Following in Karl Lagerfeld’s footsteps is no walk in the park. His Chanel has been so successful, it’s tempting to try and replicate his formula; but the Kaiser’s genius is inimitable. Cleverly, Virginie Viard decided to forge her own path ahead. Her stewardship of the storied House thus far has been marked by a refreshing sense of restraint. For her first haute couture outing, she turned the Grand Palais into a colossal library—an impressive spectacle no doubt, but decidedly more down to earth than her predecessor’s extravaganzas. It was a tribute to both Coco Chanel’s book-lined apartment and to Lagerfeld, whose personal book collection reportedly numbered 300,000. The clothes similarly fused both their spirits—the ease and modernity she championed, and the House codes he endlessly reinterpreted. The show opened with slim, elongated lines in the form of ankle-length coats and an emphasis on trousers, worn with flat shoes and reading glasses. Faces were framed by portrait necklines, satin bibs, organza lapels and ruffcollars. Things gradually shifted into a more ornamental mood, but even the most decorative pieces had an ease to them. An intricately embroidered bandeau, for instance, was off set by a monastic white skirt. For evening, Viard proposed columns of monochrome velvet, lace and pleated silk—harking back to the liberating nonchalance and Modernist lines of Coco Chanel.
Silvia Venturini Fendi is another designer tasked with moving a legacy house forward in the wake of Karl Lagerfeld’s passing and she has done it with respect— not by mining his vast archives, but by channelling the duality of his creative spirit. Lagerfeld was always enchanted by the past, yet he constantly sought out the new and the extraordinary. For this couture spectacular staged al fresco in an ancient Roman temple, the artistry she teased out of the Fendi fur ateliers were extraordinary indeed. They took as Silvia Venturini Fend tasked with movin inspiration the ancient mosaics and marbles from the floors of grand Roman villas, and translated them into graphic Art Deco motifs. What looked like prints were actually highly elaborate intarsia; fur strips were woven every which way, sheared to look like feathers, threaded between gauze, or bonded with the lightest tulle. The clothes these techniques were employed on had a ’70s flavour, with flared trousers, bishop sleeves and high cinched waists aplenty. There was also a dazzling array of floor-sweeping reversible coats—under which Venturini Fendi layered bra tops, short shorts and transparent pieces to keep things light and modern. Lagerfeld would have been proud.
Maria Grazia Chiuri’s starting point was Bernard Rudofsky’s landmark 1944 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, “Are Clothes Modern?”, which explored the relationship between people and the garments they wore. The architect’s musings on the form and function of clothing led Chiuri to the idea of fashion as architecture for the body. Her main focus this season was therefore on construction, explored in the myriad ways she draped and sculpted cloth to the human form, which she further veiled and revealed with layers of opaque and sheer fabrics. The collection itself was executed almost entirely in black, allowing cut and silhouette to take centre stage. As Monsieur Dior himself said about the timeless hue: “It is the most flattering. I could write a book about black.” Taking his words to heart, Chiuri wrote a bewitching new chapter for the House.
Mr Armani is a lifelong fan of film, with movies serving as a form of escape during his war-ravaged childhood. It’s fitting, then, that his latest Armani Privé collection was a tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age. His opening section of slim, tailored jackets atop trousers that swished and shimmered dripped with 1930s Marlene Dietrich glamour. Like Hollywood’s shift from black and white to colour, the show started in monochrome before blossoming into pastels. The shapes, too, got more relaxed, softening into frothier fare such as chiff on tiers, flounced hems and candy-coloured furs. Armani then segued back to black for the finale, but, far from being basic, the creations were intensely he creations were intense embellished to evoke stars in the night sky. Real-life Tinseltown stars are sure to flock to them in droves.
Clare Waight Keller has made refined elegance a cornerstone of her Givenchy haute couture, but this season, she also threw in a hint of rebellion to shake things up. Silhouettes that started rigorously tailored ended in raw-edged fringe or trailing ribbons on the floor. Despite the note of punk she inserted—most prominently in the form of sweeping, spiky updos on some of the models—her default mode was polish. The silhouettes were extravagant, but expertly sculpted; the bursts of feathers and taffeta were all carefully engineered. When she did use colour, it was in the form of opulent texture—silver embroideries, emerald brocade, plumage in coral and mint. It was a masterful balancing act between razzle-dazzle and restraint.
John Galliano had anarchy on his mind. With his latest Artisanal collection, he shattered what remained of the gender binary, sending out boys in shrunken sweaters, hot pants, garter belts and thigh-high boots. He also torpedoed the tropes of couture. The wasp waists and full-skirted looks called to mind the mid-century New Look, but their components and the manner in which they were employed were resolutely of the 21 st century. Things were never quite what they seemed. What looked like houndstooth, tweeds and furs were actually prints transferred onto shimmery semi-sheer fabrics then overlaid on wool and mohair, like fi lters. Lace was alluded to by punching holes into garments. Trousers got cut up and remixed into bustier dresses. A trench coat was twisted into a one-shouldered dress. It was all beautifully chaotic and resulted in a sensory overload—couture for the modern times.
Pierpaolo Piccioli’s latest collection was about self-expression at the highest level. His ideas of inclusivity and diversity shone through not only in the brilliant casting, but also in the range of personalities and needs the collection dressed and addressed. The looks ran the gamut from restrained elegance all the way to pure fashion fantasy. In the latter camp, there were Adut Akech’s swirl of amethyst ruffles and a gown of hundreds of rose gauze squares beribboned together. On the quieter side, daywear was a standout. There were pared-back t-shirts and trousers in the most handsome materials; a taffeta coat was casually shrugged around the elbows; Lauren Hutton walked the show in a chic cashmere parka. What tied it all together was Piccioli’s use of intense, searing colour, often in gorgeously unexpected combinations such as saffron and lilac, aubergine and pistachio, and blush and lime. Cue standing Os all around.
PHOTOGRAPHY: SHOWBIT; 123RF.COM