Dior, Versace, Gaultier — and John Galliano's continued comeback — show their most intensive, creative creations.
PARIS — Celebrities met designs replete with sparkle and tailoring at Paris Couture Week. Here are some highlights of the fall-winter 2016 collections.
DIOR RETURNS TO THE ATELIER
It is twilight season for Christian Dior, a house which has still not replaced its lauded designer Raf Simons.
Fittingly, the theme of Monday’s show was a return to the atelier — both geographically and creatively — in a collection almost exclusively realized in black and white.
It was, so said the program notes, a color juxtaposition that the late Monsieur Dior himself loved.
But it was, at heart, just a strong care-taker show that played it safe.
Interim designers Serge Ruffieux and Lucie Meier linked the monochrome to their personal creative elemental duality, masculine and feminine, in a show that riffed on menswear tailoring and draping. It was delivered on rather low-key sandal flats with reductive Cleopatra-style eye make-up.
There were experimentations with the archives in the 45 looks. They included modern variations on the New Look, the style that made Dior’s name in 1947 and reintroduced material lengths to European audiences following the restrictions of World War II.
It made for a creative play in one loose, delicate Bar Jacket embroidered with sequins and silver thread and elsewhere on a skirt in ecru wool silk that had a creative, dropped voluminous feel.
VERSACE IS CAUGHT IN THE MOMENT
Atelier Versace experimented with dramatic form in its twisty, crisscrossed and draped ode to female empowerment.
Though this was a carefully planned spectacle and with models who walked more slowly than we’ve come to expect from Donatella — the aim of the designs, including silk gowns and pant looks, was to evoke spontaneity.
This was achieved with some success via draping and volume play with details of the clothes caught still in time.
Draped duchesse satin was dramatically twisted, for instance, as if frozen in a moment.
The program notes called it “an exploration of form that runs through the collection.” It was seen again in creative twisted knots of leather in high heels that fell with purposeful nonchalance. At times, they perhaps seemed overly floppy.
Elsewhere, clusters of Swarovski crystals glistened on a cashmere coat with back draping.
“I love the elegance, sophistication and drama of today’s woman,” Versace said of her show.
The 34 looks were all of that, but could have perhaps benefited from a small shot of energy.
SCHIAPARELLI’S CIRCUS SHOW
Bertrand Guyon’s third collection for Schiaparelli delved into the history of the storied house, drawing inspiration from the couturier’s influential Circus collection of 1938.
It lent itself well to a show full of sheen, shoulder and eccentricity.
Large surrealistic embroidered motifs sparkled with images of butterflies, circus balls, eyes, lips and one silver gown shimmered elegantly with a Ferris wheel set amid a funfair.
Elsa Schiaparelli, who died in 1973, famously mixed into her designs references to her great surrealist friends who included Salvador Dali.
Guyon stayed close to this heritage.
Like a flamboyant circus costume, a midnight velvet column dress sported exquisite straight, stiff arms that stood up squarely above the model’s physical shoulder. It cut a unique silhouette against a sheer midriff and a gold bar covering the nipples.
But the real devil was in the back detail.
Like in the ’30s, Schiaparelli’s heyday, backs were scooped, draped and accentuated in eveningwear, drawing in the eye. It was a simple, yet effective formula.
GIAMBATTISTA’S VALLI GIRLS
Fashion master Giambattista Valli played with size, proportion and dimension in a typically perfected couture display.
The Italian-born designer began with figurative versions of the Babydoll silhouette — the famed ’50s nightie style that flares out at the hip with puffy sleeves.
The first in a series of white gowns had creatively gathered — and purposefully off-kilter — segments in the sleeves that came across as abstract, yet feminine.
They soon merged into floor-length diaphanous silken gowns with Grecian-style gathered, or segmented, detail around the bust.
As ever, the color palette was reductive — with white, black, pale blue with flashes of bold red.
But it was handled with panache and subtlety.
It made some fashion critics wonder why he has not reportedly been touted for the Christian Dior top job.
IRIS VAN HERPEN
Science again met fashion for Iris Van Herpen Monday, a designer who delved into ready-to-wear but has come back with a vengeance on the couture calendar.
And the Dutch wunderkind produced a fantastical 3-D couture display worthy of her many recent creative accolades.
Seeking to show sound waves as evolving patterns in the 12 gown display, the 32-year-old’s designs, as ever, possessed an organic, sensual feel.
The creations seemed to riff off blown up inner-flesh — or else, sea-dwelling crustaceans parading in a coral reef.
New techniques of material-making were on display in fabrics that were created via Swarovski water drop crystals covered in transparent silicon or thousands of hand-blown glass bubbles.
Needless to say, the ever-sexy gowns bore inches of leg.
John Galliano continues to raise the profile of Maison Margiela.
In Wednesday’s ever-creative show, the Gibraltar-born Briton went one step further in stamping the unique brand of Galliano Romanticism on the once-minimalist house.
These styles and artistry have been sorely missed on the couture calendar ever since the designer was deposed from the creative helm of Christian Dior in 2011, when an anti-Semitic rant by him was captured on video.
Abstractions based on Asian styles opened the show in a dropped wrap-around style Chinese red jacket with huge limp tubular arms.
It was, of course, worn with black stripper boots. But this is Galliano: the kinky boots, with purposeful irony, could well have been mistaken for a fisherman’s wading boots — a detail that parodied the note of sensuality with panache.
Styles were eclectic, but held together by the sheer theatricality and exuberance of the soft lines of the silhouette.
The fashion industry’s model-of-the-moment, Anna Cleveland, was included in the fashion musing to no surprise, and was deservingly given one of the most archetypal looks. She prowled with signature dramatic confidence and an exaggerated look of horror down the runway in a Napoleonic hat, with a voluminous 19th-century coat.
It prompted many a smile from the front row.
Judging by the maison’s financial buoyancy since last year, the 55-year-old Galliano can proudly boast not only creative success in womenswear but a commercial one as well.
ELIE SAAB GOES CLASSIC
Old-school Hollywood glamour was back in vogue at Elie Saab’s fall collection.
It injected the fashion calendar with the most archetypally couture show seen all season.
Saab, like other couture masters, plays with his own rulebook and need not pay heed to the wearable trends of the season.
Split leg, floor length sensuality was the order of the day.
A velvet royal blue evening gown was given a twist, with asymmetrical feather-like detailing at the shoulder and waist.
It complemented a brooding palette of dark and often sheer materials with the signature Saab cinched-waisted hour glass vava-voom silhouettes.
One highlight was a mother and daughter couture ensemble in gray, modelled simultaneously.
Flashes of Art Nouveau patterning were the season’s added ingredient, evoking the graphic sensuality of Gustav Klimt.
The creative musing reached its climax in a traffic-stopping floor-length textured ballgown. It had fashion insiders reaching for their cameras with its blissful couture embroidering of thousands of blue and cream flowers.
GAULTIER HALOS THE FACE
Jean Paul Gaultier treated guests to a silken, sultry and fur-dripping display that oozed glamour.
It was all about the one dramatic detail.
The couture master’s leitmotif in his fall collection was the accentuation of models’ faces in cheek-bone hugging circular halos, delivered in fur.
Elsewhere, this one-detail style was carried through in jackets sporting ballooned peplums, accentuated shoulders or in gathered asymmetrical midriff detailing.
One show-stopping vermillion red fur coat in segments almost dripped off a model in a silk sheer floor-length skirt.
Fashion’s once-named enfant terrible is, however, hard to pin down, and gowns of every color and material swept past celebrity guests.