With the sizzling heatwave, Paris Couture Week 2019 might have been the haute-est one yet.
Terrible puns aside, the climate wasn’t the only thing that was in extremes over in France. Haute Couture Fashion Week is wrapping up in Paris, meaning the runways have been full of the most extravagant, over-the-top, unique looks in the industry. By definition, ‘haute couture’ is fashion that has been constructed purely by hand from start to finish, custom-fitted, and very expensive. These special garments often start at a casual $20,000 (over THB 600,000), and generally go to special clients and celebrities.
This season, designers have shown off their best creative skills and presented shows that have been nothing less than spectacles. Haute Couture Week is the best demonstration of just how complex an art fashion — true fashion — really is. From defamiliarised hoodies to a collection based on computer programming, haute couture is inevitably dramatic, complex, and endlessly entertaining. See for yourself: here, we’ve gathered some of the most special, outlandish, and, yes, outrageous looks from Paris Couture Week.
[Hero image: Valentino. Feature image: Dior.]
With a collection she describes as “an alternate universe”, Guo Pei presents a somewhat morbid haute couture show. The sandy runway featured black crows and branches, with ghostly Marie Antoinette-like figures walking down it. Pei was exploring some big questions and ideas for this collection, particularly death and the afterlife. “When I was a child, I often thought about death”, she says, explaining her innately extravagant imagination. Her garments are no less extravagant in craftsmanship: her final dress took her seven years to complete.
[Image credit: Guo Pei.]
Currently fashion’s favourite couturist, Pierpaolo Piccioli is a veteran when it comes to elegance and craftsmanship. For Paris Couture Week this year, he decided to focus more on inclusivity — a word that’s not easily associated with haute couture. He adds a diverse range of styles and cultures into his looks, from folk elements to komondor wool fringe. It’s all still quintessentially Valentino: the vivid colours and sensuousness are all there. Most importantly with Valentino, there’s a strong sense of humanity in it. Not least because there was a gown made of rose gauze squares that took a course of 2010 hours to make.
[Images credit: Valentino.]
Jean Paul Gaultier
For a designer who has always viewed fashion as a kind of theatre, Paris Couture Week was just another business week for Jean Paul Gaultier. But rather than some out-of-this-world myth or futuristic landscape, the designer based his looks on the idea of hoodies. Yet even the most standard garment of modern fashion takes an outrageous spin in Gaultier. The haute-ified hoodies range from a quilted satin parka hoodie to a teepee/bridal veil.
[Images credit: Jean Paul Gaultier.]
Iris Van Herpen
This haute couture collection gives fashion two unusual mates: computer programming and physics. This season, Iris Van Herpen collaborated with the kinetic sculptor, Anthony Howe, whose artwork is powered by wind. The artist takes inspiration from arching vertebrae and the curving axis. Van Herpen’s pieces were kinetic in their own way, vibrating along the runway with Japanese ink-on-water techniques known as suminagashi. The method involves creating a print of lines bonded with Mylar and then laser cut. Van Herpen proves that — much like programming and physics — haute couture is also outrageously complicated to both make and explain.
[Images credit: Iris Van Herpen.]
With the sound of a Manhattan subway train as the soundtrack and a single artist’s drawing table in the centre, Shiaparelli‘s haute couture show saw its creative director Daniel Roseberry’s first outing. Roseberry himself emerged and took a seat at the table, put on noise-cancelling headphones, and began sketching. The clothes he was sketching began to materialise as models started appearing on the runway as if emerging straight from the designer’s pages. In one theatrical gesture, Roseberry showed everyone what a relatively unknown designer could do with some courage, savoir faire, and a bit of theatre. The whole spirit of haute couture was summarised in literally a single stroke of Roseberry’s pen.
[Images credit: Schiaparelli.]
A fashion house is literally brought to life at Dior‘s Paris Couture Week show. The final look from Maria Grazia Chiuri’s haute couture presentation appears to be a golden replica of Dior’s Paris maison. This is the result of a collaboration with artist Penny Slinger, who has had a long history with wearable sculpture as well as feminist works. This House-Dress is exactly what it’s supposed to be: a representation of the many faces of the feminine that have inhabited and inspired the House of Dior. It’s a celebration if its clients, friends, and seamstresses. The dress makes a link between women and architecture, demonstrating how both can offer support, beauty, and a fascinatingly rich history.
[Image credit: Dior.]