Chanel Couture S/S 12
I read something interesting the other day about Coco Chanel
. Her first couture house was in Biarritz, beach destination of the rich and fabulous, and not as is commonly believed, in Paris. Her first shop was in the French capital of course, but it only sold hats and ready-to-wear. After World War I she did eventually register as a couturier on the Rue de Cambon, but it was in the seaside resort that the very top line of her empire began.
Haute Couture, as we know, is very different to prêt-a-porter, it’s more extreme, more extravagant, and more importantly, it’s more expensive. And as the top of the fashion tree it’s where a lot of trends originate. Which brings us to Paris, where this week they held the couture shows for Spring/Summer 12.
Traditionally the spot on the style calendar where the top fashion houses run wild with creativity, and the kind of constructions that venture into the fantastical. So how did they fare in a year that’s shaping up to be another one of austerity? Let’s have a look…
Here there was major upset because Karl slashed the invite list down to the bare minimum, leaving lots of bruised egos out in the cold. It transpired that it was down to limited space – this Chanel show was set on a plane! Of course anyone who’s ever experienced the horrors of RyanAir can tell you that Mr Lagerfeld made a serious faux pas here, since air travel for most us means cramming as many people as possible into a tiny space. But this was a Chanel aeroplane and clearly the head of one of Paris’ top couture houses travels in style.
The obvious thing here would have been to have the models as air hostesses, but their signature uniforms were only vaguely referenced, more Britney in the Toxic
video than BA cabin crew. And this wasn’t out of laziness, as Lagerfeld explained ‘I didn’t want to make it too literal.’
The first colour out was sky blue, appropriately enough, and the subtly sculpted dresses
had a touch of the space-age to them, but overall it was classic Chanel; the tweed skirt suits, the overall feeling of tastefulness, even with exaggerated poofy sleeves on monochrome blouses
, the drop waisted evening gowns that alluded to the house’s 1920s heyday. And of course everything was neat as a pin. Coco would have been proud.
’s parent company LVMH have come out and said they’re in no hurry to replace the former designer, for once this wasn’t over-shadowed by the Galliano saga, so everyone was able to give their full attention to the clothes.
Like the house itself at the moment, the collection looked like a work in progress. Not as in they weren’t finished properly, or weren’t fully realised designs, but in that it was the theme. Bill Gaytten, standing in as head designer, hadn’t just gone back to the roots of couture, he’d gone back to the roots of garment construction – some of the dresses resembled calico toiles still with the chalk and dart marks on, and some pieces were so covered in dotted lines they resembled a body map. But in such sumptuously luxurious fabrics, and with such intricate finishing there was no doubt that these were the real deal.
Valli is a relative new kid on the block when it comes to his eponymous couture label, though he learned much about the craft in his positions elsewhere, and it seemed as if he was keen to fit in with the more established names on the schedule, to validate his position.
His collection was everything we’ve come to expect from haute couture – sculpted, grown-up and immaculately neat, with a touch of froufrou in the evening dresses and a nod to nostalgia.
Things livened up when Valli injected a touch of rebelliousness into proceedings, with some distinctly un-proper knicker flashing pencil skirts
, which may have been more suited to pret-a-porter, but hinted at a sense of fun that would inject life into the Italian designer’s top level show.
Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci
By putting out a relatively small (but striking) couture collection, Tisci was really able to concentrate on honing his own visual identity, each new show seems to add more and more carefully considered impact to the aesthetic he has created during his time at Givenchy.
So it goes without saying that this collection was dark. If the Italian wants to make a point about being moody and edgy and deep, he couldn’t have done it better than with a floor length hand-dyed crocodile-skin dress. He said the collection was part inspired by the 1927 Fritz Lang film Metropolis
, which is very much in keeping with the current vogue for silent movies. Metropolis highlights the juxtaposition of a high and low city within the story, and Tisci reflected this in the pieces, with slinky sequinned dresses roughed up with chunky chains and models in nose rings.
After making quite the splash at Menswear week, Donatella Versace
continued her fabulous diva form by making everyone hang around outside waiting for her collection show to open its doors.
It was the Italian label’s first appearance on the Paris couture schedule since 2004, but the pieces remained as true to the Versace high-octane signature style as ever. This was red-carpet dressing in its purest form – curve hugging, skin-tight, bead-encrusted glitter bombs only able to be pulled off by the genetically elite.
The big news here is that just before the show started, actress and attendee Jessica Chastain learned of her Oscar nomination, and consequently, Mr Armani
was the first to congratulate her, with a bouquet of flowers (now does this mean she’s likely to be wearing one of these dresses to the ceremony?). But did this happy little drama upstage the clothes?
Well, even without competing for attention with a newly minted Academy Award nominee, the pieces weren’t overly traffic-stopping, but still, there was something nice and fresh about their subtlety that spoke for itself. Silhouettes were slinky and in fitting with the reptile fascination at some of the other shows, Armani showed an enthusiasm for snakeskin.
Most impressively though, was how his rippling knee-length skirts made organza look sophisticated. Snaps for that Giorgio.