COUTURE WEEK A/W’20
A womb-inspired runway show, a set based on Coco Chanel’s orphanage, the first showing from a Sub-Saharan African designer, and Jean Paul Gaultier’s farewell to fashion – there was no shortage of memorable moments at the Spring-Summer 2020 edition of Haute Couture Week, where top labels present elaborate custom garments to selected audiences in Paris. As fashion’s biggest names descended on the French capital for a packed week of shows, it emerged that some had, somewhat unusually for haute couture, put comfort front and center.
“Being an American, I am coming at couture from a different perspective,” said Schiaparelli’s creative director, Daniel Roseberry, after the show. “Celebrating that feels good. I wanted the real pieces to feel more real, and the fantasy pieces to feel so much more unreal.”
For Dior’s show, artist and feminist icon Judy Chicago created a monumental womb-like space at the Rodin Museum. The elaborate set featured 21 embroidered metallic banners posing questions including “What if women ruled the world?”
“We are in the body of the goddess, in a female space,” Chicago said, explaining her design during last Monday’s show. “As we are in the Rodin Museum, I was acutely aware of how masculine (sculptor Auguste Rodin’s) work is, so I thought, fine, masculine there and feminine here! If the world was like this, it would be a lot better. “It’s about empowering women through clothes,” she added. Dior’s models glided along the purple carpet in various golden gowns, which were paired with veils by master milliner Stephen Jones. Some appeared in long, glittering fringed dresses, while others floated down the runway in more delicate, translucent creations with flowing silk tulle capes.
The duo behind Ralph & Russo dedicated the label’s show to their Australian homeland, asking attendees to donate to a fundraiser to help fight the country’s bushfire crisis. Celebrating their 10th year of couture, the creations combined sumptuous fabrics and glamorous proportions, from a black silk organza crystal mesh suit embellished with graduating metallic crystals, to a ravishing off-the-shoulder chartreuse taffeta ballgown.
Elsewhere on the schedule, Chanel’s creative director Virginie Viard turned to the brand founder, Coco Chanel, for inspiration. Her show space recreated the cloister garden – complete with lavender, cabbages and vine tomatoes at the French Abbey orphanage where a 12-year-old Chanel grew up after her mother’s death.
The accompanying collection was light and airy, featuring the brand’s classic black-and-white checked suits and Gigi Hadid in a fitted button-down shirt-waister with white Peter Pan collar and cuffs. Then came a timeless all-black outfit: A round-neck Chantilly lace top with a bib and winged caped sleeve on top of a long Georgette skirt.
Over at French designer Alexis Mabille’s show, held at Sotheby’s auction Ditahouse, Dita Von Teese introduced his creations in a black sequined smoking jacket and pants. “This season, the craftsmanship expresses shades of white, a pallet free of color to better reveal the women’s power,” she said onstage before joining the audience.
Models walked dressed in mostly all-white ensembles, including a simple shirt-dress worn with an over skirt knotted at the side and held in place by a crystallized belt. Some of them took champagne flute-shaped bags down the runway.
“I wanted to be free of color connections,” Mabille explained backstage. “It’s not summer, it’s not winter; it’s super elegant, super feminine. It’s a realistic collection, and easy to wear.”
The outfits on display included a mock fur coat (or as the show notes described it, a “Boucherouite guilt-free fur trash coat”) and another alluring jacket made from a profusion of hand-painted flowers and a gathered matt-black ball skirt adorned with rose cloqué that had been up-cycled from a previous season.
Elsewhere, Viktor & Rolf created voluminous shapes made from flower prints. Backstage, co-founder Rolf Snoeren said that these were the only new fabrics used for the avant-garde Dutch duo’s collection. “All the rest, all the patchwork, is archive fabric swatches that manufacturers have sent to us over the years.”
The pretty florals were offset with temporary body tattoos by make-up artist Peter Philips, and accessories by Brazilian brand Melissa, from a limited-edition line of vegan plastic flat shoes and bags.
Valentino’s runway show was one of the most anticipated of the season. The label’s breathtaking display didn’t disappoint, with creative director Paolo Piccioli’s mastery of color and craft demonstrated through a series of backless dresses.
British model Stella Tennant wore a diaphanous powder-rose organza blouse, tied with an extravagant fluttering bow, along with a long black fishtail skirt and red leather gloves. A timeless column dress, complete with duchess satin cuff, collar and train, was pure Valentino, as was a long red high-neck dress worn by Australian model Agi Akur, accompanied by long graduated diamond earrings with red flat glossy feathers at the ends.
A native to Cameroon where he made his first dresses (including for his mother, who was Miss Cameroon in 1960), Imane Ayissi is the first Sub-Saharan African designer to show at Haute Couture Week. The 51-year-old created a sophisticated collection using organic cottons, also transforming tree bark into decorative flowers. The designer uses African materials and techniques in his collection, and works with cooperatives to ethically source organic materials.
Last but not least, “L’Enfant Terrible” of French fashion, Jean Paul Gaultier, marked his retirement after a 50-year career that has earned him international renown for his provocative designs and extravagant shows.
He sent out nearly 200 looks for his final couture catwalk, attracting fashion A-listers including Carla Bruni, Eva Herzigová, Christian Lacroix and Simon Le Bon, whose wife Yasmin starred on the runway. The catwalk offered a number of surprise cameos, including Dita Von Teese in a shimmering pink belted minidress, and Karlie Kloss in a up-cycled plastic bodice with massive bubble-wrap skirt. French singer and television presenter Amanda Lear was carried in by two men wearing crystal T-shirts and heels, while Canadian model Coco Rocha showed off a high-kicking Irish jig.
Boy George closed proceedings with a performance of Culture Club’s 1983 hit, “Church of the Poison Mind,” which saw attendees jumped up to dance and clap along. Gaultier was held aloft in the middle of the stage, as if at a festival, and was clearly loving the moment. “I love fashion,” Gaultier said backstage. “And I will continue with a new approach, taking a backseat.”
Media: Paris Fashion Week