Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Spring 2007 Haute Couture At A Glance

Christian Dior.
In order to be truly haute-couture, a garment must be made in Paris. Each year, only a very select group of designers present haute-couture collections in Paris. These represent the zenith of the creative and practical arts of fashion. Haute-couture is an art-form in itself and the pieces produced are wearable artworks. Of course, as with most artworks, the garments come at a premium. Haute-couture is unattainable to all but a small elite group of buyers. However, some of the themes and ideas filter through to the ready-to-wear collections. In any case, the haute-couture shows are worth studying for the sheer vitality and creativity of the designs. Here is a quick guide to some of the shows:
Dior - the most breath-taking and stunning of all the shows in my opinion. The collection was inspired by Japan, particularly by the story of Madame Butterfly, and featured influences from the clothes of geishas, delicate Japanese art motifs and origami. Nothing new here, you might think. However, what made the collection so interesting was the way in which these influences had been viewed through the lens of the New Look designs of the 40s and 50s (an influence also viewed in the ready-to-wear collection from this house, although in a far more utilitarian way). A collection at once nostalgic and breath-takingly modern, particularly in colour palette (acid pink, vivid green, electric blue) and the architectural form of certain details (shoulder, hips etc). Garments featured bold shapes paired with oversized motifs popular is Japanese art - waves, blossoms. This collection truly showcased the technical wizadry which the haute-couture "petits-mains" can employ in realising a designer's creative vision.
Chanel - by complete contrast, Chanel's collection featured designs with clean lines and a short, neat silhouette with a rigorous colour palette - monochrome, with splashes of colour. Suits and day dresses were given a decidedly 60s twist - mini skirts, round necklines and evening dresses were either short or long, featuring innovative combinations of materials, particularly organza and feathers. This may sound simple, but the collection was anything but: Lagerfeld is all about the details and the construction. What looks young and spontaneous, has actually taken many hours and many hands to construct - a case in point the stunning dress below (210 hours). This is the genius and enduring popularity of Lagerfeld, making the complex seem young and insouciant. Other key details to emerge from this collection are feathers, bows, patent leather accents and fingerless gloves.
Christian Lacroix - this collection bore all the hallmarks of Lacroix: bold colours, exaggerated shapes and prints. Yellow and electric blue were big here, as at Dior. Daywear again had a mainly short silhouette, with skirts being wide this time instead of streamlined as at Chanel. Inspired by flowers, the collection is a joy to behold. Lacroix clothes are for those who are not afraid of making a statement. It was in evening wear that this collection really excelled. Lacroix showed a magnificent selection of evening gowns, in a variety of different shapes and styles but all bearing Lacroix' s trademark precise, yet somehow whimsical tailoring. Frills, layers, large flower accents, ruffles and exaggerated sleeves all in the most delicate and flowing of fabrics.
Armani Prive - a collection inspired by India, although the inspiration manifested itself more in the cut of the garments and the texture of the fabrics than the colour. Armani's palette was mostly neutral - black, grey, silver, white. This allowed the cut of the garments and the subtle embellishments on the garments to really reveal themselves. Metallic, textured fabrics were key - either draped fluidly, or tailored delicately. The influence of the sari became apparent in Armani's evening wear - flowing lines, one-shouldered garments, draping - although given a sleek, typically Armani treament.
Valentino - Valentino showed an all-white (well, nearly, there were some very subtle hints of pink and yellow) collection, which was light and airy in its construction. Rich in detail, embellished fabrics, daywear was young and frivolous. Valentino is, of course, master of the red carpet gown. There were several key gowns, which could well appear on a red-carpet soon.
Givenchy - Riccardo Tisci presented a pared back, almost macabre collection for Givenchy. This wasn't to all tastes, but there were certain flashes of genius. Key features were a monochrome colour palette punctuated with splashes of bright yellow; deconstructed yet tailored naval inspired jackets; details applied to Edwardian inspired dress like sea-shells, anemones and other marine flora clinging to rocks.

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