Paris fashion week: the six most memorable shows
Designers took the whimsical route at this year's haute couture shows in the French capital
Perhaps it was the designer's way of distracting us from the euro zone's recent turmoil or Greece's looming debt crisis, but the recent haute couture shows in Paris was a feast of the fantastical.
For what is fashion but for its ability to offer us escape? The glamour on Parisian runways is a chance for fashion fans to relish the myth-making prowess of the highest echelons of the craft. And at these prices, couture is pure fantasy for most people - in more ways than one.
This season was especially surreal. Who can forget the backgammon game at Chanel's table? How about a theatre piece on the Schiaparelli runway? Or perhaps you'd prefer a night out with Siouxsie and the Banshees at Armani Privé? What is certain is that the exclusive clientele still has many reasons to celebrate this season, and here are pick of the most memorable shows.
Chanel reminds us that "Rien ne va plus"
This season it's rien ne va plus (French for "no further bets"), as one might hear at the roulette table. Chanel was playing power games, and Karl Lagerfeld turned the Grand Palais into Casino Royale, where celebrities such as Rita Ora gathered around a backgammon table to place bets and initiate other power players - think Kristen Stewart, Julianne Moore, Vanessa Paradis and Korean megastar G-Dragon, among others - to the pleasures of money games. Some in the audience, however, found satisfaction in admiring Chanel's celebrity clout and the edgy women's suits and cocktail dresses created using geisha influences. Needless to say, these were aimed at loosening the purse strings of an Asian clientele. A safe bet, for sure.
Theatre play at Schiaparelli
"Tonight we play," read the inscription on Schiaparelli's ephemeral theatre set at Place Vendôme. For his first outing for Schiaparelli, Bertrand Guyon, the brand's latest creative director (there've been so many we're almost losing count), cited London's fantasy, New York's urban realism and Paris' cultural life, blended with a touch of Roman baroque - in other words, the essence of cosmopolitan life. In this sense, masculine fabrics such as tweeds and tartans were used to craft luxurious outerwear worn over glamorous silk chiffon gowns that were adorned with hand-painted prints, while the typical Schiaparelli iris was woven into a golden brocade or came in various vibrant patchworks of fur. A coat in spinel and citrine-coloured mink patchworks paired with heliodor pants and a jet embroidered blouse caught attention, as well as a fluid dress in a green tourmaline chiffon worn with an iridescent organza biker jacket. One thing is certain: this show was Schiaparelli condensed - Elsa's surreal elements and eccentric fits were tamed by Guyon, and yet sublimated in a more wearable way. This was a successful debut collection that set the tone for Schiaparelli's upcoming ready-to-wear launch.
Techno tulle at Giambattista Valli
Ruffled tulle, bejewelled detailing, embroidered macramé, ostrich feathers, mini-flower sequins and pearls, along with embroidered brocade, were put together in a highly feminine collection with a playful allure. Think a black dress with white detailing and a drop-waist ruffled tutu worn over pants, as well as a white organza and tulle ballgown adorned with mint-coloured floral embroideries. These were sharp, techno accessories. That said, the ballgowns presented towards the end of the show that came with exaggerated multi-ruffle trains and crystal embroideries made even tulle look heavy - they were clearly too much of a good thing. Those pieces were unnecessary, as the models could barely walk in them, but they certainly looked good on Instagram accounts later that day, when the photos were accompanied by the hashtag #extravaganza.
Armani Privé goes candy punk
Giorgio Armani is reputed for his meticulous craftsmanship, and his candy flavoured couture outfits this season proved the designer not only excels at luxury, but that he's also able to infuse it with a modern twist. In this sense, his muse this season embodied this chaotic yet glamorous woman - somewhere between late 1960s sophistication à la Edie Sedgwick and the punk-flavoured late '70s and early '80s of Siouxsie and the Banshees. She came with messy short hair and chose flats over heels - think a shocking pink pleated peplum jacket in chenille thread worn with black silk velvet pants. More elaborate outfits in vivid hues, such as a feathered overcoat paired with dégradé printed satin pants, amped up the collection. There was something bold and festive about Armani Privé here - the girls looked like they were just leaving Warhol's factory for a wild party somewhere in New York, and we wished we could join them.
Romance at Dior with Flemish masters and medieval florals
Christian Dior Couture is as much associated with florals as Maison Margiela is associated with deconstructionism, and this season Raf Simons' blossoming did not disappoint. Compositions inspired by Flemish masters propelled us back into medieval times in a collection much infused with historical elements, such as chain-mail embellishments worn as chest pieces over Gothic reminiscent long gowns - a style that stood deliberately in contrast with the show's eye-catching geometric glass panels set design featuring a magenta runway. Simons further referred to the idea of the "forbidden fruit" and used both tailleur and flou techniques fused into each other. Standout pieces included a salmon-coloured neoprene coat that came with a wide fur sleeve and a tweed mélange collar, reminiscent of a medieval overcoat, as well as silk dresses that revealed sensual side slits. "I was intrigued by the idea of purity and innocence versus luxury and decadence, and how that is encapsulated by Dior's garden - no longer a flower garden but a sexual one," Simons said in a statement.
Galliano's grand proposal
We all know that Renzo Rosso made a bold move when he appointed John Galliano - whose reputation was at a record low at the time - at the helm of Maison Margiela. It took some guts to go so directly against the brand's essence and bind such an eccentric, egocentric designer to a faceless brand that was founded on understatement rather than the opulence one used to associate with Galliano. But as it turned out, Rosso made an excellent decision, and this season Galliano again proved himself to be a virtuoso. It was a strong collection, including sleek pieces, like the nude-coloured evening dress-coat in hand-painted neoprene mesh with a bonded silk cotton obi that were clearly reminiscent of the brand's founder. Other more opulent numbers, such as the hand-painted mesh coat-dress with hand-painted lining draped in the front to resemble thread embroidery, were breaking the mould.