Report: Spring 2017 Haute Couture

I’m having a difficult time reconciling the recent spring 2017 haute couture collections (hence this post’s tardiness). There’s a bizarre dichotomy happening now that puts me at odds with what couture houses are supposed to stand for, and what they have become. Haute couture has never been about making money, which seems odd considering how much money it costs to produce. Sure, pieces get sold and there is some profit, but ultimately, haute couture is and has always been a money-loser. Design houses make their real money on licensing deals (hand bags, shoes and make-up) because they can be pushed at lower price points to more consumers. Haute couture’s purpose has always been to make special clothes for clients that can afford the exorbitant prices. Contemporary pieces are still hand-made using familiar traditions, but with ready-to-wear production getting better, faster and more detailed, several of the couture collections are beginning to look more and more like clothes that are already hanging on store racks.

Yeah, they’re pretty, but sometimes, that’s all they are.

What’s missing from MANY of the couture collections is fantasy.
This is, of course, my opinion. I neither produce haute couture, nor have to staff a design house. I see the couture collections as brand-building muscle-flexing for the ateliers and partly as entertainment. I can appreciate the workmanship, details and savoir-faire in every piece, even the boring ones, but when it comes down to it, the best collections are the ones that turn heads and have a story to tell. Does it always have to be over the top nonsense? Absolutely not. The beauty of haute couture is the signature it leaves on the house that creates it. Each atelier has voice. It’s how that voice gets interpreted that makes the collection sing.

Having said all that, there were a few collections that make be take notice. Some lean on the side of complacency, others, exuberant liberation. Regardless, each of these collections is exceptional in its delivery and deserves kudos.

Chanel

And the winner of the Most Improved Collection award goes too…
Pale and pastel were the watchwords this season as Lagerfeld softened his touch, and pumped out clothes that were not only beautiful, but felt lighter than seasons past. He’s still obsessed with his lofty plumage, but this season, it was refined and more approachable.Tailoring had a softer edge, and the bead-work, as always, dazzled. Let’s hope this trend continues next season.

Rami Al Ali

With only a handful of pieces, this house showed more established maisons how far clean editing can go. All done in blush and soft metallics, the pieces were worn like pliable sculpture, even when items like simple kimono tops were presented. In one season, this house managed to balance fantasy with wearability in a way that speaks volumes of its maturity.

On Aura Tout Vu

Bizarre clam shell muscle man mise en scene aside, I’m happy to announce that it’s status quo chez Tout Vu. I will always compliment this house on its inspired bead work, and this season was no exception. Working almost exclusively in a palette of black and white, it was impossible to keep up with the mosaic repetitions that adorned most, if not all of the looks that walked out. They kept the cuts clean and, for a change, only resorted to one over the top exit that included molded plastic body casts. This house knows its clients, and with approachable collections like this, are sure to entice more.

Margiela Artisanal

 Galliano continues to refine his taste at Margiela, and the more things change, the more they seem to establish a familiar vocabulary that existed before his appointment, but somehow became louder as he settled in. This season, he blew apart clothes until only the load-bearing seams were left, re-imagined applique in tulle, and layered clothes on the model that suggested they were leaving for far away excursions, and never returning. All brilliant techniques to use, and in some twisted reality I know not of, it all makes sense to the history of the house. Experimentation is the locked door of haute couture, and Galliano is listing to one side from the weight of his key chain.

Stepahne Rolland

Rolland’s signature draping was in full force this season, as it is every season, but this time he played with capturing movement in fabric. Each piece seemed as if the model had just turned or jumped, then the natural flight of the cloth was  frozen in time and rendered immobile, yet still completely wearable. Rolland does clean sophistication well, probably better than any other designer in Paris right now, and as his signature foundations rarely evolve over time, what he does manage to keep fresh are unexpected textile manipulations that feel like soft secrets being whispered to only those willing to listen.

Guo Pei

Over the top, impossible to walk in, jewel encrusted, completely devoid of all reality, and above all, unapologetically decadent…
I have no choice but to hand the season to Guo Pei’s Paris debut.
With pieces that walked like barely-wearable Fabergé eggs, Pei’s collection was forged from lost treasures found in the forgotten armoire of medieval royalty. Impossible textures of hammered gold, pleated fabrics laced with rich embroidery, and under-structures ripped from the sides of Chartres cathedral culminated in a collection that defined everything that is haute couture. Borderline costume? Damn skippy and may I have another please!?!
If haute couture has any future, that future rests on dreamers like Guo Pei. Bravo!

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Paris Haute Couture: Spring 2016

Haute couture week (well, Haute Couture Three Days) is but a memory and there was plenty to chat about.

I’m switching gears this time, so rather than do a good and a bad list, I’m going to just toss them all together and make one great big fashion cocktail.
There are fewer and fewer shows each season, it seems, so it’s getting more difficult to justify the division.

Anyhoo, here is the best and the worst of the spring 2016 haute couture season, according to me.

Comments follow the pictures.

Ulyana Sergeenko, Fashion Show, Couture Collection Spring Summer 2016 in Paris

Ulyana Sergeenko

My God this collection was ugly. I get that you want something different, but there is an insanely fine line between original and stupid. Cuts were so convoluted, it’s like she thumbed through a book on technique and just pointed to part of the mannequin and said, “SEW THAT THERE!” Other designers explored the 80’s this season (heavy nods to Bowie of the 70’s too) but those designers knew to steer clear of the jagged rocks that were 80’s clichés. Unfortunately for Sergeenko, she sailed her pastel painted yacht directly into the rocky shore with reckless abandon.
Different? Yes, but dang girl, dial that crazy back a few notches.

Frank Sorbier, Couture Collection Spring Summer 2016 in Paris

Frank Sorbier

Once again Frank Sorbier takes us on a lyrical journey through design, and what we learn from this exercise is that telling a story from bits of cloth and embroidery, doesn’t have to be a literal endeavor. Working mainly in beige (yeah I know, but trust me, it was nice) dancers and models paraded around a stage in unimaginable fabrications that echoed the house’s mainstays – texture and restraint.  Beautiful, interesting and above all, true to form, Sorbier knows how to keep things grounded without them going stale.

Valentino, Fashion Show, Couture Collection Spring Summer 2016 in Paris

Valentino Couture

Well, it was pretty.
And of course, the atelier knows what they are doing, but DAMMIT, could you guys PLEASE start experimenting with cut? I mean seriously, how many sloper bodice dresses does your clientele need? I really appreciate the workmanship, but damn, buy a new Vogue pattern already!

On Aura Tout Vu, Fashion Show, Couture Collection Spring Summer 2016 in Paris

On Aura Tout Vu

I love these guys. I don’t often agree with their clothes, but when they skipped last season, I genuinely missed them. As usual, it was nonstop nonsense on the runway, and as usual, some of it was a mess, but honestly, for a house that doesn’t get a lot of press, part of me is really happy that they don’t give a damn about it, and make the clothes that make them smile. Does any of it make sense? No, not really, but compared to the more established houses, these guys know how to have fun. Having said that, this collection was bonkers; and frankly, that makes ME happy!

Maison Margiela, Fashion Show, Couture Collection Spring Summer 2016 in Paris

Maison Margiela

Galliano hit the nail on the head again at MM, that crazy, mixed-up, almost illegible nail. The collection was, per usual, a mélange of sartorial bric-a-brac and atelier savoir faire, but as experimental as these pieces are, and let’s face it, that’s the house’s bread and butter, it’s a little bit difficult to get a sense of who the customer really is. There were plenty of bankable looks, but the lion’s share of the collection is firmly planted in the outré. Still, the cuts and experimentation exceeded my expectations, and will probably send the inspiration surging, right up until next season.

Schiaparelli, Fashion Show, Menswear Collection Fall Winter 2016 in Paris

Schiaparelli

How do you take your tea? That was the obvious question chez Scap this season. With tea pot embroideries and a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables covering almost every stitch, it was difficult to contemplate anything else. Twee to be sure, but it felt comfortable, balanced against the history of the house – almost too comfortable. The shapes were obvious and that last passage of mousseline dresses seemed like the fashion record kept skipping with their repetitive cuts and drapes. Still, it was nice to see the atelier having a little fun, if not terribly over-organized fun.

Jean-Paul-Gaultier-Spring-Summer-2016-Paris-8150-1453907241-bigthumb

Gaultier Paris

At this point, I feel Gaultier is just hand beading his ready to wear. The house knows how to cut a dress, and they really know how to put on a show, but where the hell is the couture? I saw pajama pants, bath robes, and the same tired ideas that Jean Paul has been cranking out for years. I used to turn to this house for wild inspiration and innovation. Now, it just seems like he’s reliving his heyday. Every designer deserves that relaxation for a season or two, but Gaultier can’t seem to shift gears anymore. A fun show to be sure, and of course expert craftsmanship, but nothing new to speak of.

Versace Atelier, Fashion Show, Couture Collection Spring Summer 2016 in Paris

Atelier Versace.

The restraint in these clothes was outstanding. Each look was a study on how to pull in the reins on luxury. The first group was sportswear inspired. The models looked like haute couture track stars in pure white with accents of hyper fluorescent pinks and yellows that darted around the body like laced up tennis shoes. The evening group was spectacular in the quietest way possible with beautiful trompe l’oeil sheers that I honestly couldn’t tell weren’t flesh. The finale tuxedo on Gigi summed up the collection best -simple, elegant and above all, modern!

Viktor & Rolf, Fashion Show, Couture Collection Spring Summer 2016 in Paris

Viktor and Rolf

Oh dear. Look, when another house does haute couture faces just a couple of seasons before you, it’s probably best to avoid that subject for a while. Unfortunately for V&R, they hugged that theme it to death like Elmira squeezing the life from a hamster. Looking like Picasso rejects, the clothes (and I use that term VERY lightly) paraded out like whitewashed Guernica subjects come-to-life. I mean really, at this point, I’m just going to tell them to drop the pretense of being couturiers and just start making museum pieces, because honestly, that’s the only place these pieces belong.

Dior Haute Couture Spring Summer 2016 Fashion show in Paris

Christian Dior

What a hot, steaming pile of fashion dog crap this collection was. Look, I get you’re between designers, but dammit, you CANNOT design a collection by committee! It’s impossible. There has to be a masthead and a director with a clear goal. This season felt less like a collection and more like “let’s take all the crap that fell on the cutting room floor and stitch it together into a silk chiffon nightmare that no couture client would be caught dead wearing.”
Too harsh? Nope; it was that bad. Honestly, it would have made the house look better if they had just skipped a runway show and hired someone to design already, because until they focus. and stop trying to recapture the glory days, this house is going to remain a stagnant mess.

Chanel, Couture Collection Spring Summer 2016 in Paris

Chanel.

Sorry, I just woke up from a nap. Wait, that wasn’t a nap; that was the latest Chanel collection. My friend Lori said it best when she used the term, “mumsy,” to describe this season for Coco and company; and I honestly, think that term describes this collection to a tee. Dated shapes, tired fabrics and a lack of innovation didn’t do this collection any favors. The whole thing was an exercise in complacency. And for a house like Chanel, with Karl at the helm, there was no excuse for it.
Oh, wait, I thought of another word – boring.

Pieces worth mentioning…

Ralph and Russo

Ralph & Russo, Show Couture Spring Summer 2016 Collection in Paris

Pretty. Just pretty. I mean, they crank out dresses that make the prom queens weep, but honestly, that’s all they do. Nothing interesting, nothing new, just… pretty.

Stepahne Rolland

Stephane Rolland, Fashion Show, Couture Collection Spring Summer 2016 in Paris

THIS DRESS! OMG! This is freaking HAUTE COUTURE!! Too bad the rest of the collection was mediocre.

George Hobeika

George-Hobeika-Couture-SS16-Paris-4713-1453727628-bigthumb

Again, just pretty. But I did like the innovation of this cut. The lace bolero/capelet/train thing is different and interesting.

Alexis Mabille

Alexis Mabille Couture Spring Summer 2016 Collection in Paris

Good collection, it just felt a little static. I do always love his model selection and I’m giving it a nod if for nothing more than this model’s perfect attitude.

Yanina

Yanina, Fashion Show, Couture Collection Spring Summer 2016 in Paris

OK, so the ballet theme was obvious and spammed almost to death, but dammit if I didn’t love this look. Not the first time we’ve seen ballet figures on a dress, but this one was just fun.

OK kids, that’s it for a little while.

I’ll be back as soon as I can think of something interesting to post.

(FYI, all images for this post are from nowfashion.com.  It’s a great resource for fashion shows with up to the minute collections. Seriously, check them out!)

Paris Spring 2016

Au revoir, mon Paris, until next season.

The Parisian shows are a thing of the past and I have to say, the city of lights gave us a bit more sparkle this go-round. There were a few duds, but only because the collections were more than predictable, rather than serving goofiness (we’ll get to those turkeys in the “worst” list later).

So, here is my take on the best that Paris has to offer.

Agnovitch

Agnovitch

It might just be that I gravitate towards this kind of cutting, but I find the Agnovitch team refreshing in fashion right now. They have a definite point of view that fails to waiver, and because of this, their presentations are consistently different from the rest of the pack. This season was bit moodier than past, but delivered the same, smooth lines and angular distinction that we want from them. I have no idea who their customer is, but there will be plenty on the racks to choose from when they supplement their existing wardrobes.

Chloé

Chloe

WHAT? Why is a Chloé collection in my round up? Hmmm… let’s just go with it and move on. Yeah, with the installation of yet ANOTHER designer at the house, the collection FINALLY has a foothold on the right track. This collection brought us a brilliant blending of house traditions and refreshing takes on basic separates, all the while keeping its thumb firmly on the pulse of what a modern woman wants to wear. That’s not easy in design, so I’m giving credit where credit is due. I’m actually excited about the coming season at Chloé. Let’s hope they can keep this momentum up and deliver in future collections.

Dries Van NotenDries

Oh Dries, you little scamp! You know how to make me smile!
Don’t get me wrong, not every look in this collection worked, but I’ve always said the best collections have both hits AND misses. The cuts were often influenced by the 1940’s, and that throw-back styling played brilliantly off of his acid-bright prints and ethnic-influenced textiles. This, of course, is nothing new for Van Noten, but what sells the look is his mastery of it. In any other hands, the disparate elements of this collection would have floundered; however, Van Noten knows how to take disconnected thread and weave together and irresistible tapestry his customers are all to eager to wear.

Maison MargielaMaison Margiela

The blending of Galliano and Margiela is less like apples and cinnamon, and more like John Hurt and the face hugger from Alien. Whether or not he wants it, the face hugger is taking over and Hurt’s just along for the ride. John Galliano IS that face hugger. That creative, brilliant, genius face hugger. What does this mean for the house? Well kids, it means we’ll continue to receive collection like spring 2016 – a bizarre alamgmation of deconstructed beauty, couture and innovation, filtered through the eyes of one of fashions greatest mad scientists. Off-kilter, cluttered and unique… at this point I can’t tell if I’m describing the clothes or the man himself.

McQueen
McQueen

Perfectly wearable. Yup, I just typed that. This season Sara Burton delivered a collection so salable, I had to check the URL to make sure I was watching the correct designer. Every piece, even the stitched leather looks, could easily hang in a shop. Although, in all fairness, they won’t hang long because each exit on the runway was pure perfection and should sell in a heartbeat. She kept the house’s traditions alive all the while injecting a healthy dose of femininity into every look. Soft, pale colors were slashed with punches of oiled, black leather and intricate sheers over nude bodies.
Simply put, this collection was a hit.

ValentinoValentino

What the Hell, Valentino? Just when I was ready to write you guys off, you bust out brilliance. Yup, I said it, brilliant. They STILL need to move beyond that sloper bodice and A-line skirt cut they have glommed on to, but overall, this collection was beautiful. Heavily influenced by Africa (Val himself revisited the theme several times) the design duo churned out piece after piece of smartly crafted culture. I could live without the model’s cornrows, but past that, the collection was smooth in its delivery of what could have been a convoluted mess. The overall color mood was dark and somber, but within that, the variety of textures gave it a life and energy that only a skilled atelier, like Valentino’s, could handle.

WestwoodWestwood

Yeah, I know, it’s a guy in a dress, but hear me out. This season proved that Westwood’s vision is alive and well. The design team, with Dame Viv at the helm, took us on a romp through the archives of collections like Pagen and Coquette, with a clearly re-worked, modern sophistication. No one will ever accuse Westwood of playing it safe, but there seemed to be a clean comfort in revisiting the house’s heritage, even with the goofy showpieces. I know it’s silly to mention, but you could feel genuine emotion coming from some of the clothes. Not everyone will understand this season, but what makes it to the stores will definitely have her customers begging for more.

Coming soon, the season’s turkey list!

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…

Fall 2015 Ready to Wear: Paris

Paris when it sizzles!

I was pleasantly surprised this time around, in the city of lights. Yeah, there were a few duds, but honestly, there weren’t that many bad collections. Honestly, there was something to pull from every line presented this season.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but for the first time EVER on this blog, I don’t have a fashion turkey list to present for this city OR the entire season.

I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING!!!

Having said that, let’s focus on the last stop of the magical fashion tour that is fall 2015.

 Aganovich

Second season I’ve noticed this collection and well, I think I’m in love. It does skew a bit steampunk meets Tim Burton, but really, how is that a bad thing? The cuts are innovative, the fabrics, although traditional, are always rendered with a modern vibe, and the styling is clean and fitting to the mood.  Sure, some of these pieces are a bit formal and buttoned up, but separated, these pieces would blend into an existing wardrobe of curiosities from around the fashion museum. I would genuinely be interested in seeing a menswear line from this house.

Akris

This house has been around for a while now and their sophisticated longevity was easily reflected in this fall collection. You can always count on Akris to deliver a clean collection, but this season came with a side of subversive sex appeal that is sure to delight their existing clientele and entice a whole new, interested customer.  There wasn’t a retro silhouette in the bunch, and all of the modern fabrics and treatments drove home the point that Akris is setting a course for the future of fashion. Yeah, I know that sounds like nonsense, but seriously, this collection is fantastic.

 Dries Van Noten

Dear Dries, I love you. No, seriously, I really love you and what you do for the industry. I know whe’ve had some dicey seasons recently, but all was forgiven when I saw this collection. It is brilliant. You managed to take the history of your house and inject a healthy dose of freshness into it. The over skirts, in their simplicity, were outstanding.  The stark ethnic prints evoked a linear tribalism that should be explored for future collection inspiration. And the textures and surface treatments… perfection. Thank you for making me smile, thank you for designing this collection and thank you for making beautiful things.

Chanel

Well, if you needed to go shopping for old lady clothes this coming fall, HAVE I GOT A HOUSE FOR YOU! Seriously, every look on the runway had a dated, vintage look without any sense of irony. Goofy volumes, clunky details and wandering fabric patterns left me confused and scared.  Nothing in this collection seemed to fit, and in the case of that hideous chicken feather overcoat, practically drowned the model in a flurry of gully-fluff! This is the season to skip at Chanel.

Maison Margiela

Well, if the Artisinal collection Galliano designed for the house didn’t convince you that he knows what the Hell he is doing, this collection drove the point home like a NASCAR driver crossing the finish line. Yes the makeup and styling was over the top, but honestly, for this house, a genuine argument could be made for its restraint! There were treats and tricks to every look. From almost unnoticeable beading on the print of a blazer to the loose floats on a brocade woven to look inside out, the textile story this season was superb. This collection has never been for the masses, and as long as Galliano is at the helm, I’m just fine with that. Bravo John!

 McQueen

OMG REAL CLOTHES ON THE RUNWAY!!! I can’t believe it! From start to finish, I honestly couldn’t see one goofy showpiece! I’m truly floored that Burton was able to stow away the pageantry and focus on wearable pieces. Hell, even the cuts looked like a bevy of house signatures and line traditions. I don’t have a problem with the showmanship as long as there is SOMETHING to wear on the runway. but it just seems that Burton couldn’t calm down the crazy in recent seasons. Here, she shows restraint and refinement. Sarah, please keep this up, because this collection was great!

Rick Owens

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Rick Owens is a brilliant designer. His grandeur does get away from him from time to time, but honestly, the guy knows how to make clothes! He knows his customer inside and out and delivers what they want with every collection. This season was an exercise in control as he focused on a palette of Earth tones like stone and ochre. The styling was clean, save for a few gilded faces, and the draping on some of the more ornate pieces was innovative and interesting. You’re never going to go to Owens for a glamorous evening gown, but what he offers in exchange is just as stunning and worth of a spotlight. Not for everyone, but there is definitely going to be a line outside the door when these pieces hit the store next fall.

Yoji Yamamoto

I was almost hesitant to talk about this collection; I’m not really sure why, but I saw its beauty as reaching back to Yamamoto’s collections of the 90’s, and this kind of worried me that Yoji was creating a swan song, of sorts. There was such an honestly to the clothes, and I know this is going to sound really stupid, that they felt almost TOO personal.  Like he was ending something and never returning. I know, I know, weird, right? Anyhoo, this collection was beautiful. From clean and simple looks like the gray jacket pictured, to over the top ball gowns built with scaffolding and under structures that stuck out like card tables, this collection covered all the points it set out to make. I just hope this season doesn’t end something for Yamamoto because I want to see what the future holds for his work.

OK kids, that’s all for this season.

I’ll be back soon with a big announcement. Well, it’s big for me.