PARIS S/S´24 COUTURE
At the apex of French style and savoir-faire resides haute couture, an exclusive realm where only a select few houses are anointed by the esteemed Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode each year. This coveted membership sets the stage for some of the most extravagant runway spectacles, transcending mere fashion shows with opulent sets and star-studded front rows. More than a showcase of exquisite garments, haute couture is an ode to the poetic artistry of fashion and dressmaking, where each meticulously handcrafted piece demands hours of painstaking work for perfection.
In the current season, this transcendent journey commenced at Chanel, where Virginie Viard ingeniously wove a narrative around a lost button, spiraling into a mesmerising confluence of confections, inspired by the ethereal world of dance. Meanwhile, at Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri orchestrated a symphony of opulence, showcasing a rich melange of meticulously crafted fabrics against the backdrop of a captivating set envisioned by artist Isabella Ducrot. On a more intimate note, Pieter Mulier of Alaïa unveiled a tight-knit show, inviting audiences into the heart of his emotive designer sanctuary – a poignant expression of closeness and introspection.
´Paris Couture Week 2024 unfolded in a spectacular display of opulence and innovation, epitomising the pinnacle of French style. Valentino’s ‘Le Salon’ celebrated the timeless essence of haute couture, while Giorgio Armani Privé embarked on an opulent journey. Alaïa’s intimate showcase focused on reduction, Chanel explored ballet’s poetry, and Dior delved into the exploration of ‘aura.’ Schiaparelli’s cosmic collection and Toteme’s off-schedule exhibition added further chapters to this captivating showcase of haute couture artistry and creativity.´ – Charles Daniel McDonald
As the couture season unfolds, it continues to transport us into a realm where artistry meets exclusivity, and each runway tableau is a testament to that enduring magic of haute couture.
Pierpaolo Piccioli unveiled his latest haute couture marvel for Valentino under the enchanting banner of ‘Le Salon,’ paying homage to the revered salons of Parisian maisons de couture. In a deliberate nod to tradition, Piccioli chose Valentino’s haute couture salon as the backdrop, an opulent setting within the brand’s Place Vendôme headquarters. This choice epitomised his aspiration to revive the ‘timeless essence of haute couture,’ embracing it as a sanctuary for both craftsmanship and boundless imagination.
While rooted in tradition, Piccioli’s collection seamlessly integrated a contemporary spirit of ease and modernity. The silhouettes, predominantly languid and unrestrained, showcased a departure from the conventional. Tailored jackets and overcoats, paired with gently flared trousers and plunging vest tops, exuded an effortless luxury, translating everyday style into couture opulence. Intricate embellishments paid homage to the art of craft, with bouncing plumes of feathers, metallic petals adorning sweeping opera coats, and garments skillfully mimicking exotic skins and furs—crafted ingeniously from silk organza rouleaux or hand-cut sequins evoking the allure of an alligator’s scales.
Piccioli expressed his vision through a profound declaration: “The salon here is not a stage but rather a cultural milieu, to valorise craft, to celebrate the act of creation. It is a place to bear witness to beauty, therefore to experience humanity. It is the heart of haute couture.” In ‘Le Salon,’ Valentino invites us to a realm where timeless elegance converges with contemporary allure, encapsulating the very essence of haute couture.
GIORGIO ARMANI PRIVÉ
Giorgio Armani orchestrated yet another opulent spectacle with his Privé collection, drawing an equally lavish front row adorned in the previous season’s runway splendours. The maestro’s pursuit of beauty, revered by an international clientele, unfolded not only through the languid lines echoing in his ready-to-wear collections but also in the extraordinary embellishments that graced the Privé runway. Rich jacquards, intricate lace, and iridescent fabrics enveloped the body, casting a mesmerising glow in the ethereal light.
In a testament to boundless creativity, Armani described this collection as an indulgence in unexpected bursts of creativity, setting the stage for a whimsical journey. Dresses unfurled into cascading fronds of tulle, and colossal plissé hats added a touch of fantasy to the runway. Building on the theme from the previous season, the designer alluded to an ‘imagined journey from west to east,’ manifested through the luxurious embroidery adorning kimono-inspired robes. Giorgio Armani Privé once again emerged as a symphony of extravagance, where each intricately crafted piece harmonised to create a resplendent visual opus.
In Pieter Mulier’s latest masterstroke, each garment was meticulously crafted from a single piece of yarn—an engineering marvel paying homage to Azzedine Alaïa’s architectural ethos in dressmaking. The merino wool yarn, a year in the making with the house’s knitwear and textile collaborators, signaled a minimalist shift, not in simplicity but in essence. Fluttering layers, sculptural gowns, and whimsical pom-pom fronds emerged from sleeves and hems, revealing a complexity beneath the surface.
Mulier expressed a philosophy of ‘less meaning more,’ emphasising intimacy and the essence of fashion. It’s a deliberate choice to focus on freedom and invention, not minimising but expanding possibilities. The endlessly looping twists of yarn symbolised Alaïa’s core—an intimacy embodied in circles of friends, chosen family, an essence inherent to the brand. This sentiment echoed through the show, held at the Alaïa store on Rue de Marignan, attended by a select few perched on Philippe Malouin’s Mollo sofas, witnessing a celebration of essence and invention in every meticulously woven thread.
In a mesmerising opening film, actress Margaret Qualley loses a button from her Chanel jacket, only to be assisted by Naomi Campbell in a surreal dance of fashion, directed by Dave Free and scored by Kendrick Lamar. Emerging from the cinematic spell, Qualley seamlessly transitions onto the runway, embodying the essence of Virginie Viard’s romantic collection.
Viard, drawing inspiration from Gabrielle Chanel’s adorned jackets, transforms the iconic button into a symbolic jewel, exploring its significance in a nuanced balletic narrative. “Chanel brings out emotions in me that I use for inspiration, collection after collection… my mission is to find new ways to tell its most beautiful stories,” expresses Viard.
The ethereal collection, presented in a sugared-almond palette of white and pale pink, unfolds with graceful flourishes reminiscent of ballet and dance. Fronds of tulle cascade from jacket sleeves and hips, while layered body suits, adorned with extraordinary embellished bustiers, and delicate white tights evoke the liberated spirit of a dancer’s rehearsal room. Viard, emphasising the importance of dance at Chanel, seamlessly merges the power and finesse of bodies and clothes in this poetic composition of tulle, ruffles, pleats, and lace.
Maria Grazia Chiuri transcends traditional themes, delving into the intangible realm of ‘aura,’ defining a contemporary feminine expression that echoes her impactful tenure at Dior. The backdrop, Isabella Ducrot’s “Big Aura,” portrays large-scale clothing silhouettes reminiscent of the warp and weft of cloth, emphasising the couturier’s medium: fabric.
Fabric takes centre stage, showcasing sumptuous moiré alongside the sheen of iridescent textures and lush velvet. Chiuri pays homage to Christian Dior’s infatuation with moiré, describing it as a wave unfurling over winter. Drawing inspiration from the iconic La Cigale dress of Dior’s A/W 1952 collection, the designer reinterprets the classic silhouette. Narrowed at the waist and cantilevered at the hip, it shapes the posture effortlessly. Gowns gracefully envelop the body, delicately cinched at the waist, while hourglass tailored jackets harmonise with free-flowing plissé skirts, creating a mesmerising symphony of elegance.
Daniel Roseberry, the maestro behind Parisian couture house Schiaparelli, once again stole the limelight, marking the pinnacle of the week in the city of lights. A front row adorned with luminaries like Jennifer Lopez, Zendaya, and Hunter Schafer set the stage for an extraordinary show. Roseberry, known for his penchant for fantasy and a Thom Browne protege, constantly defies expectations, as seen in his internet-infamous S/S 2023 collection featuring oversized animal head replicas.
This season was no different, as Roseberry unveiled a cosmic collection inspired by outer space and sci-fi tropes. The runway spectacle included a ‘robo baby,’ an avant-garde creation resembling gleaming discarded tech, carried by model Maggie Maurer, who marveled at its weightlessness compared to her own baby. Another showstopper was a gown adorned with old mobile phones and compact disks, embodying Roseberry’s philosophy that seemingly disparate elements can harmoniously create something entirely new and unexpected.
The gowns, sculpted with Roseberry’s signature finesse, showcased intricate embroidery soaring above the head on one side. Enormous fan-like breastplates crafted from patchworked black lace added a touch of the surreal. “A series of profiles both familiar and not – part human, part something else,” Roseberry expressed, encapsulating the essence of Schiaparelli – where art, nature, and avant-garde ideas unite to craft a unique and transcendent experience.
Swedish fashion powerhouse Toteme continues its triumphant trajectory, reaching new heights with the inauguration of a sophisticated London boutique on Mount Street last year, adding to a global portfolio spanning New York, Shanghai, Seoul, and its hometown Stockholm. Opting for an off-schedule showcase during Haute Couture Week, founders Elin Kling and Karl Lindman curated an exclusive audience of press and associates for an intimate preview of the Autumn/Winter 2024 collection.
The stark white backdrop of the runway served as a canvas for Toteme’s aesthetic, reminiscent of the stripped-back stylings that defined runway shows in the 1990s. Kling, the creative director, emphasised a focus on “line, cut, and shape” in a discerning collection that featured gently tapered wool overcoats, featherweight knits sensually wrapping the neckline (later echoed in sinuous dresses), and impeccably tailored gowns. The show concluded with ethereal pieces hovering gently off the shoulder or intricately knotted, adorned with delicate crochet flowers.
“The collection is designed for real-life situations, offering a highly curated edit that explores and consolidates the Toteme codes,” noted Kling. This masterful curation ultimately presents the perfect fusion of styles for a refined and sophisticated look, epitomising Toteme’s commitment to elegance and minimalism.
SIMONE ROCHA X JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
Simone Rocha, in her creative stewardship of Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, seamlessly blended the essence of haute couture technique with the bold spirit of Mr. Gaultier. A delightful collision of her female perspective, Irish heritage, and subversive style unfolded, marking a captivating moment for those unfamiliar with her work. Rocha’s unique touch, from ruby satin breast-pieces to transparent pannier dresses and iconic Gaultier-inspired corsetry, reflected a playful provocativeness and individualistic flair. Paying homage to Gaultier’s classics, she transformed Breton stripes into a ribbon-and-bow-covered t-shirt and revived the emblematic tattoo collection symbols.
Delving into the JPG archive, Rocha discovered Gaultier’s use of traditional Irish crochet, inspiring her to craft molded silver-dipped dresses and exquisite ecru doily lace creations with stiffened breast-pieces. Her attention to detail extended to whimsical accessories, including lucite heels adorned with pearls and feathers, earrings shaped like garter belts, ribbons, and cow-parsley blooms. Unapologetically celebrating female physicality, the guest of the moment introduced unconventional padded underpants that created bustle-like protuberances, amongst other eyecatching details. The grand finale featured voluminous tulle ball gowns, showcasing Rocha’s versatility and flair for the spectacular, which saw the audience respond with rapturous applause, whilst her moment was sealed with a giant hug from Jean Paul himself.
Article: Charles Daniel McDonald
Photography: Each Respective Design House