Haute Couture Fashion Week is a chance to take a step back from consumerism and reevaluate the meaning of fashion as an art form, in the context of the impeccable craftsmanship and thousands of hours of work it takes to create an haute couture collection. From aquatic-inspired silhouettes and blooming floral ball gowns to a euphoric farewell extravaganza, take a look at the most breathtaking couture creations to grace the runway in Paris this week.
Iris Van Herpen
Iris Van Herpen Spring Couture 2020
Iris Van Herpen’s scientific fascinations once again served as the focal point for her spring haute couture runway show, her ‘Sensory Seas’ collection intertwining references to deep-sea hydrozoa and the illustrations of 19th-century neuroscientist and pathologist Santiago Ramón y Cajal. The show opened with a black gown whose leather corset was laser-cut to resemble the neural pathways mapped out by the neuroscientist in his illustrations. Later on, Van Herpen sent models down the runway in otherworldly silhouettes that seemed to blend into their skin as they swished around like marine animals in hand-cut glass organza dresses and gowns ornamented with 3D embellishments, with bursts of purple, red and blue running through the collection. An ethereal manifestation of her ability to truly bring her clothes to life.
Christian Dior Spring Couture 2020
Since her debut at Dior in 2016, Maria Grazia Chiuri, the brand’s first female artistic director in its 73-year history, has triumphantly woven feminist philosophy into the iconic fashion house’s identity through her collections. Her SS20 couture runway show, inspired by the American feminist artist Judy Chicago, continued that legacy through an exploration of the concept of divine femininity. In the garden of Paris’ Musée Rodin, the runway was erected within the dramatic setting of a tented structure entitled ‘The Female Divine’, with richly embroidered tapestries hanging from the ceiling posing the question “What if women ruled the world?” Drawing inspiration from the classical world, the concept of divine femininity and ancient goddesses took shape in liquid gold gowns, gilded power suits with hints of Grecian draping and delicate jacquard shorts veiled beneath diaphanous one-shouldered chiffon. Fleets of Hellenic-inspired gowns populated the runway in metallic colour palettes with swathes of gold fringing, completed with golden headbands and pearl-drop earrings. Classical symbolisms were embedded throughout in the form of tiaras and earrings adorned with golden ears of wheat, a symbol of luck, wealth and prosperity, and peacock feathers embroidered onto an evening gown to symbolise the creative power of women, with the combined effect of reinforcing the show’s powerful message of femininity.
Giambattista Valli Spring Couture 2020
Rather than staging an haute couture show, a fleeting 20-minute exclusive experience, Giambattista Valli opened up his spring collection to the public in an exhibition, inviting visitors to linger over his mastery of eccentric extravagance at the Jeu de Paume on Monday evening. Exaggerated shapes and volumes abounded, with asymmetrical, feathered, fringed and ornate ballgowns skillfully decorated with precious flower embroideries. Influenced by the blooming landscapes of the Amalfi Coast, saturated Mediterranian colour palettes evoked Italian lemon gardens and floral cornucopia, with vibrant sherbety yellows, fuschia frills and blush tulle trains.
Givenchy Couture 2020
Claire Waight Keller wrote a sartorial love letter to nature through her haute couture collection for Givenchy, suitably entitled “Une Lettre d’Amour”, paying homage to her native England’s Sissinghurst Castle Gardens in Kent and Hubert de Givenchy’s Le Clos Fiorentina. What resembled bouquets of blooming pansies, irises and marigolds waltzed down the runway in the form of cloche-shaped skirts and bell-cut silhouettes, with acres of tulle and floor-filling lace, completed with enveloping umbrella headpieces. Adut Akech carried a wisping organza grey blouse paired with white silk pants down the catwalk, while Kaia Gerber was the queen of the orchids in a lace bridal dress adorned with finely embroidered flowers. A glittering rose-gold and silver gown evoked the morning dew delicately cascading onto the model’s shoulders and the sun’s rays transforming into dazzling drop-sequins.
Valentino Spring Couture 2020
Inspired by the works of Carl Jung surrounding ideas of dreams and the subconscious, Pierpaolo Piccioli’s spring 2020 Valentino couture show fittingly paid tribute to the Swiss psychoanalyst who coined the term ‘extrovert’. The collection was a maximalist dream, a flamboyant celebration of exaggerated proportions and textures - feathers, fishtails, ruffles, sequins, organza and tulle. Piccioli replicated Valentino’s traditional codes and cuts, but with unexpected twists, injecting the fishtail gown with contemporary elegance in the form of cobalt-blue sequins, cut-out florals and even adding a hint of modern practically with pockets. A series of colour explosions took to the runway, with crimson red ruffles, bubblegum pink ostrich feathers sprouting from waistlines, and acid yellow ball gowns finished with ruffled XXL opera gloves.
Jean-Paul Gaultier Spring Couture 2020
An all-star lineup of supermodels and celebrities came together at the Theatre du Châtelet to bid a warm farewell to Jean-Paul Gaultier at his 50th-anniversary show, which the iconic designer announced just a few days before would be his haute couture swan song. With 200 plus eclectic looks gracing the catwalk, from corsets and naked bodysuits to his signature breton stripe, and a plethora of ensembles crafted from upcycled fabrics, the show was a truly spectacular culmination of five decades as one of fashion’s greatest visionaries.
Words by Ruby McAuliffe
Graphics by Séverine Denis-Lessard