Show reviews: Highlights from Paris Couture spring 2016 — Day 4

Show reviews: Highlights from Paris Couture spring 2016 — Day 4

Paris couture fashion week

Text: Norman Tan Andrea Sim

On the last day of haute couture: Givenchy presented gowns encrusted with Swarovski crystals, Viktor & Rolf paraded an all-white fashion dissertation on self-identity, and Valentino delivered an ethereal collection of airy tulles and rich velvets

A curated collection: Riccardo Tisci presented a tight offering of just twelve haute couture silhouettes — centered around the themes of romanticism, boldness and liberated thinking — during the men's prêt-à-porter fall/winter 2016 show. However, the problem with combining women's haute couture with the men's ready-to-wear is that the intricate workmanship and impact of the couture pieces is often lost in the fray; the predominantly male fashion media is too focused on the menswear to really appreciate the 3D Swarovski pinstripe embroidery (Look 1) or the hexagon patchwork of python leather on a fully embroidered cape (look 2). Which is why Givenchy hosts a re-see/presentation during haute couture week. Up close and personal with the creations, all presented in the maison's sun-drenched studio on Avenue George V, you discover that the lingerie silk top and beige dress in silk chiffon are actually one piece, both studded with copper details as a nod to the men's collection (look 3); that the beige silk satin dress worn under a Point d'Esprit tulle is embellished with laser-cut python embroidery (look 7); and the black gabardine trench features crocodile cuffs and hems inlaid with python embroidery (look 11).

Favourite look: The final look with a long coat in Chantilly lace trimmed with black fox fur (weighted at the cuffs with crocodile and python), and worn off the shoulder with a sexy multi-lace dress hand-stitched with Swarovski crystals on the edge of ruffles.

Hidden luxury: The high-heel cross-band mule sandals are lined in crocodile (looks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10 and 11), and the long jacket in Grain de Poudre with shiny copper stud detailing conceals a luxurious inner lining of black python (look 10).

The collection: We are all creatures of habit, and even John Galliano — the master of deconstruction — never fails to be consistent with a handful of qualities. First off, it's his penchant for teasing fabrics apart, cutting and stitching it back together in a form of fantastical madness and secondly, calling on the allure of shimmer to tie it all together. True to his standard, appliquéd brocade snaked down dresses (looks 3 & 22), coats were paraded with half a sleeve removed (look 4), exaggerated silhouettes dominated the runway (final looks 25 & 26) and, in contrast, there were pockets of quiet beauty as with the gold column dress that glinted with intricate beadwork (look 17). 

Calling on Ziggy Stardust: An uncanny resemblance to the late David Bowie appeared halfway through the show — the model sported the same choppy, fiery red tresses with a Pat McGrath glittery masterpiece circling her right eye (look 15). More models wore variations of the same Bowie-esque hairdos and stage makeup thereafter (looks 17, 18 & 19).

Favourite look: The oversized, ruched cream coat-dress with fine pleating down the front, given shape by an embellished perspex waist belt (look 2). Echoing the pristine hallway of the Hôtel des Invalides, it's ultimately the modest creations by Galliano that speak the loudest to us. 

The inspiration: Riffing off the raffish undercurrent of nightclub Le Palace in Paris, designer Jean Paul Gaultier's collection was galvanised by the electric energy of the '70s haunt. That explained the louche bed-to-bar tailoring, poodle hair and scarlet lips — Gaultier had dressed the models to recreate a flock of the industry's in-crowd geared up to carry the party through till the sun's first rays. 

The collection: Starting out tame with loungewear-inspired tailoring, satin reigned in dripping sequins (looks 2 & 6) and embroidery tamed luxe brocade (look 3), all held together by tasselled braided waist ties. Gaultier had a clear dissection of his collection by chapter, chronicling the Yves Saint Laurent fashion revolution of the '70s next with interpretations of the power suit and women in boyish tailoring (looks 15, 17 & 19). The other cool cats to attend the designer's throwback rave at Le Palace? Those who embraced their feminity in the most classical way: Pencil skirts and shift dresses followed suit (looks 21 & 22). The punk rockers (looks 28 & 29) came along next, and then the bohemians (look 33). The collection is more than just Gaultier reminiscing the night haunt where fantastic memories were made — it was a celebration of the place that welcomed its guests as they were; in their own skin and free of discrimination and judgement. 

Something you might have missed: Highlighting the sense of belonging and community even after the final walk, the designer made his appearance with all the models — some of which gripped champagne flutes in hand toasting to an era well missed. 

Concept: Fashion is suppose to inspire, but whether it constitutes as 'art' is subject to debate — some designers vehemently protest that it is, citing construction complexity and its transformative power on the wearer; while other designers blatantly denounce such lofty ideals and label their creations as merely desirous apparel. But for designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, their spring 2016 couture show at Palais de Tokyo was a victorious statement that fashion, in its many incarnations, can also be a moving piece of art.

The collection: Played out to the hauntingly beautiful acoustic cover of Radiohead's Creep by Scala & Kolacny Brothers, the Dutch designers presented a full-white collection of shift dresses constructed from a waffle-weave fabric fashioned after abstract Picasso faces. With each look, the complexity and size of the constructions grew — from skirts embellished with cut-outs of breasts to sculptural coils of hair styled asymmetrically over the shoulder — until the models' own face was covered by the 'faces' of the dresses. In the eyes of this reviewer, it was a clear statement about the role of fashion as a mask or guise in an attempt to fit in; poetically delivered through the lyrics of the choral soundtrack:

I wish I was special
You're so fuckin' special
But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here

Something you might have missed: All dresses discreetly stamped on the back with the signature Viktor & Rolf black wax seal. Akin to an artist marking, or signing off, his or her creation.

The inspiration: The decadent past of frills, finery and festivity of 19th century Russia — from where designer Ulyana Sergeenko hails — drove the deluxe collection of dresses centred around generous, voluminous ruching and tiered organza. Set against the gilded backdrop that is the Hotel de la Salle, Sergeenko placed her body conscious silhouettes on the back-burner for her spring outing. Notably, rule breaker Madonna was also part of the designer's inspiration this time around. 

The collection: While a smattering of ensembles vouched for Sergeenko's partiality to highlighting the contours of the body with sleek uppers (looks 1, 2 & 7), it was the flared, floor-length gowns cut with puffed princess sleeves (looks 9, 20 & 34) that drew attention to the designer's varied range — Sergeenko danced to a different tune here. Translating her inspiration quite literally, the appliqués also reflected the collection's inspiration — spot the gown-clad characters sprinkled on that tiered silk-satin gown (look 21) and the masquerade mask motifs alongside embroidered sequins (look 22). And as for Madonna's influence? The coloured locks in hues of blues and purples (looks 39 & 42) were a pretty big clue. 

Buro loves: The headwear. In particular, the cadet caps by Stephen Jones millinery. The finishing touch to many an outfit (looks 5, 6, 32 and 37) in knit, leather and satin variations styled foward and off-centre, our only question is: Can we get our hands on those caps?

Inspiration: Creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli referenced late fashion designer Marion Fortuny — as well as dancers Loïe Fuller, Ruth St Denis, Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham — as the collective inspiration for creating dresses that celebrate freedom of movement.

The collection: An ethereal offering of airy and diaphanous gowns that propose a return to nature. With all models walking barefoot on a gold-painted runway, scattered with rose petals and leaves in the Hotel Salomon de Rothschild, the Valentino couture woman for spring 2016 was caressed in overlapping tunics, column dresses, and pleated velvet Delphos — a garment created by Fortuny (based on the chiton of ancient Greece) to be worn without any undergarments. Complemented with statement gold jewellery designed by Alessandro Gaggio and Harumi Klossowski (think: serpents slithering through tresses or body harnesses made from chains of gold discs), standout looks include the intricate short tulle dress embroidered with plumage in black and sepia dégradé (look 37); the regal Veronese green velvet dress embellished with handmade impressions of gold peacocks (look 57); and the dramatic closing tulle tutu cape dress in powder rose plissé with fringes and gold handmade impressions that billowed and danced with each step and turn (look 66).

Favourite look: That sepia tulle dress with arabesque applications in multi-coloured, and antiquated, plush velvet (look 13). Rich, modern, stunning.

For all coverage of Paris Couture Fashion Week, click here