retro, modern, art and glam | haute couture

Giambattista Valli

Summer might have just come but the fashion troupe is already looking at autumn forward to the September equinox as they flock to Paris for the routine haute couture stop.  From June 30 to July 4, this couture season, four distinct currents merged in the French capital. Whether retro, modern, art and glam; the autumn 2019 couture shows catered to everyone and, thanks to Tony Glenville, Schön! gives you the low-down on each and every one of them. 

The Retroists

In a world that feels ever more stressful and uncertain, where politics, gender, race, and religion are under the microscope, and where the future of the very earth we occupy is under question, nostalgia is something fashion can embrace with a fresh eye. The immense popularity of Alessandro Michele at Gucci is partially down to his use of the familiar rescrambled into the new; the past refreshed and reassembled for today.

Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior has clearly been spending time either in the archive or leafing through old issues of Vogue. In a predominantly black collection, she explored many of the shapes Christian Dior proposed during his ten-year venture at the house he founded — from the full bubble and draped portrait neckline to, obviously, the Bar jacket and full skirt, going over soft tulle ball gowns, flowing columns of drape, and many others. In true couture mode, cut and silhouette were key to the collection and, truth be told, clients can buy the pieces in any colour they fancy. Dior’s show was a menu of options — from short and flirtatious to modest and even puritan. 

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Una publicación compartida de Dior Official (@dior) el

This couture season, Giambattista Valli presented as though in a fashion gallery, with every piece spotlit and focussed — the Alta Moda elegance holding echoes of Maris Callas and the great divas making an entrance. Silhouettes were superb and the signature tulle gowns seemed as if ready to dance and move on their own. He also used a soft pea green, which has emerged as a seasonal favourite colour with many designers — pea, not pistachio. The vivid red mousseline dress with a ruched and swirling balloon-shaped capelet together with the warp-printed taffeta roses used in sweeps of entrance-making swooping dresses were sure-fire hits. 

Alexis Mabille


Alexis Mabille also selected an installation rather than a catwalk this season, presenting in different rooms — each one holding its own story. Rose, blush, petal and peony pinks formed one group — a selection of delights from pink through… The My Fair Lady monochrome group was superb with line, proportion and construction. A perfect demonstration of why haute couture still remains at the heart of the best of fashion design. This isn’t about clothing or product; this is about craft, ateliers, petites mains, time and love, plus, of course, the client.

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Una publicación compartida de Alexandre Vauthier Official (@alexandrevauthier) el

Alexandre Vauthier creates sexy clothes for the modern woman but his nods to the past are the thread holding his brilliantly witty and attractive clothes together — a flirty pink dress à la Brigitte Bardot, a sharply tailored blazer in the Betty Catroux mood, or a slinky evening dress with a hint of Screen Goddess. This season, he developed his signatures and the polish, finish and technical handling of each piece means the rose silk organza, the crisp gabardine and the soft shimmering jersey were handled by his ateliers to perfection. The sharp sexiness combined with simple pieces, the light and airy in contrast to the linear and tailored offers a collection taking the clients from easy shopping to red carpet sparkle. 

Georges Hobeika


Georges Hobeika offered an explosion of technicolour couture — daffodil yellow, peach and apricot, tangerine and flamingo pink, rich olive green, and pale azure blue all taking centre stage. The movement inherent within the clothes and their silhouettes ranged from a bow whose trailing ends formed a double train, to sparling mousseline flowing like a cascade of cool water. Sleeves trailed into capelets and crinoline skirts swayed in layers of petals. Truly haute couture magic with a tropical touch.

Azzi & Osta. Photos by Carl Halal (left, centre) and Getty Images (right).


Azzi & Osta were inspired by the couture images of American photographer Irving Penn. In the stunning location of an artist’s studio, clothes were shown both on models and on dress stands. The combination was perfect since the silhouettes could be appreciated yet the opportunity to examine the work and to understand the creative process to achieve the magical looks was also clear. Silhouettes covered the range from long and slender to full-blown, and colour ranged from dove grey and mushroom beige to deepest claret red and white. The use of ruffles to support and enhance the curves and flowing lines of many pieces were beautifully handled, with the softly gathered tulle or stiffened nettings peeping out fitfully, or hidden underneath. This was glamourous couture with a romantic mood to it. A deep love for their work from the designers themselves was apparent in their conversation and explanations of the collection. A Paris Haute Couture high spot indeed. 

Julien Fournié


Julien Fournié is a showman as well as a couturier. And he is also at the peak of his game right now. Retro in one sense and timelessly couture in another, his designs acknowledge couture’s heritage, while carrying his own personality in every seam. This season, he offered a sensational collection of clothes for strong women; with models positively raging down the tiled floors of the Oratoire du Louvre. An African violet floor-length crepe dress with a tiny iridescent corselet or an ice blue dress whose high-neck and cowl neckline was encrusted with golden jewelling. The Edwardian suit with thick black embroidery on a pale snuff ground was magnificent, and military buttoned fit and flare suit with the explosion of brilliant blue-violet quills as a headdress were truly great looks. As the snow fell on the bride a friend turned to me and said “Anna Karenina”. It was indeed Russian, but also romantic, heroic, drama, and couture. All in one, a fabulous show.

Jean-Paul Gaultier


Jean-Paul Gaultier is always at his best if the theme is more about fun and less constricting. This season, he roved around through his own archive and the themes he adores — sharp tailoring, disco nights, of course, a touch of padding, and the bra as a feature. A ruched and draped jonquil yellow gown with the fabric forming bra cup and the swoosh of the dress totally covering the model encapsulated the latter. Huge sharp revers, stoles like half jackets or coats, faux animal impressions layered up layers, violet, tangerine and turquoise, or black and white and rich classic camel… all the great Gaultier hallmarks were in place. Coco Rocha in a white knitted was reminiscent of Vera Charles in Mame, as she wiggled and sashayed down the mile-long catwalk. Anna Cleveland in creamy caped layers of tailoring conjured up images of Katherine Hepburn or Marlene Dietrich and the ruched and padded ballgown was pure Reine Margot. It was a wonderful show full of wonderful Jean-Paul Gaultier designs. Cue loud applause and a standing ovation.

The Modernists


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Una publicación compartida de YUIMA NAKAZATO (@yuimanakazato) el

Looking at new ways to use the concept of couture and new ways to create is not something to be attempted lightly. Those working specifically in couture who challenge the status quo better have something interesting to say. But, with a sculpture of gold dust forming the background to his show, Yuima Nakazato certainly has. 

He uses his own construction technique without sewing, plus this season he worked with Spiber, whose materials science centre in Japan also creates fibres including spider silk through to protein threads. Nakazato used the most traditional methods of knitting and crochet plus patchworking yet the extraordinary heart of the collection, something one hundred per cent new and innovative, was apparent. The whole show felt like a new dawn and an adventure. Investigate further through Spiber and The Eugene Studio‘s websites.

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Una publicación compartida de Iris van Herpen Official (@irisvanherpen) el

Iris van Herpen has been refining and focussing her techniques and solutions to a new way of visualising fashion. This season, the kinetic wind sculptor Anthony Howe created both a dress to close the show but also a huge piece in the centre of the space. “Hypnotic” was the name of the collection and certainly, the effect was mesmerising, yet it never dominated the wonderful clothes. The contrast between the dresses seemingly formed from hundreds of petals, sections or slices were the wonderful airy floating shapes formed arcs in the air as they moved. Stunning and magical. 

At Schiaparelli, Daniel Roseberry told the story behind the collection in his programme note. With only seven weeks to create his first collection for the house and after many seasons at another house, Thom Browne, a huge amount of interest was focussing on his debut. Turning his back on the gilded salons of the Place Vendome headquarters and the opulent Second Empire surroundings of the Opera Garnier, he showed in a blacked-out mirror floored space. The focus was on the visions he conjured up in that space. The trompe l’oeil necklace on a jacket, the embroidered folds across a dress, the pale ecru drape of a sleeve, the plumes fragmenting the silhouette of a dress, were amongst the best moments in this debut. A silhouette of the ballooning sleeves and a skirt exploding from a deep basque, the whole anchored by a tiny scintillating bandeau bodice, or bell-like sleeves in looped and shaded monochrome crystals were all in perfect harmony with the heritage of the house and yet had a new fresh stamp upon them. This was the dawn heralding a new chapter in the history of the house; and an exciting one. 

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Una publicación compartida de RVDK (@ronaldvanderkemp) el

Ronald van der Kemp is the man who invented the whole idea of sustainable and socially responsible haute couture, but without ever being preachy or dull. The repurposing, the upcycling and the individuality of his vision remain life-enhancing this season. He mixes the sharp restraint of tailoring, against the purity of drape and then surprises us by sending out a cascade of patchwork, tumbling down the model’s body to form an Alice in Wonderland-esque evening dress. His skills are utilised to full effect in the diversity of looks he presents and how the story behind the looks is great, but not dominant in the finished effect. As the models circled the gravel paths of the Dutch Embassy gardens they faded in and out of the shade like couture visions, which is exactly what they are.

As part of Moda Povera, Olivier Saillard presented his white shirts at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in a teaching room. It was a lesson in fashion, and a beautiful one too. The three models and the white shirts created a spell on the silent audience as the sound of the piano music for the show issued forth from mobile phones. The models posed, performed and generally moved to show each piece from every angle. Monsieur Saillard and his assistant dressed each one slowly and carefully and presented them for our delight. And we were delighted to see them in their timeless modernity. 

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Una publicación compartida de MAISON RABIH KAYROUZ (@maisonrabihkayrouz) el

Maison Rabih Kayrouz is all about real clothes for real women. To celebrate twenty years, he used a huge variety of women and the joy in the space was palpable. Soft and fluid, enhancing the wearer and delighting the audience, many already dressed by the designer, the whole show was a party. Crisp white in soft tired trapeze layers or in filigree dancing fit and flare on Blanca Li the choreographer. Stripes which as first glance looked simply had been staggeringly constructed to form long easy shapes in perfectly matched geometry. The dazzling sun motifs both evoked his native country and a hint of France’s Le Roi Soleil. Delicious. 

The Artists

Rahul Mishra


Couture can be a laboratory for fashion, for techniques and for the ateliers whose work can take hundreds of hours, as well as hours of samples and experimentation leading to that outcome. In his native Rahul Mishra looks to the culture and the tradition of textiles, embroidery and the extraordinary execution of those skills at the highest and most refined level. In a cool calm space, he talked about how the embroidery frames suspended on each side held the key to the evolution of the clothes. All in white and semi-transparent it was fascinating to see a floral motif evolve into and architectural motif — how swirls of geometry revolved into three-dimensional butterfly wings and how the simplest of repeated patterns then magically became something else. His eye and inspiration took us from garden to city and from formal to informal. The collection itself was extraordinary — featuring a coat and dress in white with, literally, thousands of flowers decorating the surface; a dress that, through its tiers, went from the flowers in the garden through the flowers at the windows to finally a roof garden; and, above all, the white on white dress of embroidered ribbons cascading down from a high empire bodice reminiscent of Napoleonic and Regency fashions. Heart-stoppingly amazing. 

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Una publicación compartida de Aganovich Official Instagram (@aganovich) el

Aganovich presented in silence, and in the enchanting cobbled courtyard, everyone wondered at each piece as it went past — whether it was a white organza puritan dress, a black crinoline over cage, or a fitted deepest cardinal red velvet jacket (both again over the purity of white.) The fin de siècle embroideries like roses in black bin bag plastic with softly trailing threads were like a drawing by Alistair, while the brocade blossoms with a filigree of green threads hinted at Jacobean, Japanese and Rococo. The vast Pierrot-like looks with layers and layers of while over a slender split skirt were truly a couture confection; weightless yet totally controlled. 

Maurizio Galante


Maurizio Galante is no newcomer to couture, but this season felt like a Renaissance of his intricate and beautiful work. To this observer is carried a tiny hint of the great Romeo Gigli, another Italian. However, the mood was Mexican with support from a Mexican fashion school IESMODA. This could be glimpsed in the coat fashioned out of a cascade of tiny pompoms, or the Madonna-like Fatima headpieces. The long trailing full skirts could, in fact, have been from any Latin culture as could the wild floral patterning and the violet rippling jacket over the deep lilac crepe fluid combination or the black taffeta ribboned look were pure Galante as his best. All in all, a really stunning collection from a designer on peak form.

Viktor & Rolf


Viktor & Rolf have always embraced both classic couture and the more artisanal. Indeed their ability to surprise and re-examine couture through this resulted in their amazing “Vagabond” collection a few seasons ago, which was made from leftover fabrics from previous shows. This season’s collection focussed on artisanal embellishments with patchwork, embroidery and applique. The mood was dark and voodoo-ish with a slight tribal element; although Prairie and peasant were also in the mix. With high wild hair and a hint of punk, witchcraft and spells were also an undercurrent. Viktor and Rolf have a unique vision of couture and this season was no exception.    

The Glamourists



Red Carpet isn’t the only type of glamour at couture; understated ritzy dressing and subtly charming glamour also have its place in the spectrum. Ralph Rucci returned to Paris with RR331, at the Ritz, and once again showed why he is a couturier. The finesse, the proportions, the handling of the fabrics and the sheer passion poured into every seam were abundantly apparent. As homage to his friend Elsa Peretti, fuss and extraneous detail were peeled away to reveal the purity of line and the glamour of the understated. Black or bitter chocolate, old ivory, or a pink-tinged camel, face powder or pure white… the colour palette was truly glamorous and luxurious. Each piece revealed a curve or a slice of silhouette, and every piece stood alone to make its mark. These clothes never shouted or begged for attention, they simply screamed class act. There are no doubts Babe Paley or Mona Bismarck would have been shopping in a frenzy. Welcome back, Mr Rucci.

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Una publicación compartida de Redemption Fashion Brand (@redemptionofficial) el

Redemption showed the sexiest Valkyries who stormed through space on a mission to… well, wherever they were going, they were spectacularly dressed for it. A slashed and draped brilliant orange slipper satin dress was a standout, but a giraffe-patterned coat and trousers were also stunning. And so went the whole show. Full on Glamour, with a capital ‘G.’ Designer Gabriele Moratti shyly took his bow wearing a Guns N’ Roses t-shirt seemingly a bit stunned by the roars of approval. 

Rami Kadi


Rami Kadi has a special penchant for bold colour and optimistic patterns. His flower inspirations matched this perfectly from The Temple of Flora. He presented a collection full of blossoming silhouettes, petal-like embroideries, leaf green, sunshine yellow, brilliant orange, and shimmering glittering surfaces, as though the flowers had been rained upon but were now sparking in the sunlight. 

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Una publicación compartida de Ziad Nakad (@ziadnakad) el

Ziad Nakad followed a traditional glamour path with the key silhouettes of the siren form and the ball gown. His embroideries and looks embodied the word glamour through soft beige, ecru and wheat tones all the way through aqua, eau de nil and wisteria. Red was used to dramatic effect black as a punctuation shade. Much of the silhouette emphasis was around ruffled, folded and shaped neck and shoulder shapes; offering a flower-like charm to the glamour, rather than overtly sexy and full on. In a word: charming.

Zuhair Murad


Zuhair Murad threw caution to the winds with a joyous collection of colours, embroideries and movement — featuring zinging orange, the deepest jade green, brilliant fuchsia, and dense lacquer red. The flow and lightness of the clothes this season was very strong, embroideries dint impede the fluttering and swirling of skirts, sleeves and capelets. The clothes appeared poured rather than sewn and the North African, Souk, Talitha Getty mood had a breeze wafting through it, rooftop nights in scented tropical starlight.

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Una publicación compartida de D U N D A S (@dundasworld) el

Last but not least, it really doesn’t come any more glam than Dundas. In a high speed, high octane flurry of ruffles, sparkle and flamenco glam he also switched from long and floaty to short and sassy and he also did some truly wonderful draped couture pieces — if the huge shadow of Yves Saint Laurent fell across the show at times. And that’s a compliment, not a criticism. One thing is for sure: if you’re looking for couture glamour look no further than Peter Dundas.  

words. Tony Glenville


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