Haute Couture Week is a dazzling, speed-run of four days where fashion’s most opulent pieces are shown in the city of fashion: Paris. The days are hectic, a constant feast for the eyes and a good reminder on the need to invest in several pairs of flat shoes. (The Parisian pavements and cobblestoned roads are unkind. Seriously, forgo the heels.) Here’s Schön’s round-up of the best of Haute Couture fall winter 2022.
Iris van Herpen
There’s always a sort of hushed reverence to an Iris van Herpen show. As though everyone knows they’re about to bear witness to the unusual and impossible. Van Herpen’s stage this year was a dimly lit ballroom in the Elysee Montmarte and as guests filed in we were greeted with a sculpture of Ovid’s Daphne at the centre of the runway. With her back arched, unusual creatures bloomed from her open chest where a mechanical heart pulsated inside, inviting us to explore the curious in-between of what is nature and what is artifice. And that’s before we saw the clothes.
It was a notable show for Iris van Herpen as this Haute Couture fall season marked the maison’s fifteenth anniversary. Titled Meta Morphism, Van Herpen created 16 looks built around three myths: the story of Narcissus, Arachne and Daphne & Apollo. This leant towards a tremendously romantic collection that was almost godly in essence.
What Van Herpen does with fabric is magical—each piece moves so gracefully and fabrics move like evanescent smoke—and she attributes this unique quality to a mixture of old couture craft whilst embracing the new with 3D printed fibres and playing with newly created sustainable materials. This collection saw a dress made of 3D printed fibre based on cocoa bean shells and biodegradable fabrics combined with raw silk. As always, each dress was a work of art with Van Herpen’s signature translucent layering, love of voluminous drapes and folds of fabric that look effortless but when observed up close, one can see how painstakingly each fold and pleat is constructed.
As each model glided down the runway showcasing bodices—that varied from the insect-like to the skeletal—the palette shifted ever so delicately from creamy hues, soft greys and sandy browns to unearthly midnight blues, metallic silvers and copper.
Captivating, surreal and forever unusual.
Nature, abundance and GOLD were on the menu for Rahul Mishra’s ‘The Tree of Life’ collection, inspired from growing up in India and witnessing the worship of trees.
Rahul’s collection was every maximalists dream thanks to the stunning hand-embroidered details on every piece that were a love letter to the greatest inspiration of all: nature. Curling clouds twisted around bustiers, foliage capes dripped in 3-D golden leaves, bright pink and yellow poppies bloomed across the skirts of sheer dresses and (a personal favourite) black leggings with embroidered mushrooms ‘growing’ in patches up and down the leg. This resulted in an ethereal and powerful vibe to the collection as models glided down the carpeted runway like a walking golden forest.
With a strong palette of mostly gold and black, the collection’s limited use of colour forced us to focus on the high precision craftsmanship and construction of each piece. Each article of clothing was truly a testament to what couture is all about with fabrics handwoven and hand-weaved in India, embroidered by hand for over 10,000 hours.
“Do you think I’m a diva? Then I am a diva, OK.”
Aretha Franklin’s infamous interview quote echoed out the start of Alexis Mabille’s show, setting the mood of his fall couture collection: DIVA ATTITUDE. Models had fun as they smiled and spun down the runway in glittering sequins and wide-leg pants. Florals were a staple in this collection and featured in lush rose flower necklines on sinuous satin dresses and bedazzled across sharply tailored tuxedos.
Some iconic diva references included a very Grace Jones influenced hooded jumpsuit covered in turquoise sequins and vampy oversized shirts paired with high-waisted wrap skirts adorned with crystal buttons and dramatic slits, harking back to the bygone days of dramatic Hollywood icons.
Set in the backdrop of a former fallout shelter on Boulevard Lefebvre all the way in Paris’s 15th arrondissement, Alexandre Vauthier’s collection was a testament to the modern day woman: powerful, confident, sexy and strong.
Powerful, striding and feminine, models stomped down Alexandre Vauthier’s runway in sharply tailored oversized suits, fur-trimmed jackets in shocking electric blue, sleeves lined with crystals and bold slinky dresses drowning in fringed sequins. There were some nice plays with texture as soft elbow-length leather gloves emerged from structured thick coats with cut-off sleeves and heavy slouchy boots were paired with delicate sheer dress. The ‘shouldn’t-work-but-does’ elements were the epitome of effortless French girl cool.
With striking silhouettes and skirts that taper to a dagger-like point combined with Vauthier’s signature structured shoulders, the designer has once again created a collection that will have us clamouring for every single piece.
Viktor & Rolf
Who could forget Viktor & Rolf’s spring haute couture collection that broke the internet as models showcased a collection with Nosferatu-like raised-to-the-head necklines ensembles?
This time, it was all about the suit.
Like the spring collection, there were outrageous proportions. The show opened up with models striding down the runway in classic pinstripe suits with jacket shoulders that exploded outwards to reveal the decolletage. Others showcased candy-colored striped shirts with collars that came right under the chin paired with insanely structured wool coats. Each look was paired with loose office trousers, chunky platform boots and aviator glasses giving off a vibe that was a cartoony—yet undeniably chic—Patrick Bateman.
However, halfway through the show the music stopped as the Dutch designer-duo silently came onto the runway and transformed a model in front of our eyes. Wiring was pulled, shoulders were collapsed and narrowed to the more wearable and the heels were replaced with pointed flats, transforming the silhouette for the rest of the collection. Now models came down the runway in softer, more relaxed and feminine lines. Shirts were half buttoned and flowed loosely and the jackets lost their rigid structure, lending to a more romantic and carefree vibe.
The runway was a stage at Stéphane Rolland. Like, a literal actual stage. Showcased in the Theatre de Chatelet—one of Paris’s favourite theatres—Stéphane Rolland’s fall winter collection paid homage to the late French singer Barbara.
The result was a collection made up of large, bold silhouettes featuring dresses each with their own personality whether it be high collars, plunging necklines or folds of jersey and chiffon that created wonderful structured sleeves and shoulders. Although mostly classic in design, their were some sexy modern looks. In particular a mini dress made of padded black satin that was paired with sexy thigh-high boots and a structured tunic in black alligator.
There was some great embroidery work with giant maxi-chains made of jersey sewn directly onto sheer tops and a surprising African element came through with Masai embroidery sewn onto long sweater dresses paired with chunky jewellery. The palette was limited to strictly black, white and red. Classic colours that never fail and befitting any icon—past, present and future.
As the curtains rose during the show’s dramatic finale, it was revealed that guests were sitting onstage, giving us our own little Barbara moment.
A firm favourite amongst the likes of Anna Dello Russo, Leonnie Hanne and some of fashion’s favourite influencers, Celia Krithatioti’s winter collection was a Great Gatsby-style dream come to life.
With an outdoor runway set in the Monnaie de Paris, Celia showcased a decadent collection inspired by the exuberant 1920s. Fun flapper-style mini dresses covered in crystals sparkled under the Parisian sun, offering playful and feminine silhouettes that are timeless in design and wear. There were some bolder choices such as a dramatic black feather and tulle engulfed mini dress and a handmade lace jumpsuit with a plunging neckline and crushed velvet bows.
There were some gorgeous structured pieces offering a more masculine silhouette but as is Celia’s trademark, not without a sparkling touch. Broken mirrored pieces lined the cuffs of smoking jackets and loose crystal corsets that draped across the body peeped beneath a simple tailored suit.
Leonie Hanne closed the show in a couture bridal splendour in a lavish white dress adorned with strings of crystals arranged in a laissez-faire way—almost like necklaces thrown off in abandon at the end of a night. I think Daisy Buchanen would approve.
DON’T FORGET THE ACCESSORIES!
What better way to compliment haute couture pieces than with some glorious accessories? In terms of high jewellery, the most stunning offerings this year were from Chaumet and De Beers who presented collections inspired by two of the most unpredictable elements of nature: the ocean and light.
For the first time in its history, Chaumet dedicated an entire high jewellery collection to the sea. Titled Ondes et Merveilles, it was a mermaid’s treasure trove in Place Vendome where Chaumet presented their oceanic collection. From wave patterns left in the sand to beach parasol inspired pendants made of raspberry-coloured rubellites and garnets, Chaumet’s creativity knows no bounds as it seemed like every element of the sea was explored.
Firm favourites was a sensational white gold and diamond necklace that perfectly captured the crest of waves, a necklace of fine pearls adorned with a stunning starfish made of padparadscha sapphire (one of the rarest of sapphires) and chunky rose-gold bracelets and rings pebbled with tricklings of diamonds, recalling the effect of water streaming over sand or pebbles—depending on how the individual sees it.
As always with Chaumet, there is always something fun and whimsical, and this was seen in a series of fantastic unisex brooches inspired by sailors’ tattoos. From the sea, we turn to the light with a new collection from De Beers. Celebrating the elemental (and oftentimes playful) nature of light, De Beers showcased their latest high jewellery collection Alchemist of Light at the Hotel de Crillon.
Separated into five separate categories: Dusk Reflection, Ascending Shadows, Midnight Aura, Optical Wonder and Frozen Capture, the collection consisted of 45 one-of-a-kind pieces that were both classical and fresh.
There were some very bold, modern pieces, notably the Ascending Shadows collection that combined the usual exceptional diamonds from De Beers framed by sculptured swirls of aluminium in shades of azure and rose to mimic how light and shade interacts with a stepped surface.
What was fabulous about this collection were the surprising detachable elements in many of the pieces: chokers had the ability to be transformed into cuffs and rings could be worn separately or stacked on top of each other to imitate beams of sunlight.
Standout pieces included a set of sensational teardrop shaped earrings from the Optical Wonder collection made of yellow diamonds swirling in polished black aluminium to create an illusionary hypnotic effect. And the fantastical Midnight Aura collection where white diamonds and creamy-green chrysoprase gemstones sourced from Africa were used to imitate the mystical cosmos and constellations of stars in the form of chandelier earrings and cocktail rings. It was like having the entire cosmos in your hand.
For more information on Haute Couture Week visit their website at hautecouture.fhcm.paris.
photography + words. j. bibi cooper