The last word one might associate with haute couture is practical. Yet with this autumn/winter 2016 season we saw flat shoes, jeans and even hoodies. Perhaps couture veterans were competing with the wearable, street-influenced style of guest-star Vetements, whose unprecedented inclusion on the schedule (albeit showing ready-to-wear spring/summer 2017) brought with it 18 collaborations spanning from noughties staple, Juicy Couture, to classic Levi’s. Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren of Victor & Rolf, saw Demna Gvasalia’s denim and raised him and his team ankle-grazing trousers adorned in a hodgepodge of buttons. The pair engaged with some high-end upcycling, reusing fabrics from past collections to create macramé sweatshirts and army parkas sprouting layers of tulle.
More recycle than upcycle, John Galliano, designing for Maison Margiela, revisited a theme that has peppered his work since his 1984 graduate collection at Saint Martins: the French Revolution. The label’s signature Tabi boots were interwoven with wellies, while the styling subverted outerwear, sending out jackets worn upside down. At Chanel, where the house codes — such as tweed and suiting — reigned supreme, recreating the atelier at the Grand Palais provided the show with a down-to-earth element, as Karl Lagerfeld shared the finale bow with the premières. Meanwhile, Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri (in her last show for the maison), Valentino’s hopeless romantics, incorporated slim trousers worn with riding boots into their Shakespearean showcase.
Here, we highlight our favourite collections from the week where fantasy took a tiny step closer to reality.
Of course Karl Lagerfeld would rebuild the entire atelier, bringing his petites mains, from Chanel to the Grand Palais. Perhaps the simulacrum of work, process and craftsmanship in a format of 15 minutes can never be fully real, but the proof that handmade is king at Chanel made the outfits coming down the runway that much more alluring and special. It was touching that Lagerfeld did two laps at the end with his premieres, the artisans that make his fantasy a reality.
Best for: Women who will never give tweed the cold shoulder
Attempting to reinterpret the house’s iconic 1938 circus collection, Bertrand Guyon kept the pink elephants to a minimum, instead delivering bedazzled cut-out gowns and streamlined separates with nods to surrealism.
Best for: Wearing you art on your sleeve
Seeing the Dior couture collection and all its long, feminine, breezy skirts and flat Roman sandals, was made all the more interesting given the announcement that Maria Grazia Chiuri would be joining the atelier. Perhaps Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux felt compelled by the easy, breezy vibe made popular by Valentino. But construction and modernism from their time with Raf Simons was also still present. A small live orchestra and a return to the maison of Monsieur Dior made the show incredibly intimate and personal, and Celine Dion sitting a stone throw away from all of us made it all the more exciting.
Best for: Going back to basics
John Galliano made Maison Margiela his own this season with references to his past collections, Les Incroyables and Les Merveilleuses. Channelling the spirit of the French Revolution, an anarchic undertone shone through with neon face painting and the topsy-turvy styling of wearable outerwear.
Best for: Those who say they want a revolution
Viktor & Rolf
Coca-Cola sweatshirts and princess gowns worn under jackets, all topped off with Mad Hatter style top hats, made up Viktor & Rolf’s ode to their past. The duo’s interpretation of sustainable fashion saw heavily embroidered jeans with army parks and hoodies bestrewn in woven fabrics, tulle and buttons.
Best for: Hoarding heroines