The Spring 2012 Paris Couture Week was a daring mix of classic couture with a dash of irreverence. Although detractors may say haute couture is a dying art, suffocating at the hands of publicists and throwaway fashion, Paris Couture Week firmly said non
By Julia Frank
At a time when style commentators are dissecting the red carpet during the awards season in Hollywood, this week showcased the extraordinary talent of the couture houses and postured the question on everyone’s lips – who will wear what to the Oscars? Giorgio Armani may have hinted at an answer, with Jessica Chastain perched front row at the Armani Privé show. Armani showed serpentine prints and shimmery fabrics in shades of green, folded and cocooned around the body.
The Chanel show was a study in blue, with Karl Lagerfeld sending out 150 shades of the colour. While the silhouettes were pure Coco, Lagerfeld put his thoroughly modern stamp on the collection with mohicaned models walking with their hands tucked into perilously low pockets. Although Lagerfeld’s vision was to imitate ‘boys whose jeans are slipping off’, the finesse of Chanel’s artisans was omnipresent in the exquisite embroidery, some of which was cellophane parading as silk.
Bill Gaytten’s second couture collection for Christian Dior since John Galliano’s departure was similarly sophisticated with 40s style full-skirted dresses and fitted bodices. The only thing keeping the fashion pack restless with Dior is the still unsolved mystery of who will be Galliano’s successor.
Elie Saab proved his red carpet appeal with a collection of pastel-hued, magnificently embroidered gowns in streamlined silhouettes. Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri of Valentino went romantic in delicate floral prints and diaphanous, antique-y fabrics. While Versace Atelier presented 15 ‘warrior women’ body-con dresses in vivid colours. The house returned to couture with metal insertions giving the dresses a futuristic shape. At Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci thrilled the audience with his 10-piece presentation of awe-inspiring experimental designs, reinforcing his title as a true couturier.
Giambattista Valli showcased his dressmaking prowess in what was only his second official couture showing with sweeping floor-length gowns in black, white and shades of pink and burgundy. The black undergarments that peeped through and bouquet-like headpieces added just a pinch of the surreal.
Jean Paul Gaultier, on the other hand, went overboard with eccentricity. In homage to the late songstress Amy Winehouse, Gaultier sent models down the runway in corsets, pencil skirts, beehive hairstyles, beauty spots, feline eyeliner and the odd cigarette – it was prim 50s housewife with a slightly dishevelled edge.
While Gaultier was going for a ‘modern’ and ‘joyous’ ode to his fashion icon, Winehouse’s father thought it was in ‘bad taste’. “To see her image lifted wholesale to sell clothes was a wrench we were not expecting”, he said. “This is purely about Gaultier making money, and that’s wrong.” In the finale, models wore black veils, mostly with pant-less ensembles, which posited whether this was the traditional bridal ending or a symbol of mourning for Winehouse.
Bad taste or just Gaultier’s taste?