There’s nothing like the escapism of Haute Couture to brighten a dull and seemingly endless January. With workmanship to swoon over, these are some of the most beautifully crafted and exquisitely made clothes that money can buy. For spring/summer 2013 evidence of artisanal effort was in abundance. Designers were inspired by all things botanical and a spirit of romance filled the collections. Here’s my four favourites.
Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli made the magic of couture appear almost effortless in their stunning spring/summer collection, their fourth for the house of Valentino. Paradoxically, the level of sheer worksmanship reached staggering heights: the collection’s motif of crepe piping took a reported 500 hours of hand-rolling to produce. Piped rococo scrolls seemed almost like the wrought iron of a garden gate, with the collection’s standout look featuring layer upon layer of organza, embroidered with butterflies and birds and wrapped in a tulle cage adorned with this piping. And all this was somehow achieved without looking too ‘done’ – embroidery and crystal beading nestled within layers of delicate voile so naturally they became part of the whole. Graceful, gauzy perfection was punctuated by regular shots of the house’s signature red.
At Dior, Raf Simons riffed on flowers – a key motif interpreted variously by Dior’s petits mains over the years since the eponymous designer was himself at the helm. Reportedly inspired by reading Dior’s autobiography on holiday last Summer, Simons found they shared a voracious appetite for nature. Serene blooms were rendered with special effects including embroidered and appliquéd flowers that formed a cocoon, a dizzying array of trompe l’oeil pansies and delicate beading. Garments were precisely, almost architecturally constructed and often asymmetric in style. Skirts had pockets and – shock horror – trousers made the cut, all part of Simons’ efforts to make couture more ‘real’. These garments evidenced the power of such couture handiwork combined with Simons’ intense vision.
Chanel’s Couture spectacle transported guests to an enchanted forest in Paris’ Grand Palais, where they wandered until they reached a neo-classical amphitheatre. Inspired by the nineteenth-century Weimar Romanticism of Goethe and Schiller, Lagerfeld’s melancholic collection suffused sparkling daytime tweeds and sequinned evening looks with sylvan romance. The collection’s strong, articulated, and at times almost armour-like shoulders cut a strong silhouette and served to highlight and elongate the neck. Prints were a technical feat, made in fact from the lightest and most delicate embroidery. Notably, the collection ended with two brides – the designer’s nod to the gay-marriage controversy currently hitting headlines in France.
Elie Saab’s collection, appropriately named ‘An Ode to Delicateness’, saw the designer’s signature beadwork adorn lace and tulle of varying transparencies, at times appearing to float over the body. The collection’s clever use of layering contributed to this illusion, as did the demure necklines, full skirts and long sleeves, which cut an elegant silhoutte. Saab’s signature block pastels were paired with complementary and silvery embroidery and punctuated at times with red and black. Multicoloured florals were covered all over with black beads, creating a unique print – something new for the usually print-averse designer.
All images: Style.com