There are few things in life as beautiful and artistic as a haute couture show. This week, we were treated to Paris’ Spring 2012 Couture Fashion Week, featuring the best of the best in the couture world. The usual big name French fashion houses were there – Chanel, Valentino, Givenchy, Dior – as well as some lesser known designers (at least in the states) like Stephane Rolland and Maxime Simoens. Designers almost universally showcased linear looks, dresses with long sleeves and crisp, white ensembles. And there was another umbrella trend: Designers were clearly thinking about the future while slaving away in their ateliers.
Sure, couture often channels the avant-garde, but this season the reference was more of the evolutionary kind. At Armani Prive, the theme was metamorphosis. From snakes shedding skin to butterflies emerging from a chrysalis, models’ looks were the embodiment of evolution. Take note of the black coil affixed to models’ heads and the prominent verdant color story. Whether a fold in a skirt to resemble a pod or a dress with two textures to reflect shedding an outer layer, the concept was clear.
Dior’s evolution statement was more inferred. Likely, because the fashion house still has yet to name a creative director replacement since John Galliano’s infamous departure last year. Garments had an unfinished quality, even the most polished ones. Perhaps it’s a reference to the brand not being able to fully evolve without its former famous creative director or someone of equal talent taking the reigns. While the usual ladylike looks were present, very little felt new. And, maybe that’s just the evolutionary statement they were hoping for.
Meanwhile at Chanel, it was all about fly and sky. And, when Mr. Lagerfeld has a notion, he takes it seriously. Transforming the Grand Palias into what looked like a space craft, models paraded down the aisle in 150 shades of blue with futuristic silhouettes, often resembling neo-retro-flight attendant uniforms. The collection was streamlined and certainly cohesive with the usual Chanel signature stamp. In some cases sleeves represented wings, oversized pockets were present in almost every look and texture was achieved through embroidery, not fabric. Does this mean we can expect blue skies ahead?
Always on the cutting-edge, Givenchy continues to naturally evolve. While the collection consisted of only 10 looks which didn’t necessarily literally translate to evolution, the pieces were so delicate and meticulously crafted, you couldn’t help but notice how evolved this fashion house has become. Take, for example, the scales on the hide of a long dress, which were individually cut, bleached, dyed, and resewn one by one in order onto a tulle body stocking. It took 350 hours. Now, that’s fashion!
Whatever the designers’ individual messages may be, I think it’s fair to say couture continues to raise the bar for conceptualization and craftsmanship.