SCHIAPARELLI: DELECTABLE DRESSES
Inspiration: Creating the extraordinary from the ordinary, and in this case, transforming the pleasure of tasting into the tasteful pleasure of couture. "Eating well gives a spectacular joy of life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship," said Elsa Schiaparelli in her autobiography Shocking Life published in 1954. "It is of great importance to the morale."
The set: Hôtel d'Evreux at 10 Place Vendôme was transformed into a fantastical set with the runway covered in illustrations of fruits and vegetables, skewed prawns, and butterfly wings on an aqua marine background, while the backdrop was a floor-to-ceiling wooden crockery display unit filled with white porcelain plates.
High expectations: Spare a thought for designer Bertrand Guyon. It's his second couture show for Schiaparelli — which means the grace period for mistakes and 'teething problems' (extended only to his first offering) has lapsed — and he's now expected to deliver a collection that is not only respectful to the maison's reputation (that is, shocking and provocative) but that's also commercially viable. A delicate balance that can either hit the mark, or miss by a long shot.
The collection: A serving of deliciously decorated dresses. Guyon took the dining inspiration literally and slathered his collection with food and tableware motifs. The opening gown of a patchwork of encrusted and appliquéd nappa leather revealed a table laid out for dinner; as if setting the 'table cloth' for the dishes of dresses to come. What followed was a whimsical assortment of blazers and tops embroidered with onions, shallots, citrus fruits and other garden lights (the peas in the pod in look 4 were made from real pearls); silk crêpe gowns painted with red fruits, berries, artichokes or amuse-bouches (look 18 was a personal favourite); and, of course, the signature red lobster embroidered onto the bib of a full-length silk cigaline gown (look 34). Crazy, but crazy beautiful.
CHRISTIAN DIOR: CONFIDENCE IN MOTION
The set: A purpose-built installation — housed in the manicured garden of Musée Rodin — that consisted of rectangular mirrored panels set in a curved zig-zag pattern. As models walked the circular catwalk, their image was reflected infinitely in the mirrored décor, imbuing the collection with a sense of freedom and modernity.
The collection: With the recent departure of Raf Simons, this was the first couture collection without a head designer orchestrating the ateliers. Needless to say, questions abounded: Would it be an extension of Simons' streamlined styling or more avant-garde like John Galliano? In the end, it was a considered expression of both, tied together with signature house styles (a more relaxed 'Bar' jacket) and archive references (Christian Dior's comet and Lily of the Valley). Intricate embellishments were often found hidden in the pleat of silk skirts (such as look 10) or on tops layered under dresses (for example, look 22); off-shoulder styling continued as exemplified in the tobacco double-breasted wool coat-dress worn over a grey knit (look 37) or emerald green 'Bar' dress styled nonchalantly over an embroidered nude silk top (look 39); and long coats were given the fringe treatment, artfully layered with longer dresses so that the ruffled hem of the pleated dress would peak through (looks 27 and 52).
Favourite look: The endearing elegance, and confidence in motion, of the understated long white cotton and silk dress (look 35) and chic white 'Bar' jacket with elongated sleeves tastefully embellished with an asymmetric pattern of Lily of the Valley motifs (look 47).
Something you might have missed: The team of designers from the Christian Dior studio taking their collective bow on the runway at the end of the show. They might not be household designer names, but they've managed to craft a collection that is sure to please the tastes and preferences of the existing Dior clientele.
RALPH & RUSSO: DECADENT ELEGANCE
Location: Pavilion Cambon Capucines in the first arrondissement with its Roman-esque columns and arches baroquely finished with gold-leaf. A suiting backdrop to the decadent elegance of Ralph & Russo.
The collection: An almost regal offering of flowing Chantilly lace, billowing crêpe capes, and powdery ribbons of organza pin-tucked into geometric waves. In general, the gowns designed to move with bounce with the body were stronger than the rigid, structured pieces. In particular, we were drawn to the nude silk satin chiffon robe over a beaded blush pink bustier (look 27); the black tulle draped batwing dress with bow peplum appliquéd with graphic (and very modern) duchess satin ribbon (look 37); and the white silk crêpe kimono gown elaborately embroidered with floral silk threadwork, silver bullion, crystals and glass beads (look 45).
The wedding gown: The crowning jewel of a multi-layered gown featuring a duchess satin bustier and kimono sleeves stretching beyond a three-metre train, all lavishly embroidered with 3D silk and metallic threadwork, silver bullion, silk organza petals, pearls and crystals. Naturally, it weighed a tonne and required six people (yes, six additional people) to lift up the train at the end of the runway in order for the model to turn around. No pain, no glory.
GIAMBATTISTA VALLI: AN ODE TO PARIS
The inspiration: It's no surprise that the haute couture collections paid tribute to the City of Light. After all, the ateliers were hard at work creating each delicate piece when the terror attacks on Paris took place last November. This season, Giambattista Valli took inspiration from the city's iconic gardens — Jardin des Tuileries, Palais-Royal, Parc de Bagatelle and Jardin du Luxembourg. This was his thank you note to Paris.
The collection: An explosion of flowers — Valli's signature motif of choice — decorated shift dresses, empire-waist gowns (with high-low hems) and coats. Each bloom flourishing in intricate 3D embroideries, appliqués and pailettes. To add to the collection's romance, clouds of ruffles and exaggerated bishop sleeves added to the airy flounce.
The finale: With all of his couture shows, guests always wait in anticipation for the show's final looks. This time, the designer stunned the crowd (in a good way, of course) once again with grand tiered tulle plissé gowns that only princesses fantasise about in dreamland.
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