Haute Couture AW17 Highlights

Frilled overlays, cinched-in waists and a rabbit hole of technicolour dominated the noticeably contemporary Haute Couture Week for autumn/winter17.

It’s easy to get captivated in the flurry of glorious gowns, spectacular street style and star-studded front rows. However, if you fall down the rabbit hole of tulle you might find you have missed yet another iconic fashion moment. Alas, all is not lost. Here, Fashion Forte rounds up the highlights that got the fashion industry talking this month.

Join us in our Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week AW17 roundup.


Laura and Kate Mulleavy and their American fashion label Rodarte are just one of the ready-to-wear brand’s showing within the Paris couture calendar. “France treats fashion like art; it just isn’t like that in America,” explained Kate to The New York Times.

So while they are going to be notably absent from the New York Spring/Summer 2018 schedule come September, their team of 9 jumped ship from Los Angeles to Paris. They may be RTW designers but travel back to the beginning when they hand-sewed couture-like dresses on the kitchen table back home in California, and fairytale fantasies filled their imaginations, and you realise why they deserve to be here.

They’ve assured that this collection would be “pure Rodarte. Rather than any specific influence, it is a real celebration of us and our design DNA.”

And so on the 2nd July and the first day of the couture collections, surrounded by a courtyard filled with English roses, the sisters told their story to the extremely wealthy customers attending for the first time.

It was a combination of the Rodarte woman. Her femininity ushered through in sheer lace in frilled overlays, ruffles, polka-dots and blooms, like the fresh baby’s breathe pinned into hair, wired to wreaths, wrapped around arms or a bunch gripped in hands and trailing behind.

But as Laura pointed out, “It’s never too pretty, there’s always something weird.” The location was a 16th century cloister that was once a hospital. Combine this with the low-rise biker trousers pinned with pearls and showing plenty of midriff, dresses made from jet-black leather, bows cut from metal, high leather boots and black lace; it all translated Rodarte’s dark twist on romantic prettiness. It was a collection the couture clientele dream of.

Christian Dior

Image Source: Vogue Runway

Presenting her latest couture offering at the Hôtel National des Invalides the very same day as the opening of the largest Dior retrospective, sparked Maria Grazia Chiuri’s imagination. She dug through the house’s archives and came across Albert Decaris’s map created in 1953 retracing Monsieur Dior’s stores across five continents. That’s just seven years after his debut – incredibly forward-thinking for the time. “A complete collection should address all types of women in all countries,” Dior wrote in his autobiography. This was Chiuri’s starting point.

She called upon Italian artist Pietro Ruffo and in the gardens he created wooden animals and stood them at the corners of the star-shaped catwalk to represent five continents around the globe. Look up at the centre and you saw a terrestrial star illustrated with a celestial map above an eagle swooping in for land. Ruffo’s illustrations weren’t just for the setting his map for example was embroidered onto a cape and a jacket.

For this voyage, inspired by female explores, Chiuri offered a few masculine ensembles – the aviator suit for example – next to embroidered flowers and tarot cards upon feminine silhouettes citing Dior’s New Look. But they were cut from menswear fabrics and atop tulle and silk skirts.

This feminine/masculine combination continued evening gowns worn with mannish fedora hats. In homage to Christian Dior, focus was on daywear, mainly suiting and in a colour palette that was considerably Dior grey – from dove, to stone and slate. To fully honour the founder of the historic house on its anniversary, some of the ball gowns here were reinterpretations of pieces under Dior’s reign, proving why Dior’s legacy has reigned for 70 years and will continue to do so.


Haute Couture Fashion Week AW17 roundup

The Grand Vermeil medal is Paris’s highest honour. In Karl Lagerfeld’s case it recognises his influence on Parisian fashion worldwide. Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, presented it to the designer and said Lagerfeld is “someone who makes Paris more magical; someone who makes Paris a city in which things happen. Paris loves you Karl. You are Paris.”

To which the legendary man, whose first collection for Chanel dates back to haute couture Spring/Summer 1983, replied, “Lets celebrate France and Paris. Vive la France!“ And he did just moments before.

What better way to honour the city than by bringing its most famous landmark under the Grand Palais’ glass dome roof. Standing at 124-foot, the Eiffel Tower looked as though it was nestled in the clouds.

The tower – or ChanelTower as it was coined here – influenced the long and tubular graphic lines, puff sleeves and dome or A-line shapes of the daywear crafted from tweed, mohair or wool. Lagerfeld’s focus was on tailoring and the iconic tweed jacket was either cropped, double-breasted or cut into a tunic silhouette.

The colours in the 1926 painting ‘La Tour Eiffel’ by cubist Robert Delaunay and the geometric shapes by his wife Sonia came to more than just the show invitation. You saw the influence through the colourful eye make-up, circular earrings centred with pearls, the coloured strips embroidered through tweeds, and cubist motifs on embellished gowns finished with three-dimensional hems.

It was here in the eveningwear that the magical work of the craftspeople at the ateliers and the specialists Chanel owns took hold. Lemarié’s feathers sprouted from shoulders and hems, and burst from necklines. Lagerfeld said they were treated like fur. And Lesage’s embroidery sparkled on midnight blue gowns, as if to resemble the Eiffel Tower lighting up the night sky. It showcased the intense labour put into these creations by the artisans living and working in the city, preserving the haute couture heritage and proving time again why Paris is the centre of fashion.

Maison Margiela

After a last minute change of plan regarding location, John Galliano brought Maison Margiela Artisanal back home to the 18th century former convent – the house’s headquarters since 2004. Attendees faced the windows flooding daylight into the white studio with an old church on view outside. Seated next door to Galliano’s studio, they were surrounded by 19th century paintings, sketches, mannequins, sewing tables, toiles, fabric swatches and photographs from fittings, all revealing the process behind the scenes.

As the show started and each model walked by, what appeared to be the workings of a couture house, garments in-between creations, was in fact the illusion of glamour. What is glamour now? Asked Galliano. What springs to mind instantly here was red nails and lips topped with shiny foil and luminous skin created by make-up artist Pat McGrath. There was also metallic shades coating cowboy boots, feathered skirts and a moodboard citing Marilyn Monroe, Kate Moss and Marlene Dietrich as inspiration.

The question and the collection’s origins came to him when Galliano’s partner asked him to walk the dog whilst he was in the shower. He jumped out and put on a trench coat belted at the waist and said he felt glamorous. The coat acted like a piece of armour, an outer layer of protection to feel ready to step out in haste.

That was the focus here; the coat. With model’s hair wet and slick to the head, crowned with glittered coifs or a sort of white foam mess, it represented his shower scene and a woman unprepared who hasn’t washed the shampoo out. The trench was deconstructed with the gabardine ripped and paired with a pin-tucked coat. One checked wool coat with a belted waist had detachable sleeves and hid an inner corselet. It also took on different forms too; oversized using plisse organza and ‘evoking ripped cardboard,’ said the house’s Instagram. And another pin-tucked trench was belted and centred round the waist of a sheer crin dress with feathered hem.

It wasn’t about getting to the answer of what glamour is now, to Galliano it was more about the research that interested him, fusing both historical and modern day connotations.

Iris van Herpen

Image Source: Vogue Runway

The Dutch band Between Music were submerged in tanks full of water, complete with custom-made musical instruments. They created the soundtrack to Iris Van Herpen’s couture offering. The designer said she was fascinated with the way they created noise in a space with no air.

She drew from this unique method of performance as clothes in the show entitled Aeriform turned sculptural, melding technology and using water and air as inspiration.

“It motivated me to dive into the contrasts between water and air, between outside and inside, between lightness and darkness.”

Known for eschewing the notions of couture we are used to seeing in these three days, but by no means unexceptional, these clothes felt more wearable than ever for van Herpen.

You saw her influence coming through to volumes and shapes the fabrics created as they appeared to be standing freely away from the body, or when organza was printed with Op Art lines and resembled water’s waves and ripples. The dresses at the end really mimicked the theme. Roses were cut from extremely lightweight metal and suspended around the body ‘like a silver cloud,’ as described in the show notes. It really was a fascinating spectacle.

Giambattista Valli

Image Source: Vogue Runway

In view of his new investor François Pinault sitting front row, Giambattista Valli presented a collection dedicated to flowers and set at the Petit Palais, a museum of fine arts in the 8th arrondissement of Paris.

Upon his mood board were pictures of delicate foliage in different shades. These translated to the runway as blooms appeared three-dimensional and sat with sequins on mini dresses at the start of the show. The lily of the valley was one flower that appeared on one ice white gown with black trim.

Merging with the florals was pleated and draped silk chiffon in colours such as rose pink and buttercup yellow as Valli also cited Pre Raphaelite paintings as inspiration. The historical referencing was partnered with the 21st century as gowns elevated at the front and trains draped behind as feet slipped into ballet flats, giving an ease in movement.

No Valli collection would be complete without the momentous tulle gowns in the finale, and he didn’t disappoint here with a trio, two in shades of pink and one finishing with black.

Celine Dion expressed how everyone was feeling as she leapt to her feet, jumped up and down and gave a excitable round of applause, appreciated by the designer who took hugs from the singer and Pinault, who seemed extremely happy too.


Image Source: Vogue Runway

Critics have called Pierpaolo Piccioli’s latest Valentino show the best to date – it’s been a year since he went alone after his creative partner set her sights for Dior.

For haute couture AW 2017 he brought his 70 petite mains from their usual headquarters in Rome to Paris for a collection that’s all about the sacred and profound love of couture.

“In this moment, everything is digital and about rationalism,” the creative director said. “I think all of us are looking for something more spiritual, beyond reality. This is really close to the idea of couture because every aspect of the sacred is expressed by rituals, and couture is made by rituals. Sacred is what is beyond reality, what you don’t see but you just feel, you just perceive. What makes couture special, unique and magical is what you don’t see – all the rituals to arrive at the piece.” What you don’t see is the hours of work and profound love that goes into each and every look.

He took the historic craft and showed how contemporary it can be, dispute the centuries old rituals. Starting off with daywear in the form of colour blocked separates in graphic shapes; oversized coats with notch lapels, capes worn over blouses or shirts and paired with crepe trousers – each dared you to look beyond the simplicity and explore the craft.

The workmanship was clear to see as Piccioli cited Venus and Francisco de Zurbaran 17th century portrait paintings as inspirations. The Sariel tulle dress with red velvet and guipures created a stunning contrast and then there was Pahaliah with her chiffon and metallic fringes. The dropped-waist wool dress named Zerachiel, with orche red and fermented blue lace inserts, embroidered with organza and feathers, for example took the premieres 700 hours to craft. That’s what Piccioli was talking about when he said it’s what you don’t see that makes couture magical.