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Dazzling iterations of haute couture

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A model swathed in baroque gold frills walks the Schiaparelli Spring/Summer Couture Show © Valerio Mezzanotti/New York Times/Redux/eyevine

What is haute couture really for? This is a question that has been asked for fifty years, since ready-to-wear has become the dominant business model and the creative engine. At the Spring/Summer 2022 shows, held in Paris this week, it seemed like every fashion house had its own answer.

For Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior, haute couture is a matter of craftsmanship and work in the workshops. “Couture brands have a responsibility to support this craftsmanship,” she said backstage before a parade muffled with embroidery, dripping with technique, a feast for the eyes that represented thousands of hours of work. seamstresses from Dior.

For Chanel, couture is about customers. “Our goal is to give our customers what they want to have,” says Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s fashion president. “Haute couture is the ultra luxury experience. It’s unique. He reasons, however, that spectacle – for Chanel and everyone else – is about image. “You can consider that the advertising budget,” he said, an hour or so before Charlotte Casiraghi, 11th in line for the Monaco throne, rode in a constructivist carousel to memorably start the kickoff. Chanel’s clearance for the couture trade this season.

Maria Grazia Chiuri's Dior was all about showcasing the expertise of the brand's ateliers.  .  .

Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior was all about showcasing the expertise of the brand’s ateliers. . . © Frederique Dumoulin

.  .  .  with clothes covered in embroidery and dripping with technique

. . . with clothes suffocated with embroidery and dripping with technique © Frédérique Dumolin

And for Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, couture is about rules – rules that are meant to be broken. “I want couture to celebrate people’s individuality,” he said, ahead of a powerful show where a diversity of body types, ages and races featured as a reflection of humanity.

They’re all valid and true: Daniel Roseberry’s show for Schiaparelli, his first staging since he dressed Lady Gaga for Biden’s inauguration last January and was catapulted around the world, has them somehow so all encapsulated. There was a row of funky-dressed customers and a group of celebrities – including a hooded Kanye West and his new girlfriend Julia Fox – marking looks for red carpet appearances. And even a selection of designers — Olivier Rousteing of Balmain, Simon Porte Jacquemus, Thebe Magugu — ready to encourage Roseberry. There is also a healthy tendency towards competition in couture: designers want to dazzle and impress each other, in a gentle show of one-upmanship.

At Chanel, Charlotte Casiraghi opened the show astride the catwalk.  .  .

At Chanel, Charlotte Casiraghi opened the show astride the catwalk. . .

.  .  .where the models walked wearing classic Chanel tweed suits interspersed with lace and ruffles

. . .where the models walked wearing classic Chanel tweed suits interspersed with lace and ruffles

Roseberry felt that her show was about “sharpening the knives” at Schiaparelli. Her silhouettes were precision cut and cut, executed in a palette of black, white and gold for a cosmos-themed collection – Elsa Schiaparelli, the house’s namesake, was the niece of famed Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. In Roseberry’s hands, the theme delivered rings of Saturn surrounding the necklines, celestial swirls of gold like Baroque religious iconography, and necklaces swirling like halos around the face.

“In these surreal times, we need this,” exclaimed actor Laverne Cox, possibly reacting to the model walking by holding the train of her elegant evening dress in one hand and carrying a leather bag. golden human head shape in the other, like a high fashion Judith and Holofernes. In fact, Schiaparelli was great because of the rigor and concentration of the clothes, which fitted perfectly. The first official show in the four-day couture calendar, it set the bar high.

The Schiaparelli collection was themed around the cosmos, with models wearing necklaces like halos.  .  .

The Schiaparelli collection was themed around the cosmos, with models wearing necklaces like halos. . .

.  .  .  and wearing an array of golden <a class=accessories, including a bag in the shape of a human head” data-image-type=”image” src=”https://www.ft.com/__origami/service/image/v2/images/raw/https%3A%2F%2Fd1e00ek4ebabms.cloudfront.net%2Fproduction%2F89a7b33d-d8ad-4cde-8833-733ed439ad51.jpg?fit=scale-down&source=next&width=700″ srcset=”https://www.ft.com/__origami/service/image/v2/images/raw/https%3A%2F%2Fd1e00ek4ebabms.cloudfront.net%2Fproduction%2F89a7b33d-d8ad-4cde-8833-733ed439ad51.jpg?fit=scale-down&source=next&width=700 700w, https://www.ft.com/__origami/service/image/v2/images/raw/https%3A%2F%2Fd1e00ek4ebabms.cloudfront.net%2Fproduction%2F89a7b33d-d8ad-4cde-8833-733ed439ad51.jpg?fit=scale-down&source=next&width=500 500w, https://www.ft.com/__origami/service/image/v2/images/raw/https%3A%2F%2Fd1e00ek4ebabms.cloudfront.net%2Fproduction%2F89a7b33d-d8ad-4cde-8833-733ed439ad51.jpg?fit=scale-down&source=next&width=300 300w” sizes=”(min-width: 76.25em) 700px, (min-width: 61.25em) 620px, (min-width: 46.25em) 700px, calc(100vw – 20px)”/>

. . . and wearing an array of golden accessories, including a bag in the shape of a human head

All in all, other houses have come across it. It’s been a stellar week – no pun intended, although a strange intergalactic undercurrent has inspired a few shows. Elon Musk and Richard Branson are already trying to monetize outer space, and last year Morgan Stanley projected that the “space economy” would hit more than $1 billion by 2040. But what would a billionaire for this first trip to Mars? Kim Jones’ third Fendi couture collection combined ancient Rome with space. The conducting wire ? To be able to.

Kim Jones said her Fendi collection was

Kim Jones said her Fendi collection was “imperial”, with models wearing crimson dresses with long trails. . . © Kristy Sparrow/Getty Images

.  .  .  and heavy embroidery recalling the magnificence of the Renaissance

. . . and heavy embroidery reminiscent of Renaissance magnificence © Kristy Sparow/Getty Images

Jones dressed the mannequins in Tyrian purple and crimson, many of which were heavily embroidered and trailed majestically – a powerful exercise in craftsmanship and excess, designed for wealthy women who wished to pay and display. “It’s imperial – all of these women would be in positions of power,” he reasoned. The most interesting parts were when Jones married a language of Renaissance magnificence with something avant-garde – a sequence of dresses featured a design derived from fabric draped over a form, photographed and printed on silk, a facsimile of finery with a modern lightness. And he exposed the underwear, peeling the dresses off the corsets to show their guts.

As extreme as they may seem, people buy these clothes. Glenn Martens, creative director of the Y/Project label but also of Diesel, added this season a third position to his CV as a guest designer at Jean Paul Gaultier (the house has a program where the creative head changes with each couture collection). One of her most outrageous dresses, a silk taffeta creation with a huge undulating thread-structured skirt, was spotted by an enthusiastic Gaultier customer during a fitting for a previous purchase and was ordered before she even got it. be finished for the parade.

Martens’ collection included 36 equally appealing looks which, he said, embraced the essence of couture – all long dresses, nodding to Gaultier’s signatures, such as corset dresses in satin as outerwear and body mapping prints. These guest designer collections, which debuted last season with Sacai’s Chitose Abe as creative director, have been phenomenal so far – in terms of new clothes, they feature some of the most exciting on the couture calendar. And they also remind new generations of the depth and importance of Gaultier’s history – something the brand has capitalized on with ready-to-wear capsule collections.

At Jean Paul Gaultier, Glenn Martens wanted to embrace the essence of couture, with long dresses.  .  .

At Jean Paul Gaultier, Glenn Martens wanted to embrace the essence of couture, with long dresses. . . © Arnaud Lajeunenie

.  .  .  and references to Gaultier signatures like body-mapping prints and satin corset dresses

. . . and references to Gaultier signatures such as body-mapping prints and corseted satin dresses © Arnaud Lajeunie

Past present Future. Piccioli manages to address all three in his work for Valentino. Like Gaultier, her clothes are remarkable because they simultaneously upset the conventions of couture while respecting its traditions. Presented to just 65 guests in a series of salons in Place Vendôme, the parade had the air of the golden age of mid-20th century couture. But the values ​​Piccioli expressed were all about now – inclusive, empathetic and emotionally astute.

Piccioli began his collection as a study of the body – that is, of all bodies, rather than the slender, tall, youthful form that is the fashion ideal. Creators usually work with such a “house model”, fitting clothes for him and then adapting them to similar characters for the show. Piccioli used five different women, young and old, of varying shapes and sizes, in a true examination of the human form.

Valentino's Pier Paolo Piccioli used five women of different ages and shapes to tailor his designs.  .  .

Valentino’s Pier Paolo Piccioli used five women of different ages and shapes to tailor his designs. . . © Giovanni Giannoni

.  .  .  presenting a remarkably inclusive and empathetic couture collection

. . . presenting a remarkably inclusive and empathetic couture collection © Giovanni Giannoni

Diversity is an overused trope in fashion – but Piccioli’s Valentino show challenged fashion symbolism, his protean talent creating clothes to embrace and celebrate a truly diverse cast of models, in ages ranging from their early twenties to septuagenarians. They looked amazing.

Yet, as well as looking great, they felt right – not in terms of the tactile surfaces of duchess silk and georgette, hand-embroidered feathers and micro-pleated chiffon, but in their emotional resonance. The models exuded a palpable sense of pride, even joy, dressed to the nines and enjoying every second. The clothes were beautiful, the feeling even more so. And it makes you dream. This is what haute couture should be for.

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