Although it is the Spring/Summer 2014 haute couture collections on show in Paris this week, there is something so light and girly about some of the creations, that if you didn’t read the invite closely, you might mistake some for ready-to-wear.
Consider the plethora of shorts on show, perhaps not the first image that comes to mind when imagining haute couture but certainly big this season, and a light unadorned feel in several collections.
Chanel was no exception, with its sporty Spring/Summer 2014 show which included silver knee-pads that looked like something from a skating ring, and models wearing sneakers with a series of girly suits with short skirts which worked with the hour-glass form.
But make no mistake, these were well-dressed women heading for a garden party or a game of tennis in dainty sculptural outfits that could perhaps be dubbed sports-couture.
The collection worked with the idea of separate top and bottom halves – with a gap between, say, the jacket and skirt that revealed a midriff covered in what looked like a figure-hugging body suit. The hour-glass shape was worked into the form of several evening gowns.
There were plenty of curves, around shoulders or worked into the rounded shape of short skirts. But these looked modern rather than old-school or voluptuous.
Three-quarter length trouser suits and oblong button-up jackets reminded one of cute little school boy outfits from yesteryear, as did the pleated shirts with bows.
Models dragged flowing material behind them with a series of light fluid evening dresses, worn by these fun creatures that seemed to have delved into a play box of feathers and scarves, and wrapped materials around them to create delightful playful outfits.
For true couture lovers, there were a series of beautiful peacock-inspired evening dresses, with feather sprouting forth above sheer panels, which covered the legs like a fairy dress.
Alexandre Vauthier sent tiger-like women prowling down his Spring/Summer 2014 Haute Couture runway, decorated in gold and leopard prints, their long legs extending between sexy gold short suits, or from beneath a Tarzan-like leopard print dress, with swaths of material stretching across the breasts and shoulders, and panels of material swaying between bronzed legs. A leather skirt was pinned together on one hip, barely covering the legs, a shirt fallen to reveal one shoulder, and a red bra matching sexy high-heeled shoes. A red bodice extended into a mini skirt, lending a voluptuous curve to this tiny ensemble. Leaving even less to the imagination was a sheer body suit that looked as if it were made from see-through black stockings. The top half was covered in piles of long necklaces, a jacket flying from the shoulders to complete the outfit. Backstage after the show, Vauthier said that he worked on new techniques, most visible in three ruffled designs, where stiffened swirls of material curled around the model’s bodies, staying in place like a perfectly coiffed curled hair-do.
Vionnet Haute Couture
Following on from the first haute couture show in sixty years from the house of Elsa Schiaparelli earlier this week, another old-world brand Vionnet presented a demi-couture collection, designed by Hussein Chalayan, using the female form as a drawing board from which to create artistic, feminine, avant-garde fashion.
Drawing from the history of the house, there were beautiful pleated full-length skirts in fly-away organza and long bias-cut dresses. Think a cross between a kimono and a toga. Chalayan played with monotone pencil like silhouettes for some strikingly understated dresses, one in skin tone, one done in a pale shade of gray, which was slightly transparent, winding like fine wrapping paper around the models.
There was a certain type of draping in play, less Greek statue, and more unconventional and minimalist. Consider a white tunic with a fly-away shoulder included on one side only that had a hint of draping about it.
In other designs too, Chalayan made the shoulders into an artsy part of the design, and there were varied shoulder designs within several garments, like a pencil thin white floor-length dress, with a long slit up the middle, which sported one simple and one ruffled rounded shoulder. The collection certainly felt more couture than many here this week and was refreshingly beautiful, original, modern and unconventional.
Julien Fournie said backstage after his Spring/Summer 2014 show here this week that business for haute couture is alive and kicking and, in his case, that there is a particular demand in Singapore and Saudi Arabia. Presenting the collection which he said he spent six months working on, he re-worked old-world flowing gowns with volumous full-length skirts, which folded naturally to the floor into feminine ensembles with creative upper halves, giving a distinct look to each piece, from a silvery-looking roll neck paired with a long flowing skirt, to a pretty silver bodice with a ruffled hem and strappy shoulders. One striking red full-length dress was cinched at the waist and connected to a gray, shirt-like upper half covered in red sashes pulled across the shoulders. The designer also presented a couple of silvery trouser suits for the modern girl, as well as frilly ruffled mini skirts, one of which connected to a silvery sculpted top with short arms and a high neck that looked a little sci-fi. The grand finale was a wedding-dress style white gown with a wide floor-length skirt, worn with a beautifully worked head piece, made from what looked like delicate white flowers and green stalks.