Couture is always a difficult season to review, since much of what goes into it isn’t even seen during the actual runway. Every piece takes an enormous amount of man-hours and expert craftsmanship, so in a way it is difficult to separate personal and aesthetic judgments from admiration of what the couturiers can achieve.
It would take a long time to review all 26 collections shown this season, so I will only be discussing what I consider to be the five stand out collections.
5. ULYANA SERGENKO
Sergenko, while untrained in design, created a series of lavish, beautiful dresses that looked pulled straight out of a fairytale. While Sergenko is clearly not as experienced as her fellow designers, her garments are showing a clearer focus and narrative than they have for the last two seasons. Still remaining, however, is Sergenko’s strong Russian sensibility.
The tailoring and use of materials in this collection might not rival those used by more established labels, but they look exquisite nevertheless. Some of my favorites include:
This beautifully tailored fur dress.
A structured cape.
Yet, there were still a couple of misses, like:
this drab looking dress.
4. ARMANI PRIVÉ
I’m normally not a fan of collections that blatantly showcase such stereotypical femininity, but Armani’s appropriately titled “Nude” collection took me by surprise. Armani’s showing carried a distinctly Old Hollywood feel, all embodied in a mix of both day and eveningwear. It might not be the most daring of collections, but it is certainly one of the most thematically coherent of the season. My favorites are:
These luxuriously soft looking coats.
The intricacy of this dress.
But in comparison some of these suits look a bit boring, no?
I often hear a lot of criticism leveled toward Valentino for the recent matronly feel the designs have taken, but I personally feel that the look works for the brand. This season, however Chiuri and Piccioli decided to change things up a bit, and focus on daywear instead of the traditional nightwear often shown in couture. The results were rather spectacular. Valentino’s lavish intricacy mixed with simpler garments made for a striking combination. Some of the best are:
I love the ridiculous amount of detail on this dress.
This strictly tailored look.
And yet I don’t understand how bland looks like this made it onto the runway. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen similar garments from non-couture collections.
2. MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA
Margiela’s show is one I always look forward to regardless of season, but the couture (also called “artisanal”) show is one of my favorites. Unlike other couture labels that strive to create new looks from scratch for each showing, the Maison recycles old materials and garments into new creations. How they manipulate these finds into their couture looks is always a fascinating process. While this show didn’t have anything as daring as Fall 2012’s trench coat made from a windsurfing sail, the presentation had some incredible pieces such as:
A 1930’s Beijing Opera costume fused with a wool coat.
This transformed 1950’s prom dress hemmed with flowers.
And while I love the encrusted mask and jacket, jeans really have no place in this collection.
1. VIKTOR & ROLF
I have to admit, I was rather surprised with how much I liked Viktor & Rolf. It’s not that I don’t like their designs, and I am certainly glad to see them back on the couture lineup, but I never expected to find a V&R show this fascinating. The designs are much more simple than most of those produced by the house and are all very similar. It is almost the same look, manipulated in different ways. The garments look less like clothes and more like sculptures, which is actually very much within the spirit of couture. The experimentation with volume and drapery pay off handsomely here, as I actually have absolutely no qualms with this collection. I loved everything, especially:
The bunched-up skirt of this dress.
How incredibly voluminous this look is.
This coat is amazing.
And with that, I end my review of Fall 2013 Couture. There are 21 other shows I didn’t discuss, so I would invite you to look at the collections yourself and form your own opinions. Fashion is, of course, always much more fun in dialogue.