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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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!

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!)

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.

Paris Couture Week: The Aftermath

Fall 2014 Paris Haute Couture week is a thing of the past, and what a delicious feast it was! I rarely declare my favorites, but I’m giving this season to Stephane Rolland and Atelier Versace. Those two houses knocked it out of the park with stellar collections.

Having said that, well…

Let’s face it, with the good, comes the bad and boy, did we get the bad this season. Now, like I’ve said before, some of the best collections have pieces in both the hit and miss columns. You can’t expect a chef to prepare a banquet and not serve a turkey every now and then; so, without further ado…

I present haute couture that… I just can’t…

(Captions follow images.)

Rami Al AliHaute Couture Fall Winter 2014_15 Paris July 2014

“I’d like to try on the giant, pink vagina dress, please.”  …Said no Rami Al Ali, haute couture client, ever.

Chanel, Haute Couture, Fall Winter, 2014, Fashion Show in Paris

Somewhere in the jungle, a gorilla shivers in the night because those bastards at Chanel skinned his legs to make the weirdest arm warmers in existence.  Damn those things are goofy. Any higher and it would look like the model forgot to shave her pits for the last ten years. Now, I know they are feathers, but Hell, King Kong would be jealous of her arms’ fullness.

Fred Sathal, Couture, Fall Winter, 2014, Fashion Show in Paris

NINETAILS! I CHOOSE YOU! Ninetails used attract. It failed. Ninetails fainted.

Honestly, I’m convinced Fred Sathal trained a bunch of stray cats with well-groomed tails to hold onto a corset or something while the model took to the runway.

Giorgio Armani Privé, Couture, Fall Winter, 2014, Fashion Show in Paris

It looks like Armani’s secretary was trying to install a new adding machine ribbon when everything went horribly wrong.

Maison Martin Margiela, Couture, Fall Winter, 2014, Fashion Show in Paris

Dear Maison Martin Margiela, please give my aunt Edith back her living room curtains. The bright light streaming in from the morning sun hurts her eyes.

Schiaparelli, Couture, Fall Winter, 2014, Fashion Show in Paris

This Schiaparelli dress looks like it caught some terrible virus from the leopard carpet.  I see that the darkness has already spread to the model’s gloves. Oh, and on a personal note, it KILLS me that they used double the printed fabric in the bodice. It throws off the soft butter color on the rest of the dress and is making the OCD in me twitch.

Serkan Cura, Haute Couture, Fall Winter, 2014, Fashion Show in Paris

I have no idea how or why her reproductive system exited her body, got covered in glitter and started attacking her, but I hope Serkan Cura figures it out before he makes any more dresses.

Frank Sorbier, Haute Couture, Fall Winter, 2014, Fashion Show in Paris

I don’t want to know what she stuffed down the front of her pants to give her a package because she looks like the kind of girl who can kick my ass.

On Aura Tout Vu, Couture, Fall Winter, 2014, Fashion Show in Paris

Why do I feel that she could get a job serving hors d’oeuvres at the On Aura Tout Vu after-party? Just skewer the boiled shrimp to the crystals and carry some cocktail sauce in a handbag. Maybe she should be wearing a skirt made of napkins.

Oscar Carvallo, Couture, Fall Winter, 2014, Fashion Show in Paris

Why did Oscar Caravallo steal his mamma’s kitchen curtains to make a skirt? And he’d better give his dog back its cone or you just know the damn thing’s gonna lick those stitches.

Until next season!!

Paris Haute Couture Fall 2014: Part 1

This season, I think I’ll try to keep up with the collections instead of just posting a wrap up at the end. I’ll probably give my final thoughts, but for now, I’ll keep doing updates. Rather than make a good/bad list, I’ll just post my thoughts on the various collections as wholes. (Although, I doubt I’ll pass on the opportunity to compile the misses of the season. >;)

Versace. OMG!! THIS COLLECTION WAS AWESOME!!!!! Seriously, it was damn near perfect in its presentation. The cuts were spot on and the the color story was dark and mysterious. I haven’t been in love with an Atelier Versace collection since Gianni died and this season renewed my faith in the house. Absolutely brilliant!!

Schiaparelli. OK, I’ll admit, I kinda liked this collection. It wasn’t all smooth sailing,  but I think it held true to the house’s roots. There were plenty of surreal moments and lots of surprises. Stephen Jones, as usual, did the hats to perfection. You might think that some of these are a bit goofy, but honestly, I can see Elsa herself designing them. I can live without the monkey fur jacket on the squirrel dress, but dammit, I love that print!

On Aura Tout Vu. This collection was refined and like a good sauce, reduced to the core elements that make it delicious. The colors were dark and somber, like looking at crystal-lined cave, on the edge of the sea, through fog.They really have fun with embellishments, but this season felt restrained, in a good way, and that really worked in their favor. J’adore ce collection!

Fred Sathal. I haven’t seen Sathal’s work in a long time, but I see that she hasn’t lost an ounce of her charm. She is known for taking terribly simple shapes and embellishing the Hell out of them. She definitely has a signature look, but it never feels tired or obvious. This was a pulled together season for her and I look forward to seeing her regularly on the Haute Couture schedule.

Dior. I am so very tired of Raf Simons at the house of Dior. He has no clue how to design anything beyond the same five shapes he always makes. Frankly, if you’ve seen one of his collections, you’ve seen them all. It was boring, obvious and frankly, glorified ready to wear. I have only one thing to say about it:

Christian Dior, Couture, Fall Winter, 2014, Fashion Show in Paris fry