This couture season was a whimsical dreamland where surreal beauty, romantic femininity and exquisite fantasy reigned supreme.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

This couture season was a whimsical dreamland where surreal beauty, romantic femininity and exquisite fantasy reigned supreme.


Set in Villa Chanel, the show featured palm trees and grand staircases that led to sandy walkways, a manicured lawn and an inviting pool. Karl Lagerfeld conjured up a beautiful setting with a pastel palette, floral embellishments, intricate embroidery and silhouettes reminiscent of his favourite historical period—the 18th century.  The Chanel classic tweed suit was updated with elongated hemlines, sharp shoulders and bateau necklines, while figure-flattering dresses featured pleated tulle at the shoulders and calves. The line-up culminated in a silver-encrusted swimsuit worn by Lagerfeld’s bride. While Lagerfeld did not take his customary bow at the end of the show, he certainly made his presence felt. 

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Clare Waight Keller's third haute couture collection for Givenchy embodied grandeur and modernity like no other, expressed through architectural forms and sharp tailoring. Dresses and skirts were sculpted, contoured and finished in sheer, voluminous organza. Feathered collars, exaggerated sleeves, glittering embroidery, intricate lave, sleek latex and bold fringing all converged to form a hauntingly beautiful presentation that melded toughness and softness, darkness and light. Premised on the idea of a bleached canvas or a tabula rasa, this collection was a true testament to Waight Keller's astute design sensibilities and contemporary approach to purity and opulence.


Pierpaolo Piccioli closed couture week with a collection so sublime, it left the likes of Naomi Campbell and Celine Dion in tears. His spellbinding Valentino show took everyone on a riveting journey of ethereal insouciance with its celebration of grace, beauty and craftsmanship. Voluminous ball gowns in silk organza, delicate lace, tiered ruffles and floral prints were flawlessly executed and imbued with a sense of romantic femininity. The British Fashion Council’s Fashion Awards 2018 Designer of the Year proved once again that he has mastered the art of couture, interpreting the brand’s heritage in the most dynamic of ways. 

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Inspired by the circus and clowns, Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri dived deep into research to reference artworks by Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Cindy Sherman, and Richard Avedon. The result was a magical show under a big tent draped with strings of light, complete with a diamond-tiled runway and performing acrobats from Mimbre—an all-female acrobatic troupe from London. From sheer blouses and pleated skirts to smartly tailored suiting and striped mini-dresses with ruffled clown collars, each look paid homage to the Big Top with circus motifs and sparkly accents. The stars of the show? Undoubtedly the female ringmasters, clad in crisp, precisely tailored greatcoats and brocade jackets, finished off with band-boy frogging. 

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Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren made a statement—literally—with this collection. Dramatically oversized gowns in bright colours were emblazoned with bold slogans such as “I’m not shy, I just don’t like you”, “World Peace” and “No photos please”. The juxtaposition of these elements brought an ironic and surreal quality to the show, unlike anything seen this season. Meme-inspired statements, exaggerated silhouettes, puffed sleeves, ruffles and lots of tulle made for a collection tailored to resonate perfectly with the virtual world we live in. 


Rooted in Jazz Age themes, Armani Privé presented a cinematic showcase of ornamentation in colours of red, bright blue, white and black. There were textures and slick surfaces that played on light, embellished tulle and netted ruffles, sculpted jackets, contoured dresses, jacquard co-ords, plus fine fringing and subtle flares that accentuated movement. Each look was finished off either with a beaded flapper hat or a veiled conical headpiece for a complete look of exquisite elegance. 


Iris Van Herpen is known for her enigmatic, sculptural forms and her wizardry with fabric. In this show, the Dutch artist and fashion designer explored cartography and engineered human hybrids, which were expressed through pleated gowns with wing-like sleeves and undulating layers. She also collaborated with artist and former NASA engineer Kim Keever to come up with cloud-like dresses featuring his work. Diaphanous and fluid, graceful and arresting—this collection depicted a dreamscape made possible by technological advances and a strong futuristic vision.