From left: Atelier Versace, Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, Giambattista Valli and Alexis Mabille They say Haute Couture is dead. It fi...

From left: Atelier Versace, Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, Giambattista Valli and Alexis Mabille

They say Haute Couture is dead. It first died in 1957 along with Christian Dior, one of the best and brightest designers of his generation, who had single-handedly brought back to life French fashion with his “new look” after the Second World War. It died again with Yves Saint Laurent’s last show in 2002, when the designer – who had been Christian Dior’s dauphin – forever left the runway and the fashion house that he had created. The same happened in 2007 when Valentino, the last remaining designer of that generation of couturiers who had shaped and formed our idea of fashion and couture, retired after celebrating the 45th anniversary of his label. It probably died again in 2008, when our economy was crashed by yet another financial crisis and the few people who actually bought Haute Couture became even rarer. Yet, here we are, still talking about couture, still fascinated with its beauty, its construction, its impossibly elaborated fabrics, still irremediably drawn by the unspoken promise that what we are about to witness is indeed an art form, that those walking down the runway are not just incredibly expensive clothes but art pieces. It’s this unspoken promise that has proven to be Haute Couture’s driving force, the reason why, after more than one-hundred years and countless so called “deaths”, Haute Couture still stands, why, for the extent of twenty-something minute show, we gladly forget that what is being presented doesn’t really have to do with most women’s modern life and just enjoy the spell created by the designer. Couture week it’s not the time to think how wearable that garment is or how much that other garment is going to cost, it’s a time when the best designers in the world present us with something to dream about so we should just close our eyes and start dreaming.

Dicono che l’alta moda sia morta. È morta per la prima volta nel 1957 insieme a Christian Dior, uno degli stilisti migliori e più brillanti della sua generazione, che da solo ha dato nuova vita alla moda francese del secondo dopoguerra con il suo “new look”. È morta di nuovo con l’ultima sfilata di Yves Saint Laurent nel 2002, quando lo stilista – che era anche stato il “delfino” di Christian Dior- abbandonò per sempre la passerella e la casa di moda che aveva creato. Lo stesso accadde nel 2007 quando Valentino, ultimo stilista in vita di quella generazione di couturier che avevano modellato e creato la nostra idea di moda e di couture, si ritirò dopo aver celebrato il 45° anniversario del suo marchio. Probabilmente è morta ancora una volta nel 2008, quando la nostra economia è stata abbattuta da una nuova crisi finanziaria e le poche persone che effettivamente potevano permettersi di acquistare capi di Haute Couture sono diventate ancora più rare. Eppure, eccoci qui che continuiamo a parlare di alta moda, ancora affascinati dalla sua bellezza, dalla struttura dei suoi abiti, dai suoi tessuti estremamente elaborati, ancora irrimediabilmente attratti dall'implicita promessa che ciò al quale stiamo per assistere è, a tutti gli effetti, una forma d’arte, che quelli che stanno aggraziando la passerella non sono soltanto abiti estremamente costosi ma vere e proprie opere d’arte. Proprio questa implicita promessa si è dimostrata essere la forza trainante dell’alta moda, la ragione per la quale, dopo più di cento anni e innumerevoli “morti”, l’alta moda ancora sopravvive, la ragione per la quale, per i venti e poco più minuti della sfilata, ci dimentichiamo volentieri che quello che ci viene presentato non ha in realtà niente a che vedere con la vita della maggior parte delle donne di oggi e semplicemente ci godiamo l’incantesimo creato dallo stilista. La settimana dell’alta moda non è il momento per pensare a quanto questo capo sia indossabile o quanto quell'altro costi, è il momento in cui i migliori designer del mondo ci regalano qualcosa da sognare quindi dovremmo semplicemente chiudere gli occhi e immergerci in questo sogno.

Atelier Versace

When creating her latest haute couture collection, Donatella Versace was inspired by the 50’s. Yes, you read it right, the 50’s: the decade of full skirts, pearls and ball gowns, the decade that could not be further apart from Versace’s esthetic. While I’m not even able to think of the two together, Donatella made the herculean effort to actually blend them together and the result might just surprise you. There obviously aren’t any pearls or full skirts – it is a Versace collection after all – but it is possible to find hints of the 50’s in the clothes rigid structure and even in the ball gowns that closed the show. While Donatella did turn down the volume she did not let her inspiration take over the house esthetic completing every gown with an impossibly high slit and introducing the single trouser leg where only one of the model’s leg was covered with a pant. The trend might not catch, but it did make for one heck of a show stopper.


Marco Zanini when there. He took Elsa Schiaparelli’s legacy and used it all in one show. Every single element of the twenty-four looks show, from the over-the-top hats and turbans to the prints of squirrels, pigeons and yes, even rats,  had Schiaparelli’s name written all over it – the floor length pink coat literally so- making this the most whimsical collection of the day and quite possibly of the whole couture week. Because of this the collection felt at times more like a showcase of vintage Schiaparelli pieces than a new, modern interpretation of the past. While I personally enjoyed the collection and its (too) clear homage at its heritage, I believe that Zanini needs to find a balance between the old and the new, between Elsa and Marco. I’m sure that he will be able to do that; after all, this was only his second show at Schiaparelli, the second of many more.

Christian Dior

If anybody ever though that fashion is not about looking backwards but always looking forward, Raf Simons’s latest couture show at Dior might just change your mind. Today’s show turned out to be Simons’ quest for what is modern nowadays and to find an answer to his question he felt the need to go way back, where it all started. The collection was divided into eight sections, each section a variation of a historical theme, from the 18th Century onwards. So we start by going back to the Marie Antoinette-inspired gowns only to jump forward to the 60’s with light-as-feather embroided astronaut jumpsuits and then go back in time again with long Edwardian coats. The whole show was a continuous back and forth in time: from the 18th Century masculine “court  coats” to the roaring twenties flapper dresses, from the 50’s iconic Bar jacket to the use of new technologies in fashion. For Simons the biggest challenge was “to bring the attitude of contemporary reality to something very historical; bringing easiness to something that could be perceived as theatrical” and I think he did just fine.

Giambattista Valli

More than a runway show it felt like the play-by-play of the day of a young, sophisticated girl. From her lazy morning wake up, wearing her beau’s pajamas, sunglasses and a scarf nonchalantly wrapped around her head like a turban, to the grand soirée that she’s attending at night, having slipped into one of her many ombré-shaded, ruffled ball skirts still wearing her ever present sunglasses. Although the clothes presented were far from simple and unrefined there still was an easiness about them that made the collection look modern and breezy. Of course it wouldn’t be a Valli show without a generous amount of flowers, but their sometimes overwhelming presence was toned down by striped pajama pants and crisp white button down shirts. This time Valli seems to have presented a more grown-up version of his often too wayward girl and I could not be happier about it.

Alexis Mabille

Incorporating elements of the man's wardrobe in women’s clothes is not something new in the fashion world. What is new is the fact that Alexis Mabille decided to try it in his latest haute couture collection. The designer, whose garments are usually the epitome of femininity, presented a collection where masculine and feminine elements blended effortlessly into one another, creating spectacular garments like the emerald velvet bustier gown or the white shirt extended into a dress. The whole collection might not have felt very modern and up-to-date, but there certainly were some very memorable looks that just screamed haute couture.

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