FASHION REVIEW: Spring Couture 2014, Paris

Fashion at its finest! That’s how one may describe a Couture Week. The best names in the industry present their handpicked creations, made-to-order and one of a kind. This year was pretty much the same as the City of Lights radiated the elegance embodied by these stately collections.

So here’s a day-wise download on what happened at Paris this year with the Spring Couture 2014 presentations.

DAY 1: 20th January 2014 
Three revered fashion houses - Atelier Versace, Schiaparelli & Dior - brought the fantastical week to a start. With diverse inspirations, all three collections were quite the visual treats.

THE SHOW: Summing the entire collection were opening words to the presentation - “I am so fab, check out, I’m blonde, I’m skinny, I’m rich and a bit of a bitch” - from Lady Gaga’s song ‘Donatella’.

An ode to the woman behind the label, by the new face of the label, the song struck the perfect chord with the collection’s inspiration and thought - “Grace Jones and the embodiment of her as a strong, powerful woman, a power goddess".

THE LOOK: Femininity meets Power Woman

Sensual drapes were set off with body-con, structured pieces that cinched at the waist to make each model look like that perfect balance of feminine and power. Bringing in a bit of futurism where the metallic accents to the geometrical shapes.

THE SHOW: Facing the predicament of reviving a non-conformist label in a fashion environment where everyone has been attempting to push the envelope further was Marco Zanini as he debuted his Couture collection for Schiaparelli.

Capturing perfectly with the legacy left behind by Elsa Schiaparelli, yet not making a collection that might be deemed ‘archive-inspired’, Zanini’s guiding was the woman herself: cosmopolitan, witty and irreverent.

THE LOOK: Sophisticated meets Surrealist

Color, decoration and the flippancy of any punk aficionado - the first collection was almost like an easy reintroduction of the design house. The pieces subliminally referenced the label’s heritage through the missing of high and low in true Schiaparelli style.

THE SHOW: A perfect combination of fantasy and reality. Bringing in a sense of free spirit to haute couture, the thought projected through the presentation was of “taking the theatrical out and taking it more into reality to trigger fantasy with the show, but give the reality as well”.

A translation of Christian Dior’s aesthetic, the collection was an evolution of the dictum ‘movement in clothes’ as lightness, openness, a sense of airiness engulfed the spectators (even through the pictures!).

THE LOOK: Intimacy meets Reality

Cutwork, hand-sewn embellishments, pleats, the collection was truly a celebration of the hand and the myriad of techniques that it brings to form. The wispiness of the dresses, tailoring of the jumpsuits and pant suits - all brought in the touch of modernism that has now become distinctive of Raf Simons.

DAY 2: 21st January 2014 
With 7 Couture designers presenting their collections, Day 2 of the Couture Week looked like a day chock-full of fashion.

THE SHOW: Working with design techniques and elements that screamed modernism, a ‘morning after’ look was the object of Valli’s inspiration.

What he set out to achieve with the collection, he did - an attitude that personified “bad characters” and “spontaneity” - attributes of the young women of today.

THE LOOK: Spontaneity meets Attitude

Sharp, sculptured looks walked down the runway. Short dresses with long hemlines at the back, embroideries, floral appliqués and techniques that brought a sense of darkness and depth, and yet some of the structured pieces were reminiscent of Raf Simons’ debut Couture collection for Dior (although Simons’ work has an almost wispy, airy quality).

THE SHOW: A theme recurrent through many Couture shows was the inspiration for Alexis Mabille’s collection as well - goddesses and classics.

The grandly presented set of butterflies, paper butterflies that also adorned the models brought the inspiration to life, quite palpably I might add.

THE LOOK: Goddess meets Glamour

Showing off his pleating and draping techniques with gowns in whites and creams, Alexis Mabille presented his inspiration with his idiosyncratic touch. Lace appliqués, rhinestones, crystals and bustiers featured in this collection…a collection (despite all criticism and flaws) I quite liked.

THE SHOW: Le Cambon Club de Karl Lagerfeld - a place were more is an understatement, where fantasy is as mundane, as routine as breathing, where even excess falls short.

The set, as fantastical and spectacular as the collection itself, comprised a circular space with glitter-flecked walls sparkling like the early morning light. A mobile wall on opening unveiled a pair of sleek, circular curved stairways cocooning Sebastian Tellier’s orchestra. In Karl Lagerfeld’s words this was “a futuristic nightclub”.

THE LOOK: Fantasia meets Luminosity

Corsetry may not be dead just yet. With the tiny waists accentuated with corsets and stays teamed with the classic tweed separates, in frothy whites, grays and some blacks as well. Teaming each piece with a couture sneaker by Massaro, the collection was aglow with iridescent, transparent, holographic effects.

THE SHOW: Quite a storyteller of a designer and one to tell a distinctive story through each collection, Ulyana Sergeenko’s latest tale being that of travel.  

A train journey of a woman, who could be in Ulyana’s words “a movie star…but she’s definitely a femme fatale”, that concludes at the boudoir.

THE LOOK: Intimate meets Invigorating

The first silhouette you would think of scanning through the runway picture - bustiers. A lot of them. Rich, luxurious fabrics make Ulyana’s femme fatale more seductive, more enticing; and the made-in-Russia workmanship of the clothes. Call me old-fashioned, but this one formed one of my favorites.

THE SHOW: Armed with her Haute Couture appellation by Chambre Syndicale (French fashion's governing body), Bouchra Jarrar presented a show no less than a stunner. 

Showcasing the reason the appellation was well deserved, the collection brought to life the poetry of fashion presenting paradoxes in fashion.

THE LOOK: Minimalism meets Complexity

At first glance you may be fooled in to thinking it’s a ready-to-wear line (I remember my surprise). Then you read about the technique, and some technique it is! While vibrant plumes featured chiefly (after all Ms. Jarrar “has birds”), the metallic threads and vinyl strips - woven to create sturdy, glistening tweeds to reflect “the colors of the morning and the color of night.”

**FUN FACT: It's been more than thirty years since a woman was named a Grande Couturière**

THE SHOW: A presentation, in true Alexandre Vauthier style, evocative of a nightclub. The gleaming lights thronging the end of the runway, would verify that assumption, except the theme was “beach and windsurf". 

The pieces (rather the details), on further scrunity, were quite ‘beachy’, while still staying true to Vauthier’s sexy disco aesthetic and vibe.

THE LOOK: Surfer Glam meets Extravagance

Infusing the nightclub to a surfer theme, the pieces screamed ‘surf fetishism’. Body-hugging looks in deep shades of oxblood, chartreuse, wine worn with heels and clutch tied to each other with a chain to mimic a surfboard leash walked down the runway. With plenty of legs and skin on display, there was an overt sense of seductiveness.

THE SHOW: Taking the helm at Vionnet, Hussein Chalayan’s first ‘demi-couture’ line for the label was anything but a blast from the label’s archives.   

With 2 distinctive themes running through the show’s story - ‘reconciling the past with the future’.

THE LOOK: Structure meets Fragility

With modern techniques adding Hussein’s personality to the line, hallmark techniques of the design house like bias-cut and plissé were merged seamlessly. Structured, almost stiff looking pieces in monochromatic shades of black & white were displayed along with fluid, layered sheer pieces that lent an air of fragility and frailty.

DAY 3: 22nd January 2014 
After a mammoth day before featuring some new design houses and couturiers, Day 3 was more about the veterans, the very seams in the fabric of Fashion, especially Couture.

THE SHOW: Whether or not that was the inspiration, the collection was reminiscent of an ‘Indian summer’ circa the 30s (especially with the Greta Garbo-esque turban).   

Called Nomade, Giorgio Armani described the muse as "a woman who moves around the world and picks ideas from the beautiful things she sees, what moves her emotionally: the color of a skirt, jewelry that can be ethnic or not".

THE LOOK: Gypsy meets Sophistication

Casual yet ultra luxe looks encapsulated the entire evening. While glamour, sophistication and elegance fused into pieces that had a silvery gleam, separates ruled the silhouettes. With his inherent aesthetic delved in menswear, Armani made each piece look deliciously womanly with his own brand of exotica.

THE SHOW: Artisanal, the name of Maison Martin Margiela’s collection, a one-word that described the mayhem that drove the collection, the singularity of the multitude of inspirations.  

Bits and pieces of art, repurposed and put together as one complete look, collection that celebrated the work of hand.

THE LOOK: Abstract meets Mélange

Patchwork, recurring through each piece, was possibly the only thread that tied together the cornucopia of inspirations. A seemingly simplistic and abstract collection had a deeper story to every fabric, every patch. Scoured and sourced from “private collections”, in the true language of haute couture, the fabrics came first and were exclusive to MMM.

THE SHOW: With most designers seeking modernist design, Elie Saab went traditional. A great strategy to standout, but an Elie Saab design rarely ever calls for any strategy at all.

Inspired by the idyllic, euphoric painted scenes by Dutch artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, the pieces highlighted the nuances and the subtle elements from the artist’s canvas.

THE LOOK: Idyllic meets Fairy Tale

Interspersed with the signature Elie Saab appliqué, lace and sparkle gowns and pastel shades were gently draped gossamer-light pleated goddess gowns. Flower prints also featured in the collection that had an almost fairy-tale feel. Ombré, much like an Alma-Tadema sky, on some of the long dresses added freshness and novelty to the pieces.

THE SHOW: A translation of the romance of Opera into fashion and Couture. Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri explained - "we wanted to describe the character of each [Opera's] protagonist in a primordial way."

With some translations more literal than others, the fifty-five looks represented fifty-five Operas from Puccini's La Bohème to Bizet's Carmen and Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin.

THE LOOK: Romantic meets Prima Donna

Tulle gowns and more romantic silhouettes, colors and fabrics were offset with bolder pieces with verdant imagery starring giant cheetahs and lions. The dichotomy of the collection and the inspiration took centre-stage with gentle lyricism and romance showcasing one end of the spectrum, and decorative, large-scale pictorials presenting the other end.

DAY 4: 22nd January 2014 
The last day of the week was a day of contrast with femininity at the centre, the inspirations and their manifestations were polar opposites.

THE SHOW: A presentation that brought to life the revered music box. A precursor, amuse bouche for the main course - Bonbon, the new women’s fragrance by the design house.

The presentation starring the beautiful Dutch National Ballet corps showcasing some pointe technique on  gentle piano music by Nils Frahm.

THE LOOK: Ballerina meets Otherworldly

Latex, a peculiar fabric of choice, was manipulated into drapes, folds, assymetrical hems and a whole range of pieces for a ballerina to choose from. A tad costume-y perhaps? Adding to that, the hair looking almost like a curtain of frizzled locks made the gorgeous ballerinas appear otherworldly (read: ghostly). The collection did nothing fashion-wise, just fed to the fantasy for the soon-to-be-launched perfume.

THE SHOW: Transforming a garden into fashion ensembles, Zuhair Murad’s collection infused in the flora and fauna - sometimes subtly and sometimes quite apparently.

With a vivid rendering of a garden in bloom as the backdrop for runway, if we knew Zuhair Murad for his racy gowns, we now know him for a wider repertoire that includes the subtleties and romance.

THE LOOK: Opulence meets Classic

Floral appliqués and embroideries featured (looking quite similar to the other Lebanese couturier - Elie Saab) largely in the collection. What set it apart was the opulence (and the fauna) brought in by the luscious plumes, python prints and panther spots. Some pieces may have been a bit OTT. Just saying!


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