Haute Couture: Spring 2015

The State of the Union: A Dress

Another Haute Couture week is done and dusted and all I can say is, DAMN! That was boring! I gave up counting the pastel gowns after 100.

There are always a few happy moments here and there, but this season was the quietest in a while. I’ve noticed the decline of the “exuberant” designer in the past few seasons and I think it all finally came to a head for spring 2015.

The big trend (if you can say that couture has trends) was black and white. Yup, that good, old fashioned staple of EVERYONE’S wardrobe – boring black and obvious white. Don’t get me wrong, when done correctly, it can sing and elevate the simplest garment to the stratosphere, but honestly, what haute couture client needs ANOTHER black suit?

I’M TALKING TO YOU, JEAN PAUL GAULTIER!!!

Let’s face it, the haute couture salad days are more than likely gone; Hell, even Galliano’s debut at Margiella couldn’t save the sinking ship that is the state of creativity in Paris. I used to look at the couture shows for inspiration and joie de vivre, but now I just see a handful of designers going through the motions, trying to tread water. We are in desperate need of a belly-flop splash in this milieu.

Haute couture has never been about making money. It is, in and of itself, a money loser. In my tenure on this Earth, I can only think of a few designers who operated in the black with haute couture. It’s expensive to produce and sucks a ton of resources. Making these show pieces has always been about realizing the designer’s most intimate, fashion dream.  There have always been suits and “simpler” pieces in the collections, but when designers of the past did them, there was a life to the clothes – those garments had soul. Designers today just seem to be interested in catching a Hollywood starlet’s eye so they can lend her a dress on the red carpet.  Admirable enough for a photo-op, but at what point do you take a look at the house you’ve made and really understand its worth and meaning?

Whatever.

My opinion, as always, doesn’t matter, but I hope a few designers take some notes on the season and start to remember what fun couture can be.

This season was too mediocre to recap it all, so I’m just going to focus on the looks and houses that made me take a second look, for better or worse.

On Aura Tout Vu
You gotta hand it to these guys; when they do funky, they do it with such aplomb and personality, you’re often left wondering what you just saw and whether or not it was just all just a dream. They definitely play by their own rules; and frankly, I applaud them for that. Do all of the looks work? Well, no, but in a season of complacent monotony, a jolt of fun is very much a relief.

Frank Sorbier
I find that there a few designers that truly understand their craft and really hone in on what it means to be an haute couture designer. Frank Sorbier tops that list. He is consistently solid in his delivery and knows what his customer wants without becoming obvious and repetitive. I could have dealt without the smoke machine effects, but this collection was so pulled together and well-edited, I had to pay attention to it. He’s like Marc Chagall and a starry-eyed poet all rolled into one, and I hope he never changes.

Yiqing Yin Couture
THIS! THIS is what simplicity should look like on an haute couture runway, dammit!! Clean lines mixed with complicated stitching and drapes made for a smooth collection that was rich with restrained beauty. The color palette was somber, but that is often necessary when dealing with complicated workmanship; and the details were just enough to make the pieces interesting without going over-the-top. Dear rest of Paris, TAKE SOME FREAKING NOTES FROM THIS COLLECTION!!!

Valentino
Ugh. Valentino… oh boy. Look, the collection was beautiful. The embroideries and details, superb. The color story, logical and well studied. The cuts… well, therein lies the issue. I don’t really understand how many times they feel the need to cut that dress shape, but honestly, the atelier has to be sick of it at this point. I remember Valentino as an almost experimental design house, when the man himself was making the clothes – there were constant innovations and boundaries being pushed. The current team seems to rest on a few laurels and refuses to move forward with the body. The writing and the storybook feel of the clothes saved them from my wrath, but in the future, please, MOVE THE FRACK ON!

Jean Paul Gaultier
You know, for a man who gave up designing ready to wear, he has a hard time letting it go. This collection seemed to be a lateral move for him. There was nothing new, nothing different and certainly nothing that even came close to feeling like haute couture. It was probably the most boring-looking collection of the season, and this saddens me beyond belief. I think I have given up hope on his couture house. I used to look at Gaultier as the one destination for consistent innovation and smiles, but now, this sad little couture house has just quietly sunk into the shadows of what imagination could have been.

Jantaminiau Couture
Admittedly, I have a soft spot in my heart for comic books, but seriously, how fun and goofy was this collection? It was like Lois Lane and a Lichtenstein painting had a wardrobe together. The colors were bright and outstanding without being garish, the styling was a bit over-the-top, but still just this side of wearable and the clothes were all completely joyous in their delivery. Sift through the gimmicks and there were a Hell of a lot of completely beautiful looks that would stop hearts in any crowded room. Beautifully playful and tons of ideas – EXACTLY what haute couture needs!

Christian Dior
WTF? Seriously Raf, what cosmic mushrooms did you ingest to crank out this horribly ridiculous pile of steaming nonsense? I’ll admit, it was a step outside of the norm from what you usually do, but scale it back a pinch, next time. For taking a risk and gamble with pushing the envelope, I’ll give you a hat tip, but duuuuuude, this shit just ugly. I get the Ziggy Stardust idea, I really do, and some of the metal ring inserts were cool in principal, but let’s not go down this road again until you learn to rein in the unicorns, okay?

Serkan Cura Couture
I know what you’re thinking and frankly, yeah, this stuff is tripping on goofballs. The house of Serkan Cura isn’t known for being the shy wallflower in the bunch, but what I like to look at with this house is the reckless abandon with which they work. Does it make sense? Hell no,  but this is the second season I have been enamored with their work. For someone who is pretty good at reading clothes, I am at a loss for words as to why I constantly look forward to this house’s presentation. Maybe it’s a line gesture or a model’s attitude, but like a crash on a NASCAR tack, I just can’t stop staring at it. I might need help. Whether is it good or bad, I’ll leave up to you. I have no qualms with calling them the Hypnotoad of couture. OBEY!!!!

Armani Privé
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…
Sorry, just woke up from my Privé power nap.
Pretty fabrics, yeah, clean lines, sure, sober color… BLAH BLAH BLAH!!! OMG this collection was so complacent and slow to develop, you could watch actual bamboo growing on the runway! Giorgio, sweetie, you do the establishment better than anyone in Milan. We get it. It’s always perfect and cool, but COME ON! this is just an extension of the ready to wear collection, and you know it! Honestly, the only thing that separates this line from the signature line is the price point. Where is the exuberance of the Jewel collection? Where is the sleek modernity of the Reptile collection? Please bring that Giorgio back. I miss him. Having said all that, this collection was utterly beautiful in its workmanship and textiles. I just wish it had a bit more ‘umph.’

Maison Martin Margiela Couture
Well, Galliano is back and just as adept at sequencing the genome of a fashion house as ever. It truly amazes me how brilliant he can be at doing just that – understanding a label and then filtering it through his aesthetic. He did it first at Givenchy, then at Dior. I don’t care for whom he designs, as long as he keeps doing it. This collection was an exercise in found objects and “make do” mentality. The cuts were innovative, yet approachable, and the overall mood had an air of freshness, even in the face of walking artifacts. I honestly don’t know how he does it. A marvelous first outing… Hell, that was a marvelous outing. PERIOD.

 
Stéphane Rolland
Yup, saved the best for last. This collection was perfection from beginning to end. Beautifully draped, exquisitely rendered dreams in silk and wool paraded down the runway with such grace and elegance, I had no choice but to declare him the season’s winner. I could have stood a bit more color, but you know what, I’ll take what I can get. Bravo!!

OK kids, I’ll have my list of the season’s turkeys up by tomorrow.

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