By Glynis Traill-Nash, Fashion Commentator
It’s a rarefied world, haute couture. With estimates suggesting there are only a few hundred actual customers in the world (mostly considered to be the wives of oil magnates, oligarchs and the like—and fashion’s favourite muse, heiress Daphne Guinness), many question its relevance today. But consider it fashion’s highest art form, and there will always be a place for it, where designers and their skilled ateliers can carry out their most intricate, labour-intensive fantasies. Of course, off the catwalk, we’ll see some of them again on the red carpet, with a number of celebrities sitting front row, including Diane Kruger, Cameron Diaz and Jessica Chastain—who discovered she had received an Oscar nomination while in the front row at Armani Privé. Any guesses who she’ll be wearing on the big night?
Karl Lagerfeld went with a private jet set for Chanel’s latest flight of fancy. The overriding theme here? Blue. Powder blue, royal blue, cornflower blue, sky blue, ocean blue, indigo… One hundred and fifty shades in all, apparently. There was a nod to the 1920s in extra-low dropped-waist dresses, and a nod to the 1960s in air hostess chic, while models sported post-punk Alice Dellal hair. The silhouette was overblown at the top, slimline through the body. Jackets and dresses had wide funnel necklines and blown-out bell sleeves; elsewhere there were lushly shaggy floral appliqué coats, shimmering sequins and bubbly baubles.
In Bill Gaytten’s second couture collection, John Galliano’s former right hand man seemed more assured—so much so that he stripped things back to basics, and to the classic silhouettes of the fashion house. There were ballgowns and New Look-inspired skirts, neat pencil skirts, simple sheaths and updates on the Bar jacket (I’m guessing M. Dior never used crocodile in his day for the same?). But throughout the collection, Gaytten treated it like a work in progress—sheer dresses and jackets looked like early renditions, checks were stitched to look like marking seams, fabric was the colour of pattern paper. Now that takes some self-assurance.
Jean Paul Gaultier
The French couturier paid homage to the late Amy Winehouse this time around—although some considered it in bad taste, just too soon after her death to be using her as muse. Models sauntered out with piled-high ratty beehives, black kohl eye flicks and colourful sexy-secretary ensembles, waists cinched with Mr Pearl’s famous corsets. Cheeky? Perhaps, but also an homage to a lost talent…
Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri sent out a collection that was heavy on delicacy and light on overstatement. It sat somewhere between the 18th century and early 1970s, with the feeling of an English country wedding. And indeed, any number of dresses would be perfect for modern brides with vintage sensibilities. The delicate floral prints, the lace, organza the pale colours—everything conspired to be like a deep breath of fresh, country air.
If Valentino was subtlety personified, Atelier Versace was ready to go to battle—on the red carpet at any rate. Donatella Versace sent out her glamazons in bold colours (orange, yellow, lime, silver and gold) and sometimes trapped within seemingly solid structures—sorry, armour. There was softer lace, too, but even then it was given a sexy spin, covering structured bodysuits and leaving legs for days to be seen through its veil.
Mr Armani’s outing was positively serpentine: shimmering fabrics and prints formed scale-like exteriors that at times seemed to wind around the body. Even the mesh overlays said snake-like scales, and the chartreuse that kept insinuating itself into the collection was like that of a green tree snake. This was a darker and more dramatic collection than the usual all-out sparkling glamour of an Armani show. Ssssublime.
Speaking of dark, Riccardo Tischi’s collection for Givenchy flitted between very sombre and light—although even some of the white pieces had a sinister touch to them, whether thanks to the cut, as if the sleeves were ripped down from the shoulder, or the heavy hardware that held things together. His decon/recon-struction of a crocodile skin into a long-sleeved top and skirt was nothing short of a technical marvel. But then, that’s what haute couture is all about, non?