Clusters of lace, scoops of gauze, floor-length gowns: couture has always been the pinnacle of high fashion. Fashion houses have flocked to Paris to display their latest couture offerings, marking not only a move back to the runway, but also the comeback of luxury dressing. Here are the key moments from couture season so far, from Balenciaga’s return to its roots to Pieter Mulier’s debut Alaïa collection.
Demna Gvasalia has been at the helm of Balenciaga for six years, a period marked by rejuvenated Crocs among other staggering concoctions. The designer sits at the throne of a fashion house that was once revered for its haute couture but hasn’t presented such a collection in over 50 years. Gvasalia changed this, bringing couture back into the fold. The show, which featured Kanye West in its front row, was a diversion from traditional couture but has already gained rave reviews from fashion critics. Boxy pantsuits, fluorescent colours, and A-line coats trickled down the runway, later followed by sculpted gowns. There was no music to accompany the extravaganza: “I really wanted the clothes to speak for themselves,” Gvasalia told VOGUE.
Then there was Alaïa. Mulier stuck to the original aesthetic of the iconic designer, known for signature pieces that have long captured the fashion world. This debut couture collection from Mulier is a force to be reckoned with: billowing fabrics, ethereal silhouettes, mammoth-like fur jackets, and elegant leather dresses.
Let’s talk fabrics. The materials of Fall 2021 Couture were varied, but there was one common denominator: unabashed experimentation. Giambattista Valli, for instance, put on a dramatic show, with silk capes, blankets of tulle and chiffon, and bubble-like ballroom dresses. The detail at Dior was equally experimental, with Maria Grazia Chiuri drawing inspiration from the textiles and rich sartorial offerings of India. Embroidery from the region, romantic silk threads, and mythology-inspired dresses burst onto the runway, captivating their audience. The collection was an acknowledgement of the pandemic's hard-hitting economic impact on textile industries and factory workers.
This season designers are aware of a world immersed in successive lockdowns and restrictions. It appears that, in celebration of a global revival, they are gifting their clients escapism in the form of dream-like clothing. Take Chanel, for example. The collection was whimsical with the classic Chanel sense of refinement: glitter, black bows, plaid tweed, and layered feathers coating tulle skirts. There was a nod to bridal wear, too, with the spotlight on a demure, romantic wedding gown.
This sort of atmosphere was similarly found at Fendi and Giorgio Armani. The former involved pastel, pearls, and delicate flower appliques, while the latter featured layers of organza and glistening, iridescent materials. Armani aptly captured this post-pandemic essence with his own words: “I think that during this period, we have discovered a feeling of something true, something powerful, something enriching, something energising, and I want all this to come true, also through my work.”
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