By Grishi Sood
Nov 24, 2020
Haute Couture fashion week was formally afoot for the 2020 season in Paris, July 6 – 8. With all traveling and gatherings halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the authentic show took to the digital platform. The Paris high fashion week showcasing big fashion houses like Dior, Chanel and Valentino also lets smaller designers like, Dutch Iris van Herpen or Maison Margiela who explored with new forms and figures with their haute couture collection of spectacular colors and designs to come forward and showcase their couture artistry. So, throw back your chair and have your glasses on, to travel through the aesthetics of the dressmaking shows because you don’t need your passport anyway!
Presenting its Couture 2020 collection in a video storytelling format, Dior named its creative aesthetic ‘Le Mythe Dior’, a short surrealist film by Matteo Garrone, an Italian filmmaker. The concept of ‘Théâtre de la Mode’ for the season featured the devastating 1945 event where the Paris designers created clothes in doll form due to material shortage supply during the World War II. Maria Grazia Chiuri created miniature versions of 37 newest couture creations displayed in a prodigious trunk on mannequins inspired by five magnificent figures of the Surrealist movement: Lee Miller, Dora Maar, Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington and Jacqueline Lamba who are often remembered by history for their enthralling beauty and their famous lovers and husbands, and their own work as artists. The fairytale-like fashion came to life with Dior’s team beautifully fabricating gowns in embroidered tulle, pleated chiffon and patch-worked pastel lace.
Choosing the beautiful Seine River as his runway, Olivier Rousteing and his team boarded a barge to travel from the Eiffel Tower, stopping for a performance featuring the French pop singer Yseult, 50 dancers, and an enchanting choreography by Jean-Charles Jousni and then returning home; the show was livestreamed for two hours on TikTok facing technical issues; political trolling, sound dropping and the cut-short live stream that never came back. The collection included over-sized belts, many covetable looks, 13 pieces by the founding couturier and his successors Eric Mortensen and Oscar de la Renta, plus as many from Rousteing’s first decade at the house. One highlight was a raffia number from spring 2013 and a black tailored jacket with white trim capturing ’90s-inflected elegance from the current Balmain’s collection.
A true signature Giamba show, his collection adorned silk tulle, draped mousseline and chiffon with gigantic taffeta bows, decorative chiffon face-masks which elevated the fantastical gown collection gracefully. Featuring Joan Smalls, Valli chose colors like nature’s true gifts; red from the lipstick stain on the coffee mugs in Parisian cafes, black from ‘Petite Robe Noire’, pink from the wild roses of the city gardens. Inviting happiness in this gruesome pandemic, the beauty bloomed in the Giamba house with Smalls wearing a strapless dress of ruched ivory tulle with black bows, sequins minidress, a white ballgown with red feathers and uniquely chiffon face masks that gracefully uplifted the Giamba house collection and marked a significant presence even in the times of panic and fear.
Showcasing lamé jersey dresses, showstopping coats and statement jumpsuits, Mabille presented his couture collection in a fuchsia pink room with a single model using bold colors and textures from his existing inventory because he was unable to order new fabrics due to the ongoing pandemic which he described as an enriching experience. He along with his team were able to produce 26 creations of beautiful embroideries of great handwork artistry. His collection called ‘Attitude’ was envisioned to appreciate the female form, a call for optimism where elegance and sensuality are strongly woven with the red thread throughout his collection. Presenting comfort and coolness in this pandemic, Mabille, a great admirer of themed collections used passementerie buttons, beads, and dimensional flowers that were actually dyed feathers to display his high fashion couture collection.
A rock-inspired lineup, Virginie Viard displayed her designs that included heavy embellishments and ’80s-inspired party dresses. Taking her inspiration from the late Karl Lagerfeld with his muse, the madcap Princess Diane de Beauvau-Craon, a teenage debutante who highly adored a punk edge over her dressing, the fall collection was an edited compilation of 30 looks with costume jewelry - cabochon stones from Goossens, Byzantine-inspired jewels as embroidery elements on a jacket of black and white tweed, knee-length tunic worn over boot-leg pants, minidress with the traditional Chanel braid trim reworked in rhinestones and ten looks were made using tweeds made from fantasy yarns from Vimar 1991. Thus, her couture collection displayed both casual and grand as her designs danced away in the bright moonlight of comfortable high fashion.
Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf, created just nine looks for their couture collection depicting ‘three mindsets’ of the current time in their three mini wardrobes comprising of negligee, dressing gown, and coat to represent pandemic-related emotional states. Presented in a video-form with a brilliant voiceover from singer, Mika narrating the inspiration behind the pieces, as well as the design elements, the video gave a retable message of remaining in your own safe zone while venturing out into the world. With our at-home reality, satin nightgowns and luxurious bathrobe-inspired designs along with a trio of coats of elaborated embellishments, the designers went local around Amsterdam for fabric sourcing and incrusted emoji’s, spikes and a halo of hearts to revel in the quiet opulence even in these aggravating times.
Olivier Theyskens debuted his collection for fall in an empty studio, a few models changing in the dressing room and a video conference through an iPhone zoom link, which is isn’t how he had imagined it to be. To sketch in peace and to relive the true foundation of the house of Azzaro, Oliver designed the Azzaro collection thinking of easy movement and great construction. Recreating Loris Azzaro’s famous evening dress with three strass-lined circular cutouts on the bodice, this collection had a silver lamé velvet with rhinestone and sequin embroidery tracing the cutouts, long-sleeve triple black crepe dress crisscrossed with ribbons of shine and an exactingly cut brocade coat dress finished with glimmering buttons. The collection was showcased in a short promotional film starring the Belgian musician Sylvie Kreusch directed by Lukas Dhont.
With ‘Edition n°1’, Bouchra Jarrar returned to the haute couture calendar in January after a four-year absence and still had a loyal following who appreciated her bare luxe minimalism. Picking up where she left off, she came up with ‘Edition n°2’ was smaller and tighter this season, but she created 10 looks in black and white. Focusing on quality above quantity, she worked without assistants with upcycled material and came up with a beautiful collection of timely silhouettes. Tracing back to the fashion problems almost 20 years ago, the question now was, ‘What will women want when all this is over?’. Designing embroidered bustier of Lesage with tailored trousers, ruffled mini dresses and beautiful tulle and high fashion over-seized coats, the value of handwork increased ten-fold.
A 50 minutes film for the fall 2020 couture, John Galliano promised a thriller subplot with every scene involving veils, marble nymphs, and a trail of historical inspiration that largely connected with Martin Margiela’s work. The narrative was the most thrilling seeing Galliano in action with his team, researching, cutting, sewing working intensely for hours for an idea to come to life. Nick Knight orchestrated the entire thing through body-cams, surveillance cameras, drones, Zoom calls, phone texts, and Google searches. Depicting designs in the foundation of the house especially the ‘frozen’ drapery mixing his own Fallen Angels collection 1986 with images of 19th century virtuoso sculptures of women in barely-there drapery. A fantastical reality, Galliano’s collection was an elite reconstruction of beautiful and exceptional things.
Entitled “The Performance: of Grace and Light” Pierpaolo Piccioli played his collection as a hybrid digital/physical event staged in a darkened void. To overcome the technical problems of socially-distanced working Piccioli conceptualized his 16-look collection without feeling the limitations of the pandemic, he described it as a dream to conquer. Upholding the inimitable techniques of the house, two experts; separated safely worked on the mannequins for sewing the vast meterage and volumes of taffeta, tulle, chiffon, and organdie. The film was a silent movie imagery of silver sequins and waterfalls of glittering fringe with FKA twigs extraordinary voice soared as the models swung from trapezes and floated through the digital performance. Trying to conquer the dreadful problems of the pandemic, Piccioli successfully embodied the theatrical form of the clothes.
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