It’s couture time, bitches. Let’s go collection by collection, since only a handful of couture designers showed at Paris Fashion Week, and even less are worth discussing.
Underwhelming: Jean Paul Gaultier
This was by far my favorite look in Jean Paul Gaultier’s collection, although it’s certainly not perfect. But to me, it was one of the only pieces in his collection that felt daring and original. The first six looks were boring, and the rest of the collection tries to be dark and futuristic, but doesn’t really achieve much in the way of high fashion. Dita Von Teese making a guest appearance in the show was a nice touch, and only a burlesque star (or a diehard Rocky Horror fan) would have a reason to wear this skeleton-corset, but beyond that, the show was largely a disappointment.
This look at least felt like couture to me. A complex and fresh design, with no accessory overlooked. Let’s not forget that wearability is not the primary concern of couture designers – that’s why these aren’t Ready-To-Wear. They’re meant for the runway, more like art than clothing. And in that respect, I think this is a stunning dress. It has a subtle nod to flappers of the 1920s, but it feels modern and original. And the fishnets are a perfect touch.
Couture is about vision. It’s about intricacy and impeccable design and clothes that look like they took months to make, because they did. I think that was wear Gaultier failed – he focused on the gimmicks and the showmanship instead of the actual design elements. It’s all great to have burlesque stars and violins and sky-high, gravity-defying hairstyles, but so many of the actual designs were just haphazard draping. And of course there is a fine art to draping, but nothing in the way Gaultier used draping felt new or beautiful or unique. Instead it felt messy, repetitive, and kind of boring.
Hit or Miss: Valentino
Many of the individual looks in Valentino’s collection were exquisite, like the bow-adorned cocktail dress and matching full-length gloves pictured above. A modern twist on the petticoats of yore, I fell in love with this dress and a few others in the collection.
Another beautiful dress, but with a nearly identical concept: Put a lot of bows and a simple twist on a normal dress. What struck me as bothersome about the collection over all is how similar so many of the looks were. Of course cohesion is important in a collection, but Valentino showed the same outfit in two different colors; two nearly identical outfits, just with different hemlines; and the same outfit in two different fabrics (but the same colors). That was too much for me to take – the effect of a simple but fabulous black dress is not enhanced by seeing the white version of it ten seconds later. It just felt like a waste of fabric, at least in a couture show. It’s about customization and each piece being different from the next, not a gown in several colors that’s marketable or ready-to-wear.
It’s similar to the first Valentino dress, but not so similar that it feels derivative, like so many of the looks did. Instead, it’s a couture bridal gown fit for a queen. The bows on the shoes and the hands of the gloves are exquisite, and bring an element of softness to the architectural tiers of the gown. I’m glad bows are in, and I love these three dresses more than words, but Valentino’s collection suffered from a lack of variety and diversity.
Chanel and the Art of Influence
My favorite look of the Chanel collection. Perfect handiwork. An almost obsessive attention to detail. And those Wonder Woman-inspired wrist cuffs are exquisite. It looks as expensive as I’m sure it is, but I love the rough hemline, bringing a bit of grittiness into an angelic dress.
But the last few collections of Chanel and other designers such as Marc Jacobs have been plagued by what I like to call The Mormon Skirt Dilemma. I have no idea why the runway is full of skirts that stop at this awkward place, but I think they’re unflattering, unnatural, and throw off the proportions of the entire outfit. The Mormon Skirt Dilemma, plus the use of heavy tweet, gave most of the models the appearance of little girls wearing Twilight-inspired versions of their grandmothers’ clothes. In fact, much of the collection felt heavy and dark, with the occasional burst of lightness like the first Chanel outfit shown above. Not that heavy and dark is necessarily bad, but Chanel went for the same effect in the Fall 2010 RTW collection, so it does get a bit wearing after awhile.
I love the way the beadwork over the lace feels like armor. It was certainly a collection for a haute couture Joan of Arc woman. But that lace skirt is just breathtaking, and the boots with it are completely badass. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have legs for days to pull off a look like that. But I would have loved to see more looks that stepped outside the tweed-suits-and-wool-coats box of Chanel.
Armani Privé: It’s All About the Fit
I think the Armani Privé collection felt more like a nearly complete RTW collection than anything haute couture, but this suit immediately leaped out at me as a favorite. The shimmery white tights and the silk ivory blouse are soft, sweet, and sexy. And we know that anything studded, or anything that looks studded, is super-trendy right now, as evidenced by Dakota Fanning’s fierce shoes. And the fit of this suit is just incredible.
But what, I ask you, is couture about this? Where is the detail, the handiwork, the originality? This is a badly pressed sheet, poorly wrapped around a starving girl. This has no element of design, let alone couture. And is it just me, or has this model spent a little too much time in the pool? Those ends look green with chlorine.
And zoom! Back to fabulous. The perfect coat. Simple and elegant, but with fantastic design aspects. That huge button clasp, the asymmetry, the curves of the hem, and of course the draping over her left shoulder take this coat to new heights.
Fit, fit, fit, Armani! What is going on in the bust of this dress? We’re mere moments away from seeing her right nipple. The dress looks like it’s inches away from her chest and the sides don’t look even. I’m just not sure how something like this actually made it onto the runway. I want to run up to her with a cushion full of pins, yank that dress up three inches, and pin it into place.
Honorable Mention: Elie Saab
Elie Saab’s collection was a wonderful combination of the intrigue of couture and the wearability of red-carpet fashion. I have no least favorite looks, but just one negative comment towards the collection as a whole: it did seem a bit disjointed. The individual looks seemed detached from each other; they were similar to the looks before or after, but just a few models later, you couldn’t believe you were at the same show. Cohesion is a difficult thing to achieve, and I think that was Elie Saab’s main weakness in this otherwise strong collection.
Now that is a print. It looks tie-dyed, paint-splattered, it moves like liquid, and it feels like fire. The skirt is designed in a way that makes it flow fabulously, I love the rouching on the bodice, and the single-sleeve style, which I usually dislike, is beautiful.
And this is couture. It looks like it took millions of painstaking hours of sewing, beading, and draping to accomplish such a complex and divine gown. This is what I hope Kate Middleton will wear to marry Prince William. A gown fit for a princess.
The Winner: Christian Dior
I beg of you – don’t take my word on this one. See for yourself how over-the-top, inspiring, and beautiful Christian Dior’s collection is. It may be a fall collection, but it’s obvious that spring has sprung for Christian Dior. Like this neon dress that struts the line between yellow and green, brightness is in nearly every look. This dress feels fresh and unique, but it’s also something that you could see easily adapted for the red carpet. (Though only Lady Gaga would wear the head piece.)
The only thing I dislike about these entire collection is those damn rubber gloves. I’ve seen them on runways before, and whenever they’re in orange or yellow, it just feels like the woman is strutting down the runway to wash some dishes or operate on someone. But I love, love, love the beaded bodice and voluminous skirt – not unique in any structural way, but glamorous and exquisite regardless.
You have to love Dior for the way the avant-garde pops into these looks. The way those flowers cascade down the skirt, which would be gorgeous even without them, just strikes me as incredibly romantic. And the colors of those flowers! This is the one time I like the use of the gloves, because that purple color is just another glorious surprise. That iced robin’s-egg-blue color of the sweater is phenomenal, as is the collar. I’m not sure what’s happening with that paper bag belt/sash/bow, but it keeps me guessing, and ultimately leaves me wanting more.
Check the Democracy Diva later tonight for today’s Diva’s Choice – one piece of overpriced fabulousness every day!