The show at Armani Privé opened with the designer's evergreen suits in a palette of grey shades. The haute couture side of the suits stood in the luxurious fabrics and in the details chosen to make the jackets look richer and more elegant, in particular the jewellery-like buttons and the crystal encrusted asymmetrical zippers.
The emphasis wasn’t entirely on the shoulders, that seemed round and less rigid compared to the S/S 09 collection, but in these sparkly details and in the chunky oversized pearl or cube necklaces and earrings that accessorised the outfits.
As the collection progressed, jackets became more extravagant, enriched by fringes of crystals and cascades of sequins that contrasted with the delicate grid-like shirts and blouses.
There was also a glamour climax towards the end thanks to a series of long and sparkling evening gowns in midnight blue and black (though the blue tiger pattern dress that may have been avoided...).
The silvery dresses that left the hips bare called to mind Greta Garbo’s long gown trimmed with sequins from the dance scenes in George Fitzmaurice’s Mata Hari.
The Garbo connection also seemed to be highlighted throughout the whole collection with the jewelled caps worn by the models. With this collection Armani definitely understood that, while for some designers haute couture mainly means excess and frivolity, for him it should be about impeccable tailor-made trouser suits and evening wear.
If you hate hypocrisy, the behaviour of some of the guests gathered in the Salon des Boiseries at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs to see Christian Lacroix’s show would have probably driven you up a wall.
This may be the fashion house’s last haute couture collection after the financial crisis that swept it, but Lacroix’s customers should remember that a) if they truly want to help they’d better stop crying and find a backer; b) Lacroix’s financial problems may be just the beginning of the end for haute couture as we know it, so there’s nothing to cry about it, but there is a lot to do to save the unique artisans who work in this business.
Despite being produced on a shoestring, the collection proved there is still talent, craftsmanship and artistry at the maison and, above all, it highlighted that there is the chance to see a more wearable and less extravagant yet equally luxurious form of haute couture.
Intricate embroideries and brocade inserts decorated capes, jackets and coat dresses; cropped jackets with multiple pockets displayed a sense of controlled elegance; lace, bows and ruffles added a poetic note to shirts and blouses, while hats and headscarves completed the looks in a chic way.
Black prevailed in fluid one-shoulder dresses and more dreamy tulle gowns and Lacroix's passion for art references and costume designs resurfaced towards the very end, with a full-skirted black and dark blue evening gown that seemed to be a reinterpretation of Diego Velazquez’s “Lady with a Fan” with its dame wearing a black dress with pale blue details.
The finale was rather theatrical with a model wearing a satin wedding dress that made her look more like a statue of a saint or of the Virgin Mary than like a bride. The sleeves of the dress seemed built with thinly elaborate layers of lace, embroidered gold crosses and floral patterns decorated the front of the dress and the magnificent headdress, while yellow, red and blue roses were scattered on the shoulders, around the wrists and at the hem.
While Lacroix must be praised for trying to resist in stormy times and still managing to portray in his collections an image of timeless Parisian chic, Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy should be celebrated for having taken haute couture out of Paris and onto a trip to North Africa.
Tisci, though, is not always coherent with his inspirations and this represents both his strength and his weak spot.
The first outfits striding down the catwalks - well-sculpted coats and trousers suits with velvet jackets padded around the hips and with thin and ethereal hoods matched with black jodhpurs - were inspired by horse riding.
As the catwalk progressed jodhpurs turned into exotic gold harem pants characterised by exaggerated silhouettes and heavy embroideries, black veils were wrapped around the models wearing multiple rows of necklaces, evoking a rather tribal attire.
The Middle Eastern influence became tangible, but, little by little, Tisci took it further, trying to innovate it: bright pink and green beads were scattered on long draped nude coloured evening gowns, while his passion for bondage reappeared in a striking powdery pink dress with a fading red hem accessorised with rather aggressive spiked knuckle dusters.
This little punk touch became another sub-theme of the collection with Tisci opting for tailored white cashmere jackets, embroidered tops and dresses decorated with golden studs, spikes and fringes of tinkling metallic cones.
There were even spiked tiaras à la Statue of Liberty and a final long white dress with a tone on tone kaffiah-like print.
Surely Tisci was trying to portray through his designs his ideal muse – a romantic, yet strong free spirited woman – but one day the designer will have to choose which direction to take, aggressively punk or romantically fetishistic, and maybe try to be a little bit less Alexander McQueen-meets-Giles and more Tisci.
Fashion is mainly about creativity and innovation and Karl Lagerfeld perfectly managed to remind it to fashionistas and fashion critics at his spectacular all white and papery S/S 09 Chanel haute couture show and at the more recent Chanel Cruise catwalk at Venice’s Lido.
It’s difficult to be third time lucky, though, and this time the Chanel show wasn’t an unforgettable experience, despite of the theatrical set comprised of a few gigantic bottles of N° 5 fragrance.
Though there were enough classic tweed suits and coats, plus some extraordinarily tail-coats, reinterpreting Coco’s looks proved difficult.
Lagerfeld tried to inject a little bit of innovation by adding longer panels on the back of skirts, but, in many cases, this trick, devised to create flat geometries on shoulders, waist and hips, didn’t really work, but ended up turning into a rather tiring exercise.
Evening looks proved better, with crystal encrusted dresses, painstakingly embroidered outfits and black crinoline mini-skirts, though you wished Lagerfeld had concentrated more on simple drop waist little black dresses and less on heavily beaded dresses or lampshade tunics à la Poiret.
While the bi-coloured stiletto boots and the see-through hats were rather interesting, the final bride and groom were a little bit too romantically sugary and rather redundant.
The idea behind Maison Martin Margiela’s Artisanal line was creating new outfits recycling unusual materials.
Usually only carefully analysing the outfits you would realise what they were made of, in fact that was the whole point, turning something extremely ordinary into something amazingly unusual.
This time, though, you could spot ballpoint pen caps, fake eyelashes and old fans miles away and this maybe showed that this clever exercise in recycling materials has maybe become rather tiresome.
Besides the materials chosen weren't maybe too appealing, after all, there aren’t too many of us out there who would like to go around with a fluffy and colourful door curtain from the 80s wrapped around their bodies.
You wonder how much Diesel's marketing management weighted on the recent development of the fashion house. Only time will tell, but, in the meantime, having learnt what to do with leftover materials, I think we will all focus on making our own "artisanal" collections.
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