Not so long ago, haute couture took place in salons, where collections were presented to a maison’s exclusive, affluent clientele. It happened unobtrusively, smartly and above all secretly, behind closed doors. But those days are behind us now. Like ready-to-wear, haute couture competes for the fashion world’s attention, giving way to lavish backdrops, Hollywood celebrities, front-row tumult and, of course, high rates of hubris. The goal? To sell yourself, of course, or maybe to be among the designers and houses that make the most headlines when the pictures have long since disappeared from the feed.
Most prominent was undoubtedly Schiaparelli’s Dante-inspired collection, which featured fabulousness (or monstrosity, if you want to call it that) with Doja Cat leading the way. She came as ‘Doja’s Inferno’ in an ensemble consisting of 30,000 ruby crystals and red body paint that took five hours to apply. In a plaza not far away, Kylie Jenner of the Kardashian clan wore a dress so hot it sparked the week’s biggest controversy – the now infamous faux lion sculpt dress that only moments later officially hit the runway was presented. Accordingly, some of Daniel Roseberry’s more exquisite suggestions were lost in the din created.
Dior and Chanel provided large-scale, lavish sets, the latter also taking up an animal theme: artist Xavier Veilhan’s giant plywood animal menagerie was a nod to Coco Chanel’s collection of animal sculptures in her Paris apartment.
Mr Veilhan, who exhibited at the 2017 Venice Biennale, said that Chanel artistic director Virginie Viard “asked me if I could work with the idea of Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment and her bestiary,” according to art magazine Artnet. Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s apartment was above the spiral staircase of her Parisian boutique and atelier.
Dior turns to jazz, Ackermann takes on Jean-Paul Gaultier
At Dior, singer Josephine Baker was celebrated with a return to the jazz age, against a backdrop of Mickalene Thomas, which featured gigantic portraits of black women. Works included paintings by Donyale Luna, Eartha Kitt and Naomi Sims. In an interview with Reuters, Ms Thomas said: “All of these women were socially active and used either their stage, voice or performance to really tell a story about their personal lives and also about the community they belonged to.”
At Armani, there were endless variations on a Harlequin theme, around 77 looks, that pushed the concept of ‘less is more’ heavily. If the runway was an endless loop, then there was a thematic repeat in day and evening wear and unlimited variations in between.
Whenever the clothes spoke for themselves, there were moments of joy and celebration of the craftsmanship and detailed expertise that goes into sewing these garments so beautifully. At Jean-Paul Gaultier, where guest designer Haider Ackermann took the helm this season, he delivered masterful tailoring, from an evening jacket embellished with a ruffle of bouncy tulle to the way a bustier is transformed into a smart pantsuit would; some have called this a triumph of the couture season. At Dior, it was the beauty of the garment construction, where light velvet bathrobes were quilted or crinkled.