Paris Couture Week: Where Fashion Goes Wild
At Paris Couture Week, big names like Dior and Givenchy and lesser-known labels served up stunning looks, with glitter, ostrich feathers, and the perfect ball attire—for a lobster.
PARIS—The Fall/Winter 2019 Couture Week started out with several trashy-looking, sequined collections from a handful of interlopers preempting the official Couture Week calendar, with fringe shows in spectacular locations. It ended with the real deal and serious design know-how in the dreamy Dior Villa and gardens set up for the collections.
Walking in circles through Dior’s on-site showroom, featuring the house’s somber Fall/Winter 2019 Couture Collection, clothing became momentarily intellectual, throwing some of the tackiest sequin designs into sharp relief.
A challenging question was posed on a white dress that opened Dior’s catwalk in the gardens, earlier in the week. It carried the slogan, “Are Clothes Modern?”
It was taken from the title of an essay and exhibition, staged at New York's MoMA in 1947, from architect Bernard Rudofsky, before clothes were featured much in major museums.
Wandering in circles through the showroom, I found it a hard question to answer. I could see the iterations of a designer who helped modernize silhouettes for women several decades ago, in this new collection, as well as old-fashioned sartorial references brought into the here and now.
What made it modern? Or did we think of designs created 50 years ago as still new?
How would the question be answered by the customers perusing the collection, as I thought? They ranged from women clad from head to toe in djellabas and brash young Americans in mini skirts.
Whether clothing is evolving or revolving in the hands of the designers that create some of the finest made-to-measure clothing on the planet shown here is a bigger question.
But it is not necessarily one that needs answering at the larger-than-life couture collections which remain as flamboyant, frivolous and fun as ever. For of one thing we can be sure, couture never steps being weird and outrageous, despite the intellects in town.
Herewith some of the wildest looks this season.
No one makes clothing as funky and daring as couture’s reigning showman Jean-Paul Gaultier. Consider, this season, fur hats in bright colors, worn with outfits that walked a fine line between theatrical and fabulous. Many featured his customary big shoulders.
Consider also cinched-waist puffers, styled like 1940s women’s jackets, retro belts worn around tiny waists, and dazzling prints and patterns that, combined, brought to mind a beautiful zoo and bird carnival parade.
One of the houses showing this season on the fringes of couture week was Rouge Amour. There were, as the name suggests, lots of silky red designs. But for anyone that fancies a wedding dress that looks like it was designed from old gold wallpaper at Buckingham Palace, this is the place to shop.
Lots of people did lots of feathers, including Dior. But no one did them quite as pretty as Givenchy, which added layers of feathers resembling colorful bouquets of Spring flowers.
This was a serious-looking collection and almost all in black, save for a model that walked with a gold house around her body, and some shimmering gauze jacquard ball dresses.
The weirdest pieces were the couture-ized Iron Maiden-esque leather dresses, covered in silver studs that held together dozens of triangular strips, interwoven with lace and feathers. Beautiful.
There’s plenty of fresh blood these days in the once-dormant couture scene. This includes one of the young designers to make some of the most beautiful and artful use of sequins—the Lebanese-American couturier, Rami Kadi.
He created sequined embroideries on fly-away materials in delicate colors, as well as a more out-there orange dress, covered in silver glitter. It looked as if it was designed for a Bollywood parade.
Gotta love this young French designer’s use of Gothic, dark elements in his couture designs, such as an outfit that looked like jumble-sale couture: a lace dress, just too-short enough to expose red stilettos, plus a polka dot shirt worn beneath the dress that covered the model’s chest, plus and a curious wig that matched the ostrich feather collar that ran down the model’s arms.
Ronald Van Der Kemp
This cool Dutch designer presented a demi-couture collection from his namesake label which he calls the world’s first sustainable couture house. Indeed, the collection included ripped jeans, July 4-appropriate Stars and Stripes belts and boots, as well as artful couture numbers for the modern girl.
Daniel Roseberry presented his first collection for the revived house of Schiaparelli. The Texan alumnus of New York label Thom Browne drew upon the eccentric designer’s spirit of irreverence and originality, without drawing too heavily on iconic motifs and designs. Still, several of his OTT frilly dresses looked like something a lobster could wear to a ball, so unusual were their shapes.
Iris van Herpen
The design genius of couture week, Dutch designer Iris van Herpen created some of her iconic designs in curious and wonderful shapes that seem to mirror the fins of delicate sea creatures. They belong as much to the world of design as clothing. Pure art.
Viktor & Rolf
This design duo are about as weird as it gets at couture. One season they posed as monks at a Zen garden, during their show. This season wasn’t their wildest but it was still odd. One tie-dye blue coat had a pair of white cotton wings attached.
Back in the day, this French house dressed everyone from Tina Turner to Brigitte Bardot. This season it decided to include men wearing shiny bathrobes at couture. That’s a first.
If you want to make a splash on a red carpet, look no further than Giambattista Valli. It doesn’t get larger and prettier than this. Some designs even look like hatched chicks.
Another newer name on the Couture Week calendar is Patrick Pham. This season, the edgy designer took a trip to Africa, and combined vibrant prints with bright fluffy adornments on the wrists and hemlines. One dress looked like a peacock that had been killed in the process of getting to Paris.