Fall 2013 Couture: Chanel

“On the way from the Old World to the New World” was the theme of Karl Lagerfeld’s latest couture collection for Chanel. Never one to shy away from theatrics, the post-apocalyptic stage setting at the Grand Palais encompassed the feeling perfectly – the old being represented as a crumbling theatre and the new as an inter-galactic cityscape, sparkling amongst the ruins. This old/new juxtaposition continued in the clothes, starting off with signature tweed suits – embroidery representing actual tweeds – with portrait necklines, and old era silhouettes (Victorian, Edwardian, you name it).

This was Karl’s mix of “tradition with future”. The medieval tunics, layered underneath cropped jackets all over thigh-high swede boots (so thin they had to be held up by garters), were mixed with new-world fabrics, 3-D effects and glittery sequins. Described by Karl as the “sparkle of stardust”, there were pavéed sequins, tweeds with Lurex, silvered grey flannel, lamé, and mirrors to create this new world feel amongst the traditional period proportion and detailing of the new world.

The beautiful detailing was even more intricate when taking a closer look at the pieces. For example, the tiled panel of the straight A-Line dress was based on origami with hundreds of squares made with tiny folds of coloured chiffon (see above) – the epitome of what a couture collection is all about – the exquisite detailing that only les petit mains could manage to create to perfection. Ending off with evening-wear – the dresses were breathtaking in liquid silver, dowager black-tulle and strips of silver and black beading on delicate silk. Always pressing forward and looking to the future – Karl delivered yet another beautiful collection – surely to be seen on many red carpets – and if this is the vision of the future, I wouldn’t mind it at all.

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Fall 2013 Couture – Christian Dior

For his third couture collection for Dior (exactly a year since taking the role of creative director) Raf Simons took his audience beyond the Parisienne walls of the Avenue Montaigne and sent them on a multi-cultural journey across the world. Simons commented:

“This collection evolved to be about Dior, not just being about Paris and France, but about the rest of the world and how many fashion cultures impact on the house and on myself” 

Influences of Asia, the Americas and even African masai were evident in the pure fabrics, bold stripesbright colours, and tribal patterns. There were peplum flaps attached to the iconic Bar jacket, mirroring the layers of a Japanese kimono – showing that Simons is keeping to his well-known signatures, yet confidently evolving them every season.

Other Raf-signatures such as houndstooth and black wool-day dresses and strapless numbers were all present, however almost unrecognisable amongst the worldly themes influencing them this season. The pieces were beautifully adorned with African beadwork or sculpted with tulip hems. African flags, Japanese Obi belts and dresses were featured throughout – this was Dior as seen through the eyes of an African tribeswoman or Japanese Geisha.

Described by style.com’s Tim Blanks as a “different kind of dynamic in couture”, it was clear that Simons sought to show the house of Dior as part of a global fashion culture, rather than being so closely associated with Paris, as couture so often is.

The variety of it all was said by some to be hard to make sense of, however the mix was everything, the essence and underlying message of the collection. Simons may have been breaking boundaries by straying away from convention – yet the Dior tradition wasn’t lost: the former founder himself was a self-confessed internationalist. In addition, as an homage to the old master Dior, Simons reproduces two dresses from the original house each collection.

This new couture, in my eyes, is truly welcomed as a refreshing take on classic haute-couture traditions. Simons noted, “If we don’t adapt to what women in society are now about, couture might disappear”. So maybe it’s this adapting modernity that will save it — thinking about couture as taking fashion tradition and making it relevant to different cultures (and prospective clients, because what is couture without its clients?!)

Either way, all I can say is once again Simons has amazed us – and will no doubt continue to do so.

Fall 2013 Couture : Atelier Versace

“You know – just impeccable clothes” – Donatella Versace

Donatella goes classy, channelling old-hollywood glamour in her latest couture collection for Versace. Inspiring the collection was the “Horst and Man Ray” era of the thirties, described by the designer herself as a moment of precision, perfection, and lots of work.

She opened the show having Naomi Campbell strut down the catwalk for the first time since Gianni’s death in 1997 – clad in crystal hooks and sequins with peep-through lingerie – which surely set the scene for the rest of the show.

The signature chez Versace body-con silhouette still remained, however there was an heir of new-found confidence in the collection – evolving from previous shows.

Strong crocodile tailoring in the structured skirt suits was beautifully evident in the skin-tight leather or open-cut panels in the front or back, revealing embroidered bustiers underneath. The leather dyed garnet, navy blue and green – cut through with sequinned embroidery and some lined with shaved mink – the pinnacle of luxury couture fur.

There is no question about the underlying theme of the show (not surprising for Versace): skin! Cropped sweaters, open cut-work, deep naval-touching necklines in the jumpsuits and thigh-high slits; there was no shortage of flesh being shown but unlike previous shows, it was done in a more tasteful way –  The hooks and eyes left areas of fabric to strategically peel back across torsos and backs, revealing delicate black corsetry and tulle cutaway bodysuits.

My favourites were the long corseted evening dresses – the one with the illusion neckline, embroidered black and midnight blue tulle and sequins – and the jumpsuit worn by Lindsay Wixon, panelled from lace, net, and hand-woven leather. (see above)

With every model wearing diamond jewellery designed by the house, the hollywood glamour shone through with the sexiness of skin and intricate, laborious detailing —> Keeping to Versace roots… but ever so elegantly evolving.

Photos: GoRunway/ InDigital – Style.com

Paris Fashion Week: the Grand Finale

Paris Fashion Week: some may call it the crème de la crème, the cream of the crop, the best of the best of what is Fashion Month…But i’d rather call it the grand finale.

Now I agree to the extent of seeing it as something otherworldly, but I wouldn’t necessarily say the designers who show during Paris Fashion Week are more talented than the rest – I mean would Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs (both hailing from New York) have been chosen to design for Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton if they weren’t as talented as the Parisian founders themselves or their present-day colleagues/rivals? I don’t think so. — Not to mention German Kaiser Karl at Chanel and the spectacular visions of Belgian Raf Simons at chéz Dior.

I do tend to favour Paris over the others, though. New York may be my favourite in terms of having the edgiest, most wearable clothes out there; London may be in its prime for prints and futuristic looks for those who have luxury of never feeling out of place wearing just about anything whilst strutting upon the London streets; and Milan I feel is exciting and outrageous with a sense of beautiful traditionality and decadence within the collections, whilst always pushing the limits and surprising its audiences.

Paris is a combination of the best aspects of all three aformentioned cities but it has something more. It has this lure of luxury to it, with clothes definitely unattainable on my current income, or lack thereof (at least for the moment!), but which I find myself lusting after and can only dream of wearing one day. It just so happens that I spend the most time memorising the looks of every Paris show over the others to see how and where I can slightly alter my wardrobe every season to encompass just some of that Parisian je ne sais quoi so present in the collections.

So again, I think it’s more of a personal thing for me as to why i’ve chosen to favour Paris over New York, Milan and London – the imaginative aspect of it (and much of my childhood spent daydreaming of Chanel handbags and having my sketches inspired by Giambattista Valli gowns!) captures my heart and soul that I just can’t seem to look away.

Therefore, here are some of my favourite shows — let’s call it an ‘ode‘ to the grande finale that is Paris Fashion Week.

From top to bottom: Valentino, Dior, Giambattista Valli, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Céline, Chloé, Balmain

Photos: vogue.com; style.com

Alexander Wang for Balenciaga a/w 2013

As Alexander Wang was about to make his debut at Balenciaga, the thought on everyone’s mind must have been: “how is it possible to even TRY and follow the outstanding designs which have graced this french house under the hands of the ever-talented Nicolas Ghesquière?”

As the audience departed Balenciaga’s intimate salons on the Avenue George V however, all doubts and worries were laid to rest. Wang confirmed that the show venue suggested going “back to the roots, identifying the codes of the house and translating them into a functioning, full wardrobe”. This not-so-simple task proved a success in my opinion as the collection felt true to the lines of Cristóbal  himself (Cristóbal having been called the master of us all, according to Dior).

The collection was filled with the traditional cocoon coats, jackets with rounded volumes, petal skirts, curved hems, molded and structured peplums and bracelet sleeves (to name a few!) — sculptural qualities for which Cristóbal was celebrated for in the late 50s and 60s. Fitting for a collection going back to the codes of the house… and made innovative with dynamic new materials. 

The emerging trend on Alexander’s runway both literally (the runway itself looked like it had just experienced an earhquake) and embellished on the clothes themselves was faux marble – first showing up as a fractured print on the lining of elegant tops with opened backs, then as a motif on embroidered dresses and then finally on looks which clearly had Wang-style written all over them: tuny shaved fox jackets with high-waisted velvet lace pants.. the play on the two textures = absolutely genius.

The accessories are sure to be a commercial success (along with the collection itself, which was very wearable!).. i especially have my eye on those figure-eight metal-buckled riding boots — which were also seen as closures and decoration on the garments themselves.

Tim Blanks has cleverly interpreted the cracked, paint-spackled mohair knits as a metaphor about the promise of a young designer: ”ready to break with the past when the time’s right”. The promise of Alexander and his intriguing new directions for the future are clear from this beautiful collection and when he does break with the past, I predict it’ll have everyone floored in awe.