Paris Fashion Week: Haute Couture

Paris Haute Couture Week: Chanel and Schiaparelli forget battle lines to lead French fashion

It’s been decades since the two fashion houses were in direct competition, but Chanel and Schiaparelli have once again shown why they define French haute couture

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 4:34pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 4:37pm

The fashion rivalry between Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, during the years between the two world wars, has been well documented. Schiaparelli, the Italian couturier, renowned for her wearable art, was one of the most prominent figures in fashion. In her heyday, she was widely seen as bolder and more innovative than Chanel – and indeed most other designers of that era.

However, unlike Chanel, Schiaparelli’s star waned in the post-war years, and her house went bankrupt and closed its doors in 1954.

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Today, that rivalry is ancient history. Chanel is now in the hands of Karl Lagerfeld, one of the most powerful and influential names in fashion, while the recently revived house of Schiaparelli is in the early days of re-establishing its reputation. Nevertheless, the two define what is true French haute couture, as a source of craft and boundless creativity.

At the end of Tuesday’s Chanel show, Lagerfeld, who recreated the Eiffel Tower for his set, was awarded the city’s highest honour – the Médaille Grand Vermeil de la Ville – by the mayor of Paris. Coco would surely have been proud, and Schiaparelli not a little bit jealous.

Chanel is rooted in tailoring, with so much of the autumn/winter 2017 show featuring grey tweeds (some twinkling in the sunlight) in long lean proportions, or with belled skirts and jackets with cropped sleeves over longer sleeves.

Jackets and dresses sprouted feathers or feathery flowers, picking out the colours of the tweeds. Boots were either worn short or laced up to the upper thigh, while the hats echoed the “canotier” or boater style that Coco herself wore.

At Schiaparelli, there’s no denying that creative director Bertrand Guyon’s task ahead is a hard one. He has had to create a new language for the house, as well as re-establish the connection with its founder. To do this, Guyon connected with Schiaparelli’s friends, inspirational artistic women, and created outfits that recalled house signatures, such as the Picasso-style profiles and jigsaw pieces on jackets.

At the Paris Haute Couture Week runway, Guyon showcased a beaded lobster motif on a white jumpsuit, a shocking pink dress and the trompe l’oeil details. Modern touches were added with the white boiler suit, swishy long pleated tulle dresses and iridescent plastic baroque motifs on jackets.

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Lagerfeld may have a 35-year head start on him, but it seems that Guyon knows where to start.