Haute Couture week: it comes twice as much as Christmas and is at least twice as exciting. While the ready-to-wear collections are often strained with the hefty demands of retail, haute couture allows for designers to run wild with their imagination and innovation. It is fashion at its most moving, at its brightest.
So how did the brightest star on the fashion calendar fall so far from grace this season? Some designers chose to rest on the dated laurels of their houses of hire, while others went all in on flashy creations with little substance. In 2018, when the necessity of haute couture is being called into question now more than ever, it is important to prove this industry’s worth- even if an embroidered ball gown can’t turn a pretty penny.
At Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld continued with his tired, overly romanticized troupe of the elegant Parisian woman. His prior couture collections at least held more interest with wider ranges of silhouettes and just the right amount of youthful verve. Fall 2018, however, saw a seemingly endless string of models clad in the same shapeless tweed suits and chiffon dresses. The slits that cut through nearly every look seemed a desperate grasp for some buzz. The same problem reared its ugly head at the other couture week giant: Christian Dior where creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri’s minimal approach left a lot to be desired. Her embellished cloaks and micro-pleated dress were all too reminiscent of her days designing at Valentino and the satin gowns that closed out the show were poorly finished.
Alexandre Vauthier’s tribute to 80’s glamour was stylized to a fault, lacking the signature Vauthier swagger that brought him acclaim in the first place. Zuhair Murad and Elie Saab chose, yet again, to show typical evening wear for the red carpet circuit instead of pushing their design prowess. Jean Paul Gaultier’s reworked Le Smoking ensembles did not shock as Gaultier should and Giambattista Valli’s froufrou pastel princesses are starting to feel somewhat tired.
While the rest of haute couture week went up in flames, Pierpaolo Piccoli at Valentino and Clare Waight Keller at Givenchy stood apart from the chaos. Piccoli did not point to any one specific inspiration for Fall 2018, instead he wanted to express his dreams. This endearing approach to couture lead to a sartorial fantasia with references ranging from Greek mythology to Ziggy Stardust. Keller honored Hubert de Givenchy memory by updating some of his most iconic looks- something no creative director of the house has ever tried to do. Her architectural iterations of Audrey Hepburn’s two piece look from Funny Face and little black dress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s were as fresh and chic as ever.
Designers should not place their collections within the zeitgeist of the right now for Haute Couture as they do with ready-to-wear. It is a totally different ball game. This art form is too rarified to relate it to every day life and be consumer oriented. To keep the essence of Haute Couture alive designers need to follow Piccoli and Keller’s lead, exploring their wildest fantasies and reinventing their label’s codes every season.