it's own with a dramatic flourish of ruffles across the bodice of sumptuous ball gown. Tied loosely at the waist under the ruffled bodice it flows like a river to a rippling skirt ruched in abundant fabric. Again like many pieces in this collection, it could be worn by women across the generations just as the best Haute Couture can be.
Geometic symmetry makes a simple but effective statement on a canvas of Black fabric. Discs invisibly joined together over a light sheer under-dress create a light optical fascination for the eye and for the wearer, a unique and interesting addition to their Haute Couture. An off the shoulder dress with dropped bodice detail gives the impression perhaps of a flower head falling down across the wearer's figure to the waist. Descending to a voluminous skirt of the dress, it's patterned boldly with interlaced shimmering star flowers that move across the fabric. Looking quietly regal, this gown could appear both at the most formal of presentations but also at the red carpet and media events.
Scarlett returns again to make another bold statement and I'm drawn to thinking of the Catholic robes that may inspire some of the Met Gala gowns in May at the Costume Institute Benefit Gala. Flaring broadly from lapelled shoulders, this look brings more than a nod to the weight of history of Women's high court fashion in the mid second millennium in Europe. The diaphanous skirt would have been at home in the Court of the Medici and their contemporaries across Europe. The lattice frame styling across the bodice and sleeves of the next dress to the right also echoes fashions begun in Italy at the dawn of the Renaissance. But no static ode to the past this frame comes alive with Roses reaching across it's surface just in gardens across time and the globe.
To the right, possibly a personal favourite look in Blush Rose Pink sees an abundant bodice deconstructed in two swathed flourishes of fabric tied in bow at the waist before descending to a voluminous dress skirt. This is a gown to promenade in through a long hall, across a ballroom and of course a red carpet.
To close the collection Bridal white was replaced with a fountain of Aquamarine. Cloaked and hooded like a mysterious guest at a Castle Ball in another century, the wearer sweeps all before her in this outer gown. Beneath, hints of a simple sensuous Black lace dress fitting the wearer like a glove. It's true form to remain a mystery.
Ulyana Sergeenko is one of the unicorns of fashion, the Haute Couture client who had her own ideas for design and when designers didn't credit her input she decided to start her own Haute Couture business out of Moscow, showing on the Paris Schedule. And what a good decision this has been! I wonder how many more great design minds could be surreptitiously sitting in the prized places of the front row each season in Paris.
Born and raised in the far East of Kazakstan close to the border of Asian Russia and Mongolia, followed by spending her 20's in Russia as a student an young business woman, she has a truly international flavour to her influences. Traditional style additions from the Russian armoire and hints of Asiatic style softly peek into the collections and Spring Summer 2018 is no different. Colour abounds from start to finish and the opening look takes the cherished traditional Russian dress with it's florals and gently contrasting borders and weaves a modern chic spell. A low moon cut bodice in Ice Blue descends to a pristine White skirt bordered with romantic Roses from the wild Russian fields and hints of Romanesque in the dual Golden chain and floral hem. Sleeves not connected to the dress itself become long line gloves reaching from the upper arms down to cuffs that mostly cover the hands and a Scarlet band of silk at the waist gives definisition to the figure eblow the bodice. An ode to the country dress that belongs in the grandest of settings anywhere in the world. This sets the tone for the rest of the collection.
A Lapis Blue dress with floral posies across the length of the skirt reaching to the ankles. Hinting at styles from another century it celebrates Russian culture with it's puffed upper sleeves, fitted bodice and long line tulip shaped skirt. The boldness of the colour never overpowers the strength of the style and the look is one of demure beauty. Play on the theme of corsets of old is also hinted at throught he designs with a soft Baby Blue gown typifying classic feininity; ruched above elbow sleeve ballons are echoed in the voluminous puffball hem. Sitting on the waist but not restricting it, a white corset is decorated with delicate Baby Blue and Pink Roses adding a feminine cradle around the waist of the wearer. To the right a stunning coat dress in Black, White and Rose features panels in the jacket that echo the elements of the corset and Roses sewn around the upper White skirt of the coat. It's sweetly romantic but also seriously refined in it's composition. The idea of hints of structure reveales on the outer garment also appears in the next coat dress to the right with the figure wrapped in Roses across the shoulders, waist and hips while the length of the coat feature contrasting vertical and lattice monochrome pattern.
Floral inspiration appears in charming juxtaposition with geometry in a White dress featuring a close set lattice at the bodice featuring a high rise to the collar bone mirrored in the decent to the skirt cut in the same movement across the hips. Fresh Green leaves of Spring wrap around the waist of the wearer descending to a skirt cut in bias perfection. A lighter check crosses the fabric with Rose heads lightly strewn around the skirt lengths. You could be at a garden party, ball or magical Summer picnic in this piece. Scarlet takes the central attention of the eye in the next look with a beautiful dress channelling both heritage lines and the simplified modern aesthetic. A closely sculpted front fastened bodice descends to a flared upper skirt cloaking the hips and the lengths of the dress skirt ready for a fiesta. This is a dress that wants to be seen and is ready for a party. The boldness of the Red is nothing to be afraid of as this is generally a colour tone that will suit most complexions.
To the right cooling leaves in hues of Violet through to Greens fall from the bodice across the lengths of the skirt cut on a Rock and Roll meets Handkerchief style hem. A soft gauzy sheer outer sheath sits over the fabric descending from a light wrap across the shoulder. It's almost a simple veil which gives the dress suggestions of a Bridal option for the warmer sunshine months. An Emerald coat dress with a side apron of closely woven textile blends the aesthetic of the mid 20th century western women's suit with hints of Eastern culture and textile. It's discreetly elegant, suitable for a state dinner or a private date night anywhere in the world.
To the left above a long line evening dress with simple Pink Rose buds sewn across it's surface. Again it shows the playful desire to mix the antique with the contemporary and create something that honours the deep rooted Russian culture in conjuring a contemporary elegant piece. Simplicity is a key feature through the collection giving the tone of understated elegance. A Baby Blue dress cut close to the figure with fluted pin-tuck hem and underskirt add a cool extension of elegance to the simple lines of the garment. A small break in the line of the outfit across the waist allows for cooling air to touch the skin on the warmest of days. This is a perfect day or evening garmetthat's sweet but not too cute. To the right in Midnight Blue a suit is tailored to figure in the true manner of Haute Couture with detailed applique at the lower sleeves and the waist, it's a soft whisper of style to make a discreet entrance at an event this season.
The classic theme of Black and White offers boundless possibilities for Sergeenko across numerous pieces. An array of tiny dots fill out the upper bodice of the dress with a thin Black round neck collar and elbow border leading to dual layered Black and White cuffs. Like a twist on regency frock style it contrasts with a straight Black skirt descending to above the ankle. With hints of the mid 20th century and the Edwardian era, as it's known in the west, it ably mixes several places in history with today. In a similar line the dress to it's right also mixes an eclectic dose of antique, silver screen and folk heritage into something perfect for Gala's Ball and the Red Carpet around the globe. With it's plunging lace bodice breaking the line of the sheer Black canvas, the ruffs of lace trim at the elbows and the skirt double hem offer sheer elegance to the eye.
Intricate embroidery showcasing the best of Russian heritage gracefully adorns the bodice of the next dress tessellating across the figure of the wearer to gently emphasise feminine curves. To the right the lace of the ruff collar beautifully borders the neckline of the bodice of a fitted Black cocktail dress. Cinched at the waist it's a truly universal statement of refined taste and could be worn by clients of all ages across the globe in many cultures to a variety of events. The cutaway bodice theme appears again with a plunging escalloped neckline reaching to the waist meeting with two perfectly placed pleats that accent the bell shaped skirt length gown. Ruff gathered upper sleeves add a hint of elegance and nod to a bygone era.
The romance and Summer practicality of simple White lace is brought into the next look with a light elegant piece expressing the heights of Russian traditional textile craft. Flowers and sheaves of corn are subtly worked into the design with an overlay/underlay approach to the skirt lengths in a giant sized applique statement. Another potential Bridal style. To the centre in Grey-Blue detailed embroidery across sheer silk forms an outer shell of a beautiful classic Black tie dress. It's another easy to wear piece that fits well but not too close to the figure and would look good wth a wrap or jacket on colder evenings.
Mixing Rock and Roll and Black Tie glamour once again the next look to the right combines a Black long sleeved bodice with a flowing panelled skirt emblazoned with design themes from historical Russian craftsmanship. A soft puff-ball thick hem adds extra movement to the garment to capture the gentle breeze on warm days and evenings and protect on cooler ones. A shoulerless cocktail dress again brings touches of the traditional Russian style to the fore with colour contrast borders in Black against the White of the gown and floral themes that resemble the patterns of traditional wooden carved furniture. To the right a cool and simply styled off the shoulder gown features ruched escalloped detail at the bodice neckline with sleeves fluted at the elbows. Again antique meets the modern with a pretty Blue border at the base of a perfectly tailored skirt emphasising the beauty of the natural lines of the figure underneath dress. There room to dance, twirl and feel at ease during a long warm Summer evening.
The mode used to create earlier Black dresses in the collection transfers to the looks brought out in White later in the collection. As the mood moves to bridal these styles offer possible bases for future brides to choose their options. A White dress with lattice bodice and full shouldered detail features loose balloon sleeves tapering to ruched cuffs at the elbow. The lengths of the skirt curve around the figure in the form of soft overlayed petals gently flattering the woman's natural shape. It's a romantic piece like so many of it's peers. Next to it a Sugar-Pink bodice harmonises with the colours of a lattice design running around the base of the skirt. The gentle hint of craft and design so cherished in Russia is finished with a pin-tuck detail hem to add more volume and a style twist. It's a simple easy outfit to wear in the day or for an evening Summer party.
Embracing traditional echos of the 18th Century a high collared White dress with floral prints utilises the form of two outer side panels create layered skirts to enhance volume in a subtle shape that compliments the curves of the female figure. The panels also allow for movement as the wearer walks and also make a connection to the folk traditions of the past. The rich colour of Russian nature again the soft Teal of the dress centre above shows contrasting pleats and puffball facets of it's structure to both emphasise the beauty of a well kept figure and also add touches of delicate femininity. White puff sleeves add a third contrasting colour tone and a playful dynamic to the look. It's fresh and Green for Spring and Summer. To the right the Ice Blue dress again featuring wide sleeves seems to be an intuitive mix of traditional Russian clothing and High Court glamour of previous centuries. Embroidered at the sleeves and at the waist in double layers it's raised shoulder bring the style of bygone days to the clients of Haute Couture with a suitably updated twist. To the far right a whirling flourish of a bridal gown that mixes the best of old and new from Russia to my eyes. Layered at the upper sleeves, waist and in the lengths of the skirt the gentle fringes of embroidered detail softly add a texture contrast to the design.
Ulyana is interested in accessories and this season showed several simple but pretty millinery designs. It struck me that Russia needs more crafts people in various areas of the fashion industry where there were once many skilled crafts people and this would include millinery. Hints of the Russian countryside appear in her designs to symbolise perhaps that as these clothes are shown in Paris at the apex of the Fashion World they speak proudly of their Russian heritage.
The collection also features charming shoes in classic refined Court style completed with flourishes of lace to echo the antique lace of cuffs and collars. Clear tones of colour are used to enable them to blend seamlessly with many looks from the collection or even to be worn with other items.
A beautiful series of bags also accompanies the collection with the Rose featuring prominently across many interpretations. The core shape of a purse that appears to be 'dressed' in it's own outer garment of slight handkerchief resemblance style is one that appears both cute and sophisticated. It captures the sense of the collection so well where the old and new seem to combine with such easy effect to create desirable Haute Couture for an international client base who appreciate the beauty and charm of Old Russia and design impulses that flow through it's creatives today.
The Dior of Maria Grazia Chiuri is one that really does embrace the true nature of the House as created by Monsieur Dior whilst also providing for the current generations of Haute Couture clients that visits and watch the shows in Paris from afar. Taking the central themes of Black and White as a starting point she expounded on this to create a series of looks with broad scope.
The first look opened in Black with a sheer camisole top combining both elements of the male tuxedo shirt and also a barely-there Lemon under layer offering a match to the golden caps of the shoes worn by the model. It's certainly a piece to beat the Summer heat in stylishly and the careful tucked folds of the skirt cinched at the left waist offer ease and volume to the wearer. Polka Dots have been used by Dior since the House's earliest days, but look closely, these are actually Domino pieces laid out in banded layers to form a light Summer coat dress. The classic Little Black Dress gets the touch of Dior simplicity with a crescent neckline, tiny banded belt and knee length hem the only details that define the dress beyond the silhouette itself.
To the right a sheer outer dress blends the theme of both blouse and veil in a look that could signal a possible bridal option. Embroidered around the neckline and cuffs descending to a White pencil skirt, it's a subtle contemporary take on elegance. Classic tones of the 1950's again return with Dior's classic era evoked in a shoulder-less White gown with a dipped hem. Wearing a mysterious eye piece to hint as a masque ball perhaps, it's a perfect statement piece for a cocktail reception, evening gala or special dinner. As always with Haute Couture you can wear the commissioned pieces just about anywhere that your imagination takes you.
First to the left above, hints of the imaginative structural exploration that appear in Maria Grazia Chiuri's former work at Valentino. Here though it no doubt reflects the interest in form and structure of Monsieur Dior and is also perhaps a nod to his early career as an architect. The checkerboard theme of the floor is reflected also in the theme of the dress furthest to the right. Blending a bold 1960's take on monochrome and clashes of symmetry and asymmetry, it capture the mood of youthful play to perfection while embodying the sophistication required for formal events. A perfect red carpet or Gala dress option. A bare neckline could easily be accessorised with a wrap or a light shrug to keep away the cold.
To the centre, the experimentation in form and line, so prevalent in the 1960's returns with a chic Black shirt dress sitting under a geometric coat. Nipped at the waist and with deep pockets, it has the classic long-line coat appeal whilst also retaining touches of modern practicality. Attention to detail and style codes appear in the White dress centre above with a contour lattice stretching across the bodice descending through five geometrically tiered skirts. The flowing cascades gently accentuating the movement of the wearer as she walks. Colour and line is played with once more in the next piece showing bowed bands of Black and White, giving emphasis to the upper and lower halves of the dress. Any starkness of strength to the eyes is countered with a Black velvet bow tied at the neckline also providing a fabric contrast.
To the right in 'Book Leaf' design a gown swirls around the wearer revealing soft waves of fabric. Light and graceful, it could be a possible Bridal gown of an after-wedding dress for the evening reception that takes you on a whirl around the dance floor. To the right another close look at the structure and form returns in a skeleton frame dress descending to the ankles. As much a piece of contemporary art as a fashion statement this will interest clients who want to explore deeper meanings and anatomy of style. Embroidered layers of lace draped in the skirt on the bias cut provide a nod to the tradition of craft in the first look above to the left. A sheer blouse style bodice utilises the gathers of the male tuxedo shirt as in a look earlier in the collection to give the garment structure and not reveal too much. The fabric is lightly Polka-dotted referencing the dotted lace of the early years of Dior's House and the look blends the formal with the informal.
A further take on the chess piece theme appears in the next garment with a skirt appearing to show the plan of a chess board across it's fabric. The model walks as the game unfolds and the seriousness implied by the preparation and the positioning is off-set by the lightness of the fabric wound across the bodice and descending as an outer dress. Cinched closely at the waist a dress composed of feathers in it's upper part is secured by a belt with tulle under-layered skirting stretching to the floor either side of the legs as the model walks. It's elegant and demure with that hint a 'surprise' in it's creativity that also embodies the classic best of Dior.
The simple Black dress is given an updated twist with a hint of utilitarian style creeping into the design. A stiff bodice stands forward from the figure and the overall lines echo the courtly dresses of centuries past with a simple sash wrapped around the shoulders to define elegance in the most subtle accents. To the right a semi-sheer dress again puts the anatomy of the Haute Couture gown under the X-ray by revealing the line and structure of the outfits. The feminine Butterfly flutters her wings in feathers with tiny silk Butterflies inside inverting Black and White simply at the bodice to give a contrasting colour scheme. The fabric is cut perfectly across the figure, both defining the waist and providing a gown of suitable stature for both Black and White tie occasions.
An abundance of applique turns a cloaked gown into a theatrical work of excellence. Flowers and feathers combine to make a outfit fit for a ball. The hood far from gothic suggests protection against the winter elements of early spring and for the wearer it provides a Queenly sense of drama in it's style. A sleeveless dress is finely latticed across the torso and crafted in an echo of the human anatomy underneath. Cut on the form of the ribcage it forms a second skin over the figure and neatly flows down to a skirt cut in abundance. The flowing fabric that creates the innate contrast, so popular in contemporary Haute Couture, to the close fit of the bodice. The high waist also offers a possibility for maternity wear for clients and the dress could easily be combined with a jacket or wrap on cooler evenings. The theatrical mask reappears to provide a colour change from the pure White.
For clients with bolder tastes a sheer tiered dress set on the bias cut angle provides an option for possible Red Carpet appearances and special private occasions. Paying careful attention to the folds and nuances offered to design by the fabric it's a daring 21st Century take on the classic ball gown. To the right in Black echos of the military epaulet can be seen in tiers set in contrasting line to the previous garment. Creating a semi-sheer look, it's not too revealing to the eye whilst also strongly suggesting a well kept figure underneath. Hints of architecture and framing appear again at the neckline softly dipping in direct alignment with the chin and the shoulders are gently fringed with epaulet detail in an echo of the skirt. To the right a soft White gown in simple style offers a comfortable easy-wear option for day or evening. It could be worn to christenings or Summer formal events with a light jacket or could be worn on hot nights.
Continuing the masked theme as many of the above pieces do, the first look above to the left forms a dress from tight knit panels at the bodice and in flowing style across the lengths of the dress skirt. Gathered at the waist to give the most elegant wider volume, it quietly utilises the simple bodice form of women's fashion history as a reference point for the structure and composition of the garment. It's hues of Platinum and Black adding a modern metallic twist. Hints of the Renaissance nude in the free floating form of classically undulating fabrics adorn the next garment to create one of the most carefree Haute Couture looks that could be imagined.
The off-the-shoulder cocktail gown seen above in White returns in a similar style in Scarlet with the strength of the passion of colour that Christian Dior wanted to emblazon on the consciousness of women following the privations of the Second World War. Tightly pressed pleats descend into luxuriant folds of style. Geometry returns in the next dress to the right making a bold statement echoing impressionist art and also perhaps mirroring the early stages of design in the atelier studio with coloured blocks of fabric draped on top of each-other. The playfulness is kept in check by a broad band at the waist enclosing a sheer Golden fabric twisted across a single shoulder. Slipping back to a more recognisably classic Dior gown, the next look to the right takes a new approach to the neckline with a cutaway dip in the centre pausing halfway between neckline and waist. Sleeves begin at the mid-arm and continue to above the hand. The skirts of the dress are overlaid with stray tend-rills falling from the bodice in a faintly gothic effect, while the layered tulle skirt embroidered with floral applique speaks of classic 'Ball Gown' style. An embroidered White dress is as delicate as a feather as it sits over the figure like a loose glove. Subtly emphasising the beauty of the wearer it's a piece that shows the expertise of the atelier to the most flattering effect.
The artists eye is present in two White dresses that show an avant garde flair by the standard of Dior and also Maria Grazia Chiuri's willingness to experiment with the codes of the classic Dior look. Melding time honoured Dior style with creative adaptation gives the designer perhaps more scope. A sleeveless ankle length White dress is bordered at the shoulder by a White ruff with wispy light sheer silk trailing to the ground in an echo of the Bridal and Court dress train of previous centuries. Could this be an alternative form of Bridal-wear? Perhaps so. It's neighbour to the right brings the high collar and full length sleeves to the coat dress with hints of the zodiac implying some of Monsieur's superstitious nature. While not implying that the current creative director believes in such things it's certainly a leap in a new direction for the House.
A White trouser suit complete with blouse and neck-tie appears centre above in a clear attempt to claim the masculine as feminine. Does it work and does it need to? Perhaps this is the next logical stage of the Bar suit, to transform the Masculine and the Feminine into one? To the right a White tulle gown utilises the male waistcoat to perfection creating a natural dressed-down (yet somehow still up) version of White Tie glamour ready to head out to ball of today. A wide skirt again features, simply perfect for dancing in during long hot nights. To the right cocktail dress glamour combines with the coquettish plumes of feathers running down across the length of the garment. The cigarette line trousers that where developed by Dior's best known assistant, Yves Saint Laurent, appear in the look furthest to the right matched with a Black waistcoat jacket to create a simple but strikingly elegant look that brings strength and beauty together as one. For drinks, a dinner date or in front of the cameras for press commitments, this outfit is classic perfection.
Whilst most collection close with Bridal White or shades close to it, Dior's Spring-Summer 2018 Haute Couture offering is set resolutely in Black. A statement perhaps to dress women in the colour of strength, the traditional colour associated with spies, and with the most important woman in the kingdom either as monarch or consort in former centuries. It may be wrong to read too much into the colour as Haute Couture clients can and do request variations on the styles that are presented as suggestions for commissions to their particular wishes. The sleeveless waistcoat returns accompanied by a full tulle skirt reaching to the ankle in archetypal Ball Gown style. It's neighbour to the right appears to incorporate the silken lapels of the male Tuxedo jacket running to the skirt lengths. Is there a message here again in an adapted masculine style?
Rather than becoming more feminine as the collection draws to a close, it takes on the appearance of the more conventionally masculine and this cannot be an accident. Looking like an outfit that could be seen at a ball in a James Bond film, a model wear a full length silk Black coat over a pressed shirt and neck tie. With preconditioning we look at this and see Menswear but there must be meaning to placing it here.
Finally to close, a sheer blouse, trouser suit and overcoat have the model walking into spring and summer prepared for the chillest of days in androgynous style. Perhaps the message from Dior is to turn things around and confuse and oppose the norm? Do we need to turn fashion norms upside down and does the global roll-call of Haute Couture clients want this to add to their collections this season? Only the Dior Atelier will be able to discover that in time.