Thursday 18 January 2018

Super Tisci shows Gaytten the Dior

Givenchy's Riccardo took haute couture to paradise, leaving Bill in an unconvinced Paris, writes Jessica Whyte

Armani Prive. Hat by Philip Treacy
Alexis Mabille
Jean-Paul Gaultier
Elie Saab

Jessica Whyte

At last week's show of autumn/winter haute couture collections in Paris, the audience in attendance were mostly dressed in Prada's tropical prints, illustrating that ready-to-wear is no longer outre at this exclusive -- and oft excluding -- event.

And for these critics who see haute couture as nothing more than an over-hyped textile extravaganza, then the offerings from Dior didn't work to change their minds.

Bill Gaytten, who is now leading the design team since the dismissal of John Galliano, was quoted backstage as saying that it was time to do something more modern with Dior. Sadly, the collection, which was a veritable dolly mixture of wacky prints, candy hues and contrived silhouettes that completely expelled the brand's strong DNA, failed to convince.

Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel carried through his arguably sombre tones from last season's ready-to-wear through to this couture collection. The tweed suits sported a stronger shoulder than one is accustomed to and were offset with peplum waists and in some cases with tiered, knee-length skirts. Mention must be made of the feathered boater hats that appeared with every look and were really charming.

Jean-Paul Gaultier's collection was true to this master's style stamp: sumptuous, evocative and deeply sexy. Not something you often see in couture.

Armani Prive delved into Japan's cultural vault for its season's offerings.

Ever present was superb garment craftsmanship, evidenced in luxurious velvet blazers teamed with matching cropped trousers, razor-sharp suiting and ridged bodices. But where Armani predictably triumphed in technique, the creative aspect to the collection was somewhat lacklustre. Parasols and cherry-blossom printed dresses, cinched with obi belts, left me cold at times, though Philip Treacy's origami-inspired head pieces did lift the creative energy somewhat.

Trumping in the creative stakes was Stephane Rolland, whose oriental-inspired collection showcased the East in a way I haven't seen for a long time. In a bewitching colour palette of black and forest green, punctuated with shots of purple, yellow and white, Rolland's signature draped gowns were adorned with bold ornament fixtures. Once again this designer has managed to work from an inspirational source and breathe new life into it, rather than simply transposing it onto a runway collection.

This season the Chambre Syndicale invited eight new designers to show on the official schedule which is testament to the fact that young blood is keen to penetrate the institution.

Two newcomers in particular caught my attention. Giambattista Valli, whose ready-to-wear pieces have been a fixture at Brown Thomas for some years now, produced a stellar couture collection. Structured coats cocooned in floral embroidery, and frothy, white ostrich feather frocks gave way to cocktail dresses in coral, black and leopard print. Giambattista has a reputation for exquisite cocktail wear, but I think this debut collection will send it over the edge.

Almost a million light-years away (from a creative standpoint that is) Dutch designer extraordinaire Iris Van Herpen had guests scrambling over each other to catch a glimpse of her "new age" couture designs. Van Herpen's day-to-day working materials include plastics, skins and metals of every description. Her dresses fabricated from copper wire and corsets constructed from infused leather have dutifully given haute couture a sturdy kick in an exciting new direction.

While I am someone who happily welcomes modernity into the world of haute couture, I feel that the more traditional approaches to the craft most certainly have a place in today's industry. This season, Elie Saab -- one such traditionalist -- gave them the old razzle-dazzle in the form of jaw-dropping eveningwear that razzled and dazzled and was anything but old.

Fresh and invigorating, the collection featured heavily embroidered princess gowns and ballerina dresses, some in delicate lace and others draped in tulle and bathed in jewels. It was old-world elegance for the modern-day woman.

For many seasons, critics have whinged that all Elie Saab uses are sequins, jewels and crystals. This near-flawless collection retorted to those critics: and your point is?

But it was Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy who took us straight to paradise.

Inspired by angels; the 10-piece presentation, paid homage to centuries worth of knowledge and craftsmanship, not to mention months of meticulous work.

Reviving ancient atelier techniques such as caviar beading, where dozens of beads are layered onto each other so that they form a multi-dimensional effect, truly have to be seen to be believed. Despite the pieces hanging motionless from metal fixtures, never had I seen such movement in a garment; be it through the playful chasing of the light around an embroidered sleeve to the degrade effect travelling up a gown's hem.

In a collection that left me feeling as if I had died and gone to heaven, it was Ricardo Tisci who left me in no doubt that haute couture is alive and kicking. Ass that is.

Galleries from the shows

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