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Paris Couture 2011 Roundup

The Paris Couture shows are watched avidly every season, and this time is no different. Having scoured the internet to find updates of the shows the minute they happen; here is a round-up review of the main French houses who showed this past week. Year after year, the couture shows astound and shock- and most of all cost a lot of money. It is often seen as the big brands showing they have big money, which in a way it is, but it’s also big talents showing how detailed they can be- and allowing designers to be more adventurous with their designs and fabrics- without having to worry about how an item will do on the shop floor.

At Valentino, the first model came out looking like a Botticelli- serene and beautiful, with strategic wisps of hair falling from her almost invisible golden wreath, and a spot of gold in the cupid’s bow of her lips. The clothes mimicked this theme, with an abundance of long flowing dresses, often in sheer chiffon and lace. The Valentino couture woman is majestic in an understated way- if indeed this is possible. The clothes were simple, light and spoke for themselves- needing nothing else than themselves to make an impact: feminine elegance at its best.

At Chanel, models wore structured yet feminine classic tweed twin sets that often start off a Chanel show- just to remind us of where it all started: Coco. This time there was even more of a tribute to the lady herself in the form of a statue in the middle of the Grand Palais. The classic twin sets were followed by long, glistening skirts, complete with matching boater hats followed by extremely structured dresses, full of ruffles and sequins. Colour came in the form of a head to toe hot pink outfit- from hat to boot, silk to sequin. Chanel, as you’ll know, is one of the biggest French fashion houses, and to remind us of this the show boasted more than 70 outfits- in comparison to most other houses forty-odd couture collections.

Givenchy presented the Haute Couture collection in what has become the norm for them: simple shots of each model (no runway) and a final shot of all the models on various tiers in front of a surreal looking background- couture model high school if you will. And what a class it was- Maria Carlo Boscono- often seen as Riccardo Tisci’s muse was of course present- along with Caroline Trentini- who stands out with her Brazilian beauty. But let’s talk about the uniform- Tisci created works of art for his couture collection, often half embellished heavily and half sheer fabric. All white and cream, with one gold piece, the collection seems to clothe the futuristic romantic bride- with soft yet apparent structures and billowing fabrics. The dresses hold such intricate detail –as often is the way in couture- that they seem to transport you to the fairy-tale land of Tisci’s imagination.

Dior likes to make a statement, but normally this has been put down to John Galliano being the creative director. This show, however, was the first in fifteen years to have not been overseen by Galliano- so Bill Gaytten needed to make an impact. The classic over-the-top Dior make-up was present- with more of a pop art structure than usual, rectangular bright pastel coloured eyebrows turned into palettes adorned eyebrows later in the show, and then- unexpectedly- to nothing- not a fake eyebrow at Dior? Dior Couture? You must be kidding. But this bold move away from what has become to be known as Galliano style was perhaps exactly that- a move away from Galliano. Now, of course, Galliano wasn’t just know for his dramatic eyebrows- so let’s talk clothes. The colours and the boldness were there, but as Bill Gaytten has been working with the designer for 23 years- they’re bound to cross over in some areas. Skirts flowed to the ground and made for great looks- but not couture looks. It wasn’t until the last six looks that something out of the ordinary was to be seen, when Jourdan Dunn strode out with seven shooting stars on her head and a sequin, tassle and ruffle dress to match which was swiftly followed by other extravagant moon headpieces and finished off with Karlie Kloss in a Pierrot inspired look. Despite the extravagance of these pieces, they failed to create the legendary Dior mood, that perhaps longs for Galliano.

Maison Martin Margiela is known for creating un-traditional silhouettes and always stepping outside the box. In couture, a houses style is exaggerated. It being a couture show, Maison Martin Margiela needed to pull out all the stops to show us where they fit (or more precisely, don’t fit) into fashion. With what seems to be a running theme of nakedness, or sheerness in fashion, and indeed the couture shows, at the moment, the house opened with a sheer white suit. Oh, and the model had a black mask on her face, as did every model. Sheer fabrics reigned highly in the collection, and also made an appearance in plastic in the form of suits and a cream, wrinkled plastic trench coat. The collection did include some actual clothes too, a favourite being a white, black, cream, read and oil green leather jacket, paired with a sheer chiffon white skirt, with black stripes down either side, and red shoes that fitted like socks- no, really. The pieces were a firm reminder that no-one else does it like Maison Martin Margiela, and that’s why it works so well.


-Emma Hoareau

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