What's haute: Best couture shows of AW17
Haute off the runway
Beneath what Katy Perry's jet-lagged stupor described as a chopped up and relocated Eiffel tower—but really was an on scale replica built under the dome of the Grand Palais—Chanel Couture extolled the hallmarks of the house in an expression of love to the city of Paris. Boucle took down the gravel path in timely reminiscence of the days of Madame Gabrielle while cut-away rolled collars and sculpted arching shoulders followed suit to command a venerable persona. Alongside the voluminous suits were slim columns with some ending below the calve and others flashing more leg in their mini proportions. The reserved colouring allowed for better appreciation of the classic tweed but in interruption of the sobriety were flashes of leather, startling bouquets of silky plumes and large pom poms of feathery rosettes. A singular pearl lariat that peeked in and out from under the fold of an inky satin dress spoke the same language of restraint Coco Chanel would approve of. Meanwhile, lucite heeled booties in patent leather and tweed bore the touch of the Kaiser.
Exploration is to be expected from a couturier's sophomore season in the atelier of a grand maison. Here, Maria Grazia Chiuri mapped out her homage to the one and only Mr. Dior with 66 looks constructed from a specific archival silhouette comprised of a low cinched bodice and lower body fullness within an A-line. Under slim strips of leather that belted looks together, the collection ebbed and flowed between weighty outerwear in mannish fabrics and Dior grey to ethereal silk skirts and gowns that billowed in the warm summer breeze. A myriad of pleat saturated dresses—from delicate plisse and ruching to multicoloured pleated panels, the craftsmanship couture affords was not amiss. If gauzy creations do not float up your alley, plush velvet evening dresses could be an elegant go-to come winter. For your next expedition: consider heavy painted and embroidered capes draped off-shoulder and lugged sole walking shoes à la Dior.
In place of his practiced aria of colour, Giorgio Armani expressed his vision for the collection in a markedly more sombre palette. While the theme of the night was a "mystery", it was divulged that the show was dedicated to the late Franca Sozzani. And in the focussed execution and vintage elegance of the exits, the spirit of Italian Vogue's revered icon lived on. Frosty tones and gorgeous iterations of the pant suit opened. Curved constructions and exemplary tailoring built on sinuous cut lines echoed the feminine figure beautifully. Armani's mastery of ornamentation came through in graphic florals and lashings of crystals and beads. Occasional jolts of magenta, lilac and royal blue pierced through the dusky glamour and mirrored the coloured agate that adorned the earlobes and arms of models.
It would be difficult to not covet Pierpaolo Piccioli's sacrosanct merger of couture and religion. Bearing no likeness to the outré trappings of ritualistic garb, Valentino's couture tribute to the ecclesiastical soared with a pure and joyful spirit. A parade of monastic yet majestic offerings for the evening were a welcome distinction from more body-flaunting styles. Capes fit for fashion royalty sashayed down the runway with neither pomp nor circumstance. Instead, an air of regality accompanied each exit. But it was the popsicle-hued daywear that stole the show. How Piccolo succeeds in making those sumptuous floor length capes a worthy autumnal counterpart to summer kaftans and an acceptable option for daytime is beyond us. One almost forgets the heavy creed that informed the set until flourishing heraldic motifs appear as intarsia and hand-tacked appliqué on looks crafted with more than a thousand hours of labour.
Albeit promenading down a less devout route, Fendi took us to church in couture with their haute fourrure lineup. Fantastical florals of all shapes and sizes adorned a collection dominated by cocoon-figured ensembles. Coloured sable and shaved mink were two products of the atelier's focus this season and they appeared in surprising clusters and in full unadulterated splendour—blossoming like blue poppies on coats and dresses in the former and enveloping its wearer in a field of dreams by way of the latter. Vivid bags bearing larger-than-life blooms were clutched like freshly plucked bouquets from a garden in Wonderland. Walking in the footsteps of a true surrealist, Karl Lagerfeld abandoned all restrictions and gave us, through his colourful and varied collection, a glimpse into the movement applied in cloth.