Coquettes and cashmere at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week
This month saw Paris once again put on a dazzling show at their biannual Haute Couture Fashion Week. This is the event where the finest fashion houses across the world are invited to present the best of their handmade garments in the City of Light. Principally centred around gala and ball gowns, this season’s event fulfilled the expectations that Haute Couture in Paris has long commanded.
As it is constantly in evolution and transition, there is no exact definition of haute couture, but it remains shaped by certain customs that most other fashion weeks are free from. Traditionally, haute couture is fashion that is principally constructed by hand and made from the finest quality materials. More than the price that these items are commonly sold for, the “haute” of haute couture should also be seen to refer to level of skill and expertise required of the seamstresses to create the intricacy and perfection of these clothes.
A common complaint put to Haute Couture is the lack of theatricality and flesh that is so commonly found at other fashion weeks and catwalk shows. However in Paris this month, there has been plenty of both. From the outset the scene has been firmly set in the aesthetics of the 18th century French court, gracefully fusing both the regal and the coy.
The former was headed by Dior. Beyond the clothes, completing the court-chic was Victoire de Castellane’s gems for Dior Fine Jewellery. V Magazine were granted a sneak preview and the artistic director explained to them: “I wanted to create each piece just like the dresses Christian Dior designed, with an architect’s eye, as if the jewels were sculpted, flounced, pleated, belted, or draped fabrics.” As carefully put together as the clothes, some of these gems took up to 2,500 hours to complete.
Leading the coquettes was Kim Kardashian in the front row, pouting and causing a ruffle when photographed perched upon the knee of designer Valentino.
Themes and trends
Elsa Schiaparelli stood out with an outlandish array of headdresses, ostrich feathers and cashmere. The plentitude of the latter is perhaps not so surprising, after the style icon Olivia Palermo made a splash last week when wearing a cashmere sweater to her secret wedding in New York. Indeed, cashmere is being promoted across the fashion world, such as in Peter Hahn’s collection here, as retailers prepare for approaching autumn. Throughout it all, Schiaparelli managed to remain sophisticated, the extravagances challenging the dominance of long-standing rivals Chanel.
In comparison, Chanel were a little subdued this time around, provoking none of the furore that Karl Lagerfeld’s sneakers and shopping trolleys caused in January. The most memorable feature of the Chanel show was a conspicuous lack of high heels, with the majority of the models wearing only ribboned sandals.
Forced to adapt when confronted by each generation, Haute Couture is constantly rehashing and reforming its principles, mixing the staples of the golden age of the silver screen with the current zeitgeist. Much of this Hollywood glamour was worked into the show by London label Ralph & Russo. Though headed by two Australians, the label is registered in the UK and therefore can be classed as the first British label to be invited to join the central schedule at the Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week in a century. Perhaps fittingly, Ralph & Russo closed the show with a spectacular bridal finale, the six footmen in attendance to the resplendent train, promising of better things yet to come.
The editorial unit