Above: Elie Saab
Valentino couldn’t control his emotions at the front row of the brand’s latest show from designer Pierpaolo Piccioli. A little different to the norm, the collection excelled (boy, did it excel) for its volume, choice of patterns and of course some pieces in the renowned “Valentino Red”, showing that in haute couture, there are no limits to creativity in the name of extreme beauty. “With ready-to-wear, your vision of beauty relates to the times you are living in. Couture involves a deeper and more intimate perspective, to go further into your own vision of beauty,” said Piccioli after the show. The Italian maison’s designer drew inspiration from Greek mythology, along with references to 17th and 18th-century clothing and also the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini (the Italian filmmaker: 1922-1975), the photography of Deborah Turbeville (1932-2013) and Ziggy Stardust (the alter ego of David Bowie: 1947-2016). “Renaissance meets Versailles meets ’60s whatever,” explained Piccioli about the pieces he presented.
The eternal enfant terrible of French (and global) fashion, Jean-Paul Gaultier explored the construction of one of the most charismatic pieces of a man’s wardrobe, which is the tuxedo. He brought in the talent of milliner Stephen Jones, who was sitting in the front row and was invited to walk down the runway, but declined the invitation. Gaultier combined his collection with some stunning hats made my Jones and which helped create an imposing, bold and provocative effect. The French designer may not shock as much as he has done for many years, but he continues to be a rebel at heart.
One of the highlights of this fashion week was the Givenchy show. Hubert de Givenchy (1927-2018), who recently passed away, achieved fame beside the actress Audrey Hepburn and never left the height of stardom. Clare Waight Keller, the British designer and artistic director of the French maison, responsible for designing the wedding dress of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, worked with the brand’s founder and decided that this collection was an homage to his talent and creativity. And it was an homage of extreme beauty: she dug out the brand’s archives and recovered the pieces worn by Hepburn in films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, along with all the elegance of the 1950s and ‘70s. The result couldn’t have been more delightful.
Another memorable moment of this fashion week was delivered by Dior, at the hands of Maria Grazia Chiuri. The collection reflects the designer’s talent in both idea and construction, bearing in mind that Chiuri dominates the techniques of couture, as she herself noted: “Haute couture is the domain of the hidden; it is the art of magic and of supreme beauty. Working to measure is knowing how to respect time, it’s knowing that those who appreciate workmanship recognise talent and technique.”
You cannot speak about Chanel without speaking of a style and aesthetic approach that whether you like it or not is indifferent to the man responsible for the intentions of the brand’s creative department, Karl Lagerfeld. Indifferent, up to a point, about what the world thinks of him, the Chanel collections stand out for their respect for the founder, as well as the adjustment to the tastes of clients today. “Those who buy Chanel are young and so I have to speak to that youth, which doesn’t mean I don’t recognise that sometimes I have to streamline the idea to fulfil an older target market,” stressed Lagerfeld.
Among the more festive pieces were those from Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad, with marvellous pieces in various shades but where midnight blue most stood out. In the case of Murad, the collection was conceived for its Russian client, inspired by the traditional local dress richly enhanced by details that make us travel in time. And because talking about fashion also means mentioning the less consensual ideas, we cannot ignore Maison Margiela and Viktor&Rolf. The first is more conceptual and artistic, and the second more theatrical and circus-like. Both are more fun approaches that deserve the interpretation of the more conservative amongst us.