SS18 Paris Haute Couture: The Round Up

For the past four days, over 30 of the world’s finest designers have gathered in Paris to display their Spring Summer 2018 haute couture collections. As Valentino closed the week, we look at our best highlights across the bi-annual Parisian event.

Christian Dior; where high fashion met the world of modern art. Turning the garden of the Musée Rodin into a fairytale-esque setting, models walked amongst enormous body part sculptures hanging from the mirrored ceiling of the tent; emulating the Surrealist inspiration behind Maria Grazia Chiuri’s spring haute couture collection. Chiuri’s craftsmanship led her to sophisticated tailoring with plenty of couture flourish. With a slightly retro aesthetic, she worked primarily in black and white, “the colours of the subconscious”, as she described before the show. The colour combination came in bold graphics, explosive feathers and, for the show stopper, a white-detailed black gown, almost mystical in its appearance. Birds, symbolising escapism, were also a reoccurring theme. From birdcage hoop earrings and mesh cage dresses to the peacock feathers depicted onto bejewelled and fringed gowns, Chiuri turned a wonderfully weird movement into wearable, mouth-watering art.

When Megan Markle donned the label for her engagement photos with Prince Harry, the year looked promising for London-based couture house, Ralph & Russo. Already worn by the likes of Beyonce, Angelina Jolie and Sonam Kapoor, the pair has taken the industry by the scruff of the neck and don’t seem to be slowing down. Looking to the East for inspiration, Tamara Ralph showed a collection hinged on decoration; dresses with pearl and crystal finishes that shone from every surface, dazzling arrays of ostrich feathers from head to toe and a 1930’s-style silk crepe kimono with hand-painted flowers, ivory crystals, organza petals, and draping fringing and tassels. Ralph’s ever existing knack for perfectly surfacing the feminine form was combined with a graceful colour pallet of rose pinks, baby blues and elegant nudes. An unsurprisingly incandescent collection from Tamera Ralph, who is one of the only three female creative directors eligible to present their collections during couture week.

Black and white seemed to be a theme at this years fashion extravaganza; which did not stop at Giambattista Valli’s stunning collection which was inspired by a British flower garden. Before delving into his spring centred pallet, Valli opened with a sequence of black and white outfits that played with transparency and embroidered floral fabrics. Evening gowns stole the show and similarly toyed with contrasts; pastoral asymmetric bustier dresses accompanied by ballet slippers versus floor-sweeping silk chiffon gowns. Effortless in aesthetic, the godlessly like dresses required up to 50 yards of fabric per piece.

Claire Waight Keller’s debut collection for Givenchy will go down in history for many reasons. Not only was it remarkably Keller’s first couture collection ever, it was also the first haute couture collection for the Maison in 8 years as well as the first time a woman has been at its helm. Therefore, there was a lot to live up to and if the British designer had any apprehensions before she took charge of Givenchy, she worked through them efficiently and appropriately to produce a collection flourishing with grace and pride. That meant a sharply rendered menswear derivation cross-referenced with the traditional, feminine trappings of couture. Backstage after the show, she said of her approach, “I like to think of it as old soul in a new reincarnation.” Upon a moonlit garden, Keller brought romance and courage together. Of the ‘big’ design houses, introducing men’s haute couture to a show has only previously been seen at Dolce & Gabbana; we await the outcome as Keller craftily takes on the high-end market, dominated by the bespoke tailors of Milan and Saville Row.

And finally, at the end of the extravagant week, one of fashion’s greatest, John Galliano, managed to put his stamp on the collective for Maison Margiela. Toying with the illusion of social media, Galliano asked press and the audience to use flash photography when capturing the Maison Margiela show. In turn, this transformed the dresses, from seemingly plain black into an eye-catching glorious technicolour. The effect was not visible to the naked eye and was used to show the alternative reality our ideographic society can present to the world; an idea the designer finds both intriguing but also repelling. In true Galliano style, the collection was an offering that paired the beautiful with weirdly bizarre; sportswear playing a key role with ski jackets redesigned into black-tie gowns and bungee cords used as neck ties for raw silk dresses. For accessories, think crystallised swimming caps in place of earrings. Galliano told the audience, “When lines between daywear and eveningwear are blurred, relaxed glamour becomes the essential dress code in our everyday life.”

As we reflect on the craftsmanship that sashayed down the runway it’s safe to say that the past week encapsulated a dark gothic theme that juxtaposed the ethereal moments. In a current world where we’re faced with political uncertainty yet presented with waves of hope, fashion has once again represented and highlighted the current affairs of our world today, filled with concern yet optimism.