Haute Couture: Fall 2016

Is it me or is Haute Couture week getting shorter and shorter every season? Yet, I feel they are constantly adding more and more shows.  I dunno..

This, as with the last SEVERAL seasons, has been a bit of a sleeper as far as the WOW factor is concerned. It’s like couture designers just don’t care about making a statement any more. I get that they have to pay the bills with wearable pieces, but at one point, the clientele is going to catch on to the fact that they are showing thirty-thousand dollar jackets that look just like the eight hundred dollar jackets selling in the stores.

There is no life to the collections any more. Even heavy-hitters that used to stun and shock have slipped into repetitive navel-gazing. There used to be an excitement to the couture collections. There used to be a buzz about the clothes. Now-a-days, the press is all about kissing designer ass and who was spotted in the front row. It’s a shame.

Maybe I’m just too hard to please, but for better or worse, here is my take on the Fall 2016 Haute Couture collections.  I’m not doing a turkey list this time because the season was more middle of the road than deep end; however, I have mixed in a few one-liners for your enjoyment.

All pictures are from NowFashion.com.
They have the BEST coverage of all the collections, check them out!

Schiaparelli

Schiaparelli, Couture Collection Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

Billed as an homage to Sciap’s original circus collection, it honestly felt like more of a pastiche. There were the obvious nods to the famous embroideries and motifs, and of course, the beading and embroidery were impeccable, but I can’t help but feel that Guyon (the current head designer) is just going through the motions and is afraid to strike out on his own with the collection. Hopefully he’ll stop rummaging through the archives soon and get down to giving this house its well-deserved update.

On Aura Tout Vu

On-Aura-Tout-Vu-Couture-Paris-FW16-2865-1467639829-bigthumb

When you want to look cute, but also value your personal space.

Like a good sauce, it’s best to let it reduce to bring out its finest flavor. This season, the Vu team did just that. They stuck to their usual, nonsensical whimsy, but in such a low key, the collection almost seemed quiet. Of course there were the usual insane embellishments and textiles (I really want to know what that translucent gray stuff is), but overall it worked. I could do without their obsession with insect legs, but I’m glad to see them still on the calendar and being themselves.

Dior

Dior,Couture,Collection Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

Dear house of Dior, why the Hell are you dragging your feet hiring a new designer? I mean seriously, your ready to wear is more exciting, and that’s not saying much. This collection was so boring and unimaginative, I worry this will be the norm from now on. Hire someone already. It’s really not that difficult. In the meantime, stop pumping out this lifeless crap. Thank you.

Chanel

Chanel Couture Collection, Fall Winter 2016 Fashion Show in Paris

“No no, I WANT the dress to make it look like I’m carrying around a spread-eagle gorilla on my back. It’ll be chic!”

MY GAWD this collection was ugly – horrible cuts, nothing fit and all of the embellishments looked like afterthoughts. I mean, Karl has had some clunkers, but I don’t remember seeing anything this bad in a long time. Save for ONE dress, this season is absolutely forgettable chez Chanel, best to avoid it.

Julien Fournie

Julien Fournié, Couture Collection Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

OK, I’m sold. Yeah, it was a bit obvious, but this season at Fournie was great. Beautifully simple in its delivery, each look had a desirability that screamed elegance. Interesting embellishments, beautiful cuts and even though it was a little on the predictable side, each exit was a class act. Odd that I’m getting excited about a designer actually doing his job correctly, but hey, I’ll take what I can get. Bravo!

Stephane Rolland

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I love it when designers do what they do well. Rolland knows how to sculpt fabric into undulating confections of wearable sculpture better than most designers on the market today. He rarely strays from his beloved black and white, and in any other hands, I would probably call a repetition penalty, but when he works his traditional magic, the delivery is anything but boring. Cool cuts, BEAUTIFUL sheer insets and refined embellishments knock this season out of the park.

J Mendel Couture

J.Mendel Couture Fall Winter 2016 Fashion Show in Paris

And I’m calling this dress the “Landing Strip.”

Pretty weak debut for someone of Mendel’s clout. The guy already designs expensive clothes, what was the point of marking them up further? If you want  an evening look in need of a Brazilian, you should definitely make an appointment for a fitting.

Givenchy

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Well, at least they showed something. Givenchy has been off the calendar for a while now, and I kinda see why. Tisci (the current head designer) is usually a great couture designer. I normally  love what he does,  but this season was, uhh… interesting? Half the lace looked like kitchen curtains and this pleated number is dumpy at best, but overall… oh who am I kidding? It was boring and uninspired. Look, I get that he’s been in ready-to-wear mode for a while now, so I’m going to let it slide, but step it up Ricardo. You’re better than this.

Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela, Fashion Show, Couture Collection Fall Winter, Paris

Maison Margiela, Fashion Show, Couture Collection Fall Winter, Paris

Is it a dress? A blanket? An off-the-shoulder bathrobe? All of the above? Who knows, but that’s kinda the point, huh? Galliano has been at the MM helm for a few seasons now, and manages EVERY DAMN TIME to merge his sensibilities AND that of Margiela’s traditions – confusion, experiment, found-object and history. I honestly think that Galliano getting fired from Dior was the best thing that could have happened to him.  At Dior, he was bound by a legacy of restriction. At MM, the only thing that restricts him is his imagination. Odd, yes, but that’s right in step with the mood of the house.

Elie Saab

Elie Saab, Fashion Show, Couture Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, Saab is best when he turns to the dark side.  This collection was so deep, rich and mysterious, by the time the blush and nude colors finished the collection, you almost missed them in the darkness. The cuts were experimental for the house, if not grounded in Sabb technique, the embellishments, even though beautifully decadent, were almost architectural, and the styling was clean and classy. It was like fairy land in a black out, and frankly, I hope Saab keeps cutting down the power lines. I have no idea what that means, but whatever, the collection was great.

Gaultier Paris

Jean Paul Gaultier, Couture Collection Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

Well, it was better than last season. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good collection, but JUST good. With a dark forest theme, Gaultier cleaned out his techniques vault and cranked out familiar shapes and embellishments with a modern edge.  There were elements from past shows, like the beautiful, pleated leaves on Chrystelle’s dress that harkened back to the late 80’s/early 90’s, and familiar shapes, like the structured suits of his French can-can collection and the wide brimmed coifs that were direct patterns from his Mongolian travelers collection. It all felt comfortable, but still lacking in forward creativity. There were a few missteps, like those bizarre flaps dangling from the fronts and backs of like 20 looks, but still, there was a richness to the pieces. He could stand to step away from the Grés pleating for a change, but I think this season gave me a little hope for the Gaultier future.

Viktor and Rolf

Viktor&Rolf,Fashion Show, Couture Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

A trip to Goodwill, that’s what I’m calling this collection. That might sound like a bit of an insult, but it really isn’t. The Dutch duo likes to over-explore one theme with their couture collections, and this season they choose weaving as their starting point. Not intricate jacquards or twills, but rather a terribly simple over/under plain weave.  Taking odds and ends off the racks, they cut up then re-weaved mismatched scraps and ribbons to give very simple clothes, VERY artistic textures. They raided the random button jar, and covered every conceivable surface in thousands of the fasteners.  Beautiful tulle layers and blown together embellishments gave this season a welcome uniqueness that their past few collection have been lacking. Overall, a great step forward.

Zuhair Murad.

Zuhair Murad, Couture Collection Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

This guy does embroidered tulle probably better than any other designer working today. I mean, there’s sexy, and then there is Murad sexy. The goofy cowboy hats that adorned 60% of the models were missteps -honestly, they looked like an afterthought, but OMG these were some of the best looking bodices I have seen in a very long time from him, or any other designer.  I’m not sure classy and super sexy belong together, but if they do Zuhair’s got it all sewn up.

Valentino

Valentino-Couture-FW16-Paris

OMG PLEASE MAKE ANOTHER DRESS PATTERN ALREADY!! WHO NEEDS THIS MANY OF THAT ONE CUT OMG PLEASE?!?!! Now that that’s out of the way, this collection was rich in it its simplicity. A romp through the middle ages cum Renaissance, there were high, ruffled collars, doublet bodices and plenty of restrained elegance to pass around the medieval banquet hall. Revolutionary? Not at all, but there was such a fine, edited eye placed on this collection, I was forced to acknowledge it. The design duo that heads up Valentino does one thing VERY well, they design a collection.  Yes, they can repeat cuts ad nauseam, but they are so damn good at editing and staying true to the house’s objectives that, even though I hound them, I secretly respect them for what they are doing. SHHHHH! DON’T TELL NOBODY, Y’ALL!!! In conclusion, I hate it all and love it at the same time.

Armani Privé

Giorgio Armani Prive, Fashion Show, Couture Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

Giorgio Armani Prive, Fashion Show, Couture Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

WHO’S THE LEADER OF THE CLUB THAT’S MADE FOR YOU AND ME? M-I-C…  Oooohh, you know the rest!

As usual, Armani put me to sleep, and as usual, I’ve given up caring. The same old, same old per Girogio; I honestly wonder how he stays in business cranking out clothes that look JUST LIKE his ready to wear collection. Oh well, I’m going back to sleep. G’nite.

Alexandre Vauthier

Alexandre Vauthier, Fashion Show, Couture Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

Normally I ignore this house. I mean, it’s got its moments, but over all, it’s just sexy, rock-chick clothes; however, this season saw a slight bit of refinement, and that was worth noticing. Yeah, there were the usual “up to there” splits and sex-kitten cuts, but maybe, juuuust maybe, Vauthier is cleaning up his act. I don’t need him to clean it all up, I mean, sex pays the bills, but little numbers like this go a LONG way to showing customers that naughty can be refined.

Adeline André

Adeline André Fashion Show, Couture Collection Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

In the year 3562, this is what doctors will wear into surgery.

Let’s face it; André has been doing the same thing for decades now. And by “doing the same thing,” I literally mean DOING THE SAME THING. You could pull a look from her first season and mix it within the lineup from the current season, and you would have NO idea that it was from the archives.  She refuses to stray from her path, and that is her strongest attribute. It is platonic and clean to the point you wonder how she’s stayed in business for so long? Yup, but within that, you have to admit that her body of work looks nothing like anything else on the couture runways, and for that stick-with-it-ness, I applaud her.

Ulyana Sergeenko

Ulyana Sergeenko, Fashion Show, Couture Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

When you get dressed in the dark, but still have to ride your moped to work.

I mean, yeah, I don’t know why I ever expect this collection to make ANY sense, but here we are. It was bonkers, as usual, and I’m just so very tired of that. The clothes are ugly, the styling is goofy as Hell and none of it makes a lick of sense. Sequined bathrobe? Check. Bodysuit? Check. Dad’s shoes? Check. Goofy-ass garter belt with matching tights? THAT’S A BIG OL’ CHECK! This is what an unstable old lady wears to the grocery store when she runs out of her medication. Only I know the old lady didn’t have to drop the better part of 40,000 dollars to buy it.

Atelier Versace

Versace Atelier, Fashion Show, Couture Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

This collection is difficult for me because I’m totally on the fence with it. On one hand, I applaud Donatella’s experimentation with the draping and the cuts, on the other hand, it all felt a little too derivative of other designers’ work.  I mean, if you told me Haider Ackerman had taken over the house, I honestly would have believed it. There were some beautiful pieces, like the one pictured, where the house nailed it, but others just felt rushed and unfinished. I dunno, I’m giving it to Versace for the step forward, but maybe refine and edit the collection a bit more in the future.

OK, that wraps up the season for me.

I’m going to be working on some showpieces and will update you all with progress pics as soon as I make some progress.

Toodles!

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Haute Couture – Paris, Fall 2015. Part Deux

Chanel 

The press buzz is that this was a safe mode collection for Lagerfeld; and you know what, that’s OK with me. The Kaiser has been foisting experiments on us for a while now and this season he decided to circle the wagons and reflect on the house’s history, rather than break new ground on a distant shore. It was less “obvious staple” and more controlled refinement as each exit built on the previous one. The shapes and silhouettes were clean and the embellishments, a Chanel standard, were elegant and, above all, appropriate for the mood. I could have done without the severe hair and ultra-clunky shoes, but other than those two minor inconveniences, the show was a hit in my book.

Georges Hobeika

Sameness is as sameness does, but there was a slight step forward this season chez Hobeika. He didn’t blaze a new path with cut or embellishment, but what he turned in was so elegant, and yet, so very jaunty, I had to give him credit. The floral embroideries did get a little stale after a while, but the white gown with the center front slit breathed new life into what would have otherwise been another obvious entry into an understated collection. Long columns ruled the day and for a designer focusing on refining his skills, it’s not a bad shape to concentrate on.

Giambattista Valli

Oh boy. Well, let’s just say this about Valli’s haute couture collections: whatever you bought last season, will probably have a companion piece this season. The guy knows how to design and make clothes, but at this point, each collection feels like one long continuation of the previous season. He did manage to slip in a few innovative cuts and ideas, but at this point, it’s just not enough progress for me. Yes, the clothes are beautifully made. Yes, the starlets will fawn over them on the red carpet, but frankly speaking, if you’ve seen one Valli gown, you’ve seen them all. I get that he has to make the customer happy, but how many tiered organza ball gowns do his clients need?

Armani Prive

Intergalactic glam rock of the future. Well, that’s what I got out of this show at least. Armani didn’t go crazy with outré innovation for this collection, in fact, some of the ballgown shapes looked like prom dresses from the early 80’s; however, the real story here was his unmistakably rich hand when embellishing the looks. The beading and dyeing flowed in and out of seamless ombrés that looked like he dipped the dresses in the moody flotsam and jetsam of a distant nebula. The pieces were elegant and, while simple in delivery, dripped with the refined elegance of haute couture. Earth-shattering? No, but for a house that has been coasting on “pretty” for so many seasons, it’s nice to see Armani reach into the darkness and pull out a winner.

Artisanal Margiela

Perfection, AGAIN!! I could go on and on about how Galliano manages to dissect a house and merge with it in splendid symbiosis, but at this point, you don’t need that. What you do need to know is that once again, Galliano has thrown caution to the wind and churned out a collection that reeks of Margiela’s desire to never conform. Did any of it make sense? Hell no, but that’s what makes Galliano’s tenure at the Maison such an amazing ride! The cuts were spectacularly confusing, the embellishments exist as a tribute to eclectic ephemera, and the textile treatments evoke a lost steamer trunk of forgotten cloth artifacts left over from a bygone epoch that no one knew existed. Oh, to be a couture client and have the gumption to rock these looks at a calendar’s worth of social events!

More to come…

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.