Paris Fashion Week: Haute Couture

Real Crazy Rich Asians fill Paris haute couture shows; Meghan Markle’s wedding dress designer impresses with menswear looks

A bunch of wealthy Asian women, along with the author of the popular book series, were among the front-row faces at the Dior, Giambattista Valli and Elie Saab shows. Menswear was still the talk of Paris, as newcomers led the way

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 12:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 August, 2018, 9:05pm

The men’s shows may have come and gone, but menswear was still the talk of the town at the haute couture shows in Paris – and not only because Clare Waight Keller, the British designer behind Meghan Markle’s wedding dress, showed a smattering of men’s looks in her second couture collection for Givenchy.

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The two blockbuster men’s shows of spring-summer 2019 – Virgil Abloh’s debut at Louis Vuitton and Kim Jones’ debut at Dior – still reverberated two weeks after their unveiling, with many front-row regulars wondering whether the two designers may soon start making womenswear. After all, they’ve already dressed high-profile female friends such as Kim Kardashian and Kate Moss in custom creations.

Kevin Kwan “puttin’ on the Ritz” for some crazy-rich Asians in Paris


Puttin' on the Ritz....

A post shared by Kevin Kwan (@kevinkwanbooks) on Jul 1, 2018 at 2:02pm PDT

Rumours aside, this couture week – much like the Fifa World Cup unfolding in Russia – felt like the season of the underdogs. Household names such as Chanel, Dior and Armani never fail to deliver impeccably made collections that rarely disappoint their loyal clients, but it was the relative newcomers that made an impact.

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These designers, including the aforementioned Waight Keller, whose profile has risen since designing the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding dress, and Giambattista Valli, who’s a seasoned dressmaker but has been showing couture for less than a decade, spoke to a younger clientele and are making couture relevant for a new generation of clients.

Among the glamorous faces gracing the front rows, we couldn’t help but notice a bunch of wealthy Asian women who made the rounds at Dior, Giambattista Valli, Elie Saab and various glamorous events accompanied by Kevin Kwan, the author of Crazy Rich Asians.

Author Kevin Kwan with Rachel Yeoh and Michelle Yeoh at Dior


Getting ready for the Dior Haute Couture show with @rachel_yeoh and @michelle.yeoh

A post shared by Kevin Kwan (@kevinkwanbooks) on Jul 2, 2018 at 3:24pm PDT

Rumour has it that the writer and his posse of new-found friends, who included heiresses from Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong, were in Paris for an upcoming feature in a major US publication.

Real-life Crazy Rich Asians are certainly not new to the couture shows. Women from China and the region, along with high-net-worth individuals from the Middle East, represent the bulk of couture customers. But there’s no doubt the upcoming release of the film based on Kwan’s hugely popular novel will shine the spotlight on the growing influence that wealthy Asian shoppers have in the fashion industry.

Those shoppers will certainly be snapping up the ultra-expensive furs from Fendi’s haute fourrure collection, which this season was rechristened Fendi haute couture, undoubtedly because of the anti-fur sentiment sweeping the industry (looking at the many fur-clad Chinese clients at the show, China’s love affair with fur is still going strong, even in the current climate).

There were fewer ready-to-wear brands joining the couture calendar this season (both Rodarte and Proenza Schouler are going back to show in New York) but Vetements, the controversial label helmed by Georgia-born Demna Gvasalia, was back with a vengeance, showcasing the designer’s now played-out take on streetwear.

Sonia Rykiel, a quintessentially Parisian brand that has built its reputation on knitwear, celebrated 50 years in business with a lovely line-up of outfits that reflected the fun and easy attitude of the founder. Australian label Romance Was Born delighted show-goers with its “kinda couture”, a collection of Aussie-inspired pieces (koala novelty jumpers among them) with some Asian influences thrown in for good measure.


The last day of the shows saw two polar opposites take centre stage: John Galliano let his creativity go unbridled at Maison Margiela, offering his “I got dressed in the dark” mishmash of layered fashion that has become a recurring motif in his work for the house, while Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino reined in the “flight of fancy” looks typical of couture with a collection rooted in reality and daily life (some of the best looks featured trousers, a rarity at couture shows), while not completely forgoing the grand gestures that make Valentino such a highlight every season.