Last week, Haute Couture Week descended upon Paris from January 19-24. Although fashion month is soon to begin (New York Fashion Week kicks it off February 6), these six days celebrate the highest couture fashions from the most prestigious houses in the fashion industry. Unlike ready-to-wear fashion weeks where designers can stage shows independently, designers who show at Couture Week are chosen by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris and protected by French law, further adding to the clout.
Designers that showed during the week began with Atelier Versace; ended with Ralph & Russo; and filled the interim with Schiaparelli, On Aura Tout Vu, Christian Dior, Giambattista Valli, Alexis Mabille, Chanel, Stéphane Rolland, Bouchra Jarrar, Alexandre Vautheir, Julien Fournié, Girogio Armani Privé, Maison Martin Margiela, Frank Sorbier, Elie Saab, Rad Hourani, Jean Paul Gaultier, Yinqing Yin, Valentino, Viktor&Rolf, Serkan Cura and Zuhair Murad.
On the whole, themes trended toward romantic femininity with classically flattering shapes and pastel colors. “Light,” “delicate,” and “soft,” have been words most flowing from the pens of fashion critics for many of the collections, especially Chanel and Dior, and soft florals and embroideries decorated the gowns of Elie Saab and Valentino.
Other designers took a more contemporary approach: Versace channeling Grace Jones in slinky dresses often including hoods and pieces of fur; Stephane Rolland’s structural silhouettes inspired by origami; Valli emphasizing a more boisterous body type with pouffy skirts and peplum tops. Nevertheless, even for the more modern takes on the female form, nothing erred on the tomboy or androgynous trends of late. So, don’t expect to see any looks borrowed from the boys gracing red carpets this awards season (celebrities often look to these collections to choose their gowns).
And, as with any fashion week, there were some moments more buzzed about than the rest. Lady Gaga, who was recently announced as the campaign face for Versace, sat first-row already adorned in dress from the collection she came to see – a fashion-world faux pas. Karl Lagerfeld sent his Chanel dolls walking around an elaborate ice-palace set in sneakers, ending with a bridal-gown-clad Cara Delevingne trotting down to the rhythm of a full orchestra. Marco Zanini debuted as the new designer for Schiaparelli, which hasn’t shown a collection in 60 years. Dita Von Teese walked in Gaultier’s show; Kim Kardashian sat front row at Rollande’s; and, as is always bound to happen at some point, a model tripped and fell during Saab – a solitary flaw during a week that has been touted as unusually astute to what women have been asking for, responding in high fashion.