Despite only a handful of people being able to afford haute couture, the rest of us can at least derive some pleasure from admiring it. Paris Haute Couture A/W 2011 did not disappoint and provided plenty of moments of pure lust*sigh*. The couture shows loosely fall into two camps, the OTT but curiously beautiful collections that could easily pass for a piece of theatre, and the more wearable collections for the super rich to build their wardrobes. The theatrical shows allow the designers to sketch without limits; they can create whatever their imagination can conjure up and sit back and watch as the fashion press goes crazy. One of those shows this year (and every year for that matter) was Christian Dior.
It was the first Christian Dior couture show not overseen by John Galliano, with his successor Bill Gaytten taking a bow at the finale. Fashion commentators expressed disappointment with the collection, but if it were perfect poor Gaytten would have nowhere to go but down. The collection regained control of Dior’s signature look of bustier dresses and full skirts, with a doll-like theme. Unusually for a winter collection, pastel colours dominated a third of the show and there was a striking lack of fur.
It started with lots of prints, layering and colour, all thrown together like toys in a child’s playroom. Chunky sequins cut into squares or half moons were layered to create texture. Concertina pleats featured heavily in white and candy colours. More wearable dresses included long tube dresses in burnt orange, jade and brown prints with sequin embellishments, blue and turquoise dresses resembled the ocean with their flowing shapes. The show ended true to Dior’s roots with theatrical ball gowns and themed headpieces. A princess-perfect pure white gown is accessorised with a crescent moon headpiece, gently framing the models face, whilst a clown’s hat and collar accessorise another.
Jean Paul Gaultier showed a tougher, sexier aesthetic with definite Black Swan references. His show featured plenty of pleating and corsetry, two of his signature looks. Softly draping coats in camel and grey had fur trim collars. A real winner had to be the red riding hood cloak with its lightly draping jersey and tie duffle fastening. Sequins and feathers added opulence to evening looks, and weren’t only kept for the ladies with men sporting romantic historical looks. An Eastern influence was evident in the middle of the show, with delicate origami style decoration used on nude dresses, and elaborate embroidery. At the end of the show, a wedding style dress was paraded by a girl with a skin head.
The Chanel show was very prim and proper, with a Mary Poppins vibe. Lagerfeld chose to hold his show at 10pm and the reason for this became clear at the end of the show, when the toes of the models lit up, creating a brightly lit path. There was little skin visible, and models wore knee high or over the knee boots. Continuity was created with the boater hats on each model’s head. The classic boucle skirt/jacket combo was shown in grey, blue and black. Sparkling silver pins were juxtaposed over black skirt suits to look like planets in the night’s sky. Feathers were added to draped jersey for a touch of glamour and embroidered onto chiffon dresses. Structured cropped jackets were paired with tight fishtail skirts.
All three shows were very different and showed just how strongly each house has its own design signature.