Safely ensconced away from the vulgarities of trends and far-removed from the court of public opinion lies couture – fashion’s last remaining “safe space” where superlative, bespoke craftsmanship will run the wearer $10,000 to $100,000. Made to exacting specifications, overseen by a stern governing body, and developed rather statically along “red carpet-appropriate” lines, haute couture is where fashion’s fiery ego is fed oxygen. For some, it’s a chance to show off and, for others, it’s an opportunity to court a very secretive and exclusive clientele base who might even make room in their massive walk-ins for multiple pieces from a single collection if particularly inspired.
Rarely is couture political or reactionary, but this season felt like a direct response to the current state of fashion. With logo-mania running rampant, an oversaturation of street-inspired collections on the runway, the tendency for parent companies to prefer all the hype money can buy over substantive creativity, and historic brands turning to forced overtures in order to court millennial shoppers, the fashion landscape is scarcely recognizable from what it once was only a few short years ago.
For these reasons, Fall 2018 Couture’s sublime serenity and return to classical styles is a breath of fresh air. From Valentino’s astonishing volumes and vibrant hues to Chanel’s innovative engineering and zip-away construction, the couture collections showcased the best of what fashion has to offer the world.
First on the docket was Givenchy, with Clare Waight Keller returning for her sophomore couture effort for the brand. Her first collection ever for Givenchy happened to be a couture one, and her elaborate longline silhouettes and peeks of feathers and sequins established a wonderful direction for the brand. She has built upon that success since and continued it with Fall 2018 Couture, which saw her digging deep into the archives to revive some of Hubert de Givenchy’s most significant designs – not the least of which was a reworked version of Audrey Hepburn’s famous Breakfast at Tiffany’s black gown. Her collection also emphasized monastic, robe-like creations that sat atop fully sequined skirts and magnificent capes that were paired with skirts and trousers alike.
On day two of the Fall 2018 Couture week, Dior opted for a show that made its atelier a central focus, while Georges Hobeika paid homage to the elegance of the swan. Also currying red-carpet favor was Ralph & Russo with a racy, vibrant collection of glamorous gowns that featured hip-high slits, transparent overlays, and sequin bustiers as well as breezy kaftan-gown hybrids in chiffon. Giambattista Valli also kept pulses racing with his mesmerizing line-up of tulle dresses, delicate floral patterns, and feathered minis replete with mesh head coverings.
Chanel led on day three with a collection that surprised for its versatility. What appeared on the surface to be tunic-length tops with long, dramatic sleeves revealed that the sleeves could be split by zipping them apart – and the same went for longline skirts that could be zipped up to reveal a secret miniskirt beneath. It was a feat of engineering brilliance.
Likewise, Armani Privé enjoyed the spotlight later that day with a massive 90-piece collection that took old-fashioned ideas of style and updated them for the modern era. Naturally, there were plenty of classic Armani suits done with soft silk trousers, but there were also sculptural elements at work that turned out daring silhouettes. Kinetic embellishment and decorative elements also appeared on the runway, adding movement to the looks in the form of technical meshes, metallic fringe, tiered ruffles, and massive 3D-floral capes.
Elie Saab and Valentino bookended the shows on day four of Fall 2018 Couture week in Paris, sandwiching excellent collections by Zuhair Murad and Fendi Couture respectively. While Saab’s astonishing works of art paid homage to the Catalan modernist architecture of Gaudí, Pierpaolo Piccioli showcased one of the week’s best collections at Valentino, boasting a sumptuous jewel-toned palette and wide, floor-scraping gowns.
Meanwhile, Murad deployed a sparkling array of floral and arabesque motifs in metallic sequins, multi-textured looks contrived of lace and velvet, and richly hued gowns that we can’t wait to see on the red carpet – all inspired by the extravagant styles of imperial Russia’s upper echelon.
Over at Fendi Couture, fabrications were rendered so as to resemble fur, while being anything but. As the industry is quickly pivoting away from the use of real fur and animal skins, it was a much-needed change at the fur-based brand.
For Fall 2018 Couture, Karl Lagerfeld started out with multicolored kaleidoscopic prints on smart, chic separates, and then proceeded to tone down the rainbow parade with a more subdued palette of blush pinks and champagne hues whose simplicity belied the intricate construction of its surfaces. With intense craftsmanship at the fore, Fendi’s couture outing was a high mark in a week filled to the brim with excellent, imaginative shows that made us – once more – believe in the power of fashion.