CHANEL: THE ATELIERS
The collection: It's not often that we mere mortals are allowed a glimpse behind the closed doors of a couture atelier. Couture, after all, is the product of countless hours and hard labour, a seasonal ceremony of craftsmanship bestowed to the hands of an exclusive rank of men and women — a ritual to which few are invited. But, not anymore. At Chanel's fall 2016 couture collection yesterday, Karl Lagerfeld presented a decidedly structural and graphic array of tweed suiting, cocktail dresses, evening wear and an unexpected finale bride, all set to the backdrop of the recreated ateliers at Rue Cambon. As fashion continues to grow more and more transparent, is it time to unveil the true artists of haute couture? Lagerfeld apparently thinks so.
The set: The inner world of Chanel's ateliers came to life on yesterday's runway, as the Grand Palais in Paris was decked out with drafting tables, sewing machines, mirrors, pins, and more. During the show, the models appeared on the runway as if emerging from fittings, complete with seamstresses keeping busy with their daily tasks. This show stands out as more than the latest couture garments, but as a beautiful tribute to the men and women who often get left behind the scenes.
The finale: Model Edie Campbell looked stunning when closing the show as this season's bride, wearing a bustier and trousers in lace. But, it was the pale apricot beaded jacket with an elaborate train of ostrich feathers that stole the show.
In attendance: Chanel ambassador Willow Smith, and her father Will Smith, sat in good company on yesterday's front row, down the line from Milla Jovovich, Hari Nef and Zhou Xun. Actress Jessica Chastain also made an appearance donning a sequined Chanel blazer and leather pencil skirt.
J. MENDEL: THE LOST SON OF PARIS
The collection: Designer Gilles Mendel moved from his hometown of Paris to New York City in the 1980s in pursuit of ready-to-wear aspirations and a singular dream: To create a world of unparalleled luxury. Fast-forward to the third day of Paris Couture Week, in a spectacular homecoming, Mendel presented a fall 2016 couture collection complete with a unique approach to modern luxury — an unmatched attention to detail and a passion for furs. As his first couture outing, and the first as a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, this season will soon be regarded as a milestone moment for the designer, when the lost son of Paris had returned.
The inspiration: Full of rich influences, Mendel's fall 2016 couture collection found beauty in the grit-glam streets of New York City from the 1980s, the idea of dressing up for a soiree at the Palace of Versailles, and even the decadent "go-go" side of the Eighties. But, the underlying theme this season would be a touching tribute to his father, the man who taught him everything he knows about furs.
Favourite furs: There's nothing more iconic, or as luxurious, than furs. Sure, this season Mendel sent down the runway a stunning array of embroidery and embellishments (looks 25 & 38), but with a showcase that included his adept manipulation of ermine, mink and chinchilla pelts, it would be a shame to not point out our favourite furs. Like the off-the-shoulder options (looks 8, 16, 21), or the particularly extravagant ermine furs brushed with 24-karat gold (looks 28, 31, 33, 37 and 39). Some pelts included practical fastenings that looked like gold studs from a distance, but allowed the wearer to customise and shape the furs.
GIORGIO ARMANI PRIVÉ: A QUIET BEAUTY
The collection: In bold opposition to his youthful spring 2016 couture collection, Giorgio Armani presented a decidedly more mature elegance at yesterday's Armani Privé fall 2016 couture runway show. Trading in last season's jeune fille for this season's la femme, this collection showcased the designer's perfected aesthetics for chic sophistication, and the wearable. Rather subdued with houndstooth prints and a palette of pale pinks and blues against recurring black velvet, fall 2016 was brightened in several occasions with smart Swarovski crystal embroidery executed in geometric precision. This is certainly the season for quiet beauty.
The showstoppers: This was a no-brainer — that black silk velvet dress with a plunging neckline embroidered with Swarovski crystals (look 38), and as the only qualifying gown in the collection, a black silk velvet bustier dress with a wide flounced skirt and crystal-embroidered hems (look 53). Take a look and you'll fall in love.
In attendance: The face of Armani's Sì fragrance, actress Cate Blanchett, arrived in an all-over deco-floral print ensemble to show her support at yesterday's show, along with Armani's neice Roberta Armani, and Zhang Zilin, Dominic Cooper and Helena Gatsby.
ALEXANDRE VAUTHIER: STRENGTH IN FEMININITY
The collection: Alexandre Vauthier found inspiration for his fall 2016 couture collection in the strength of femininity and womanhood. Celebrating the event with a rock star cast of models, he sent out a range of leading ladies wearing a spectrum of militant hues, couture camouflage and a dusting of Swarovski crystals.
Leading ladies: Jourdan Dunn opened the show with confidence, wearing a fur-trimmed jacket teamed with a black jumpsuit and oversized army-green bow. Shortly after, Bella Hadid and Soo Joo Park were sent down the mirror-lined runway to walk, what would become, a couture collection filled with the industry's most elite models.
Favourite looks: Thankfully we weren't too carried away with watching our favourite models to notice several remarkable looks, including an elaborate trench-dress with oversized shoulders and this season's recurring riveted belt (look 8), a slinky black-and-gold sequin dress (look 14) and the mercilessly bold finale dress worn by Bella Hadid (look 32) featuring a purple velvet bodysuit and a cascade of sparkling crystals and tulle.
Best shows from Paris Couture fall 2016 Day 1: Ulyana Sergeenko, Guo Pei and Atelier Versace
Best shows from Paris Couture fall 2016 Day 2: Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, Ralph & Russo, Giambattista Valli
For all our coverage of Paris Couture Fashion Week FW16, click here.