Defined by unique pieces handmade to the highest standards for private clients, haute couture offers fashion designers an avenue to push their creative limits. And few designers take their ideas as far as Balenciaga’s single-monikered Demna.
Held at the brand’s Parisian salon, Balenciaga’s Fall/Winter 2023 haute couture presentation seemed to revolve around the concept of things not being what they seem.
Even as Demna paid tribute to the house’s late founder, Cristobal Balenciaga, with a reimagined version of one of the latter’s designs, he also merged the brand’s fine-tailoring codes with modern verve: Using hand-applied brushstrokes to achieve trompe l’oeil effects, traditional fabrics such as linen-canvas panels were made to look like they had textures such as houndstooth weaves, denim, and fur.
The collection also froze the concept of motion, in pieces such as trench coats and cashmere scarves. Pieces appeared to be blowing in the wind — an effect requiring two days of hand-sculpting and knitted, bonded liners used to reinforce the fabric. Moving into the realm of the futuristic, the closing look was a ballgown — a house classic — made not of your usual taffeta but CAD-designed and 3D-printed using galvanised resin, then chromed and lined in velvet. The future of fashion, quite literally, looks bright.
Celebrating his 20th anniversary in fashion, Thom Browne’s inaugural haute-couture show took place at the Palais Garnier in Paris. Inspired by a busy train station, the presentation depicted a passenger — top model Alek Wek in a handmade grey wool suit — sitting with her bags, waiting for her train.
She watched a cast of characters go by: Train station bells, for instance, were represented by models wearing cloche hats and exaggeratedly round silhouettes with trompe l’oeil wool tailoring. Other models, playing passengers and train conductors, also showcased Browne’s tailoring, along with other signatures such as unusual proportions and East Coast prep-inspired aquatic motifs.
Showcasing intricate traditional techniques such as beading, embroidery, and plumasserie (the preparation and application of feathers), each bag in Roger Vivier’s presentation at Paris Haute Couture Week is one-of-a-kind. At the centre of the collection is the Viv’ Choc, a rectangular bag with rounded edges introduced by creative director Gherardo Felloni in 2021.
Inspirations for the opulent collection included the brand’s archival creations, the soaring architecture of the Eiffel Tower, and the gilded halls of Versailles. A Viv’ Choc adorned with cerulean feathers, for instance, takes its cues from a Choc heel from 1959, while another satin bag decorated with turquoise briolettes — faceted, pear-shaped crystals — pays tribute to a Virgule heel design from 1963.
“Simplicity is complexity resolved”, said the late Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, whose quote opens Valentino’s press notes for its latest haute couture collection. Walking the talk, Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli showcased minimalist looks that were deceptively simple-looking.
Made using techniques such as draping and bias-cutting, dresses in materials ranging from silk-velvet to cashmere lay perfectly on the body and flowed effortlessly. Even typically frou-frou elements, such as florals and feathers, were expertly cut and treated so they felt modern and light. The ultimate expression of simplicity belying complexity? The opening look of a white shirt and “jeans” that were actually made of silk organza and embroidered with tiny beads dyed in 80 different shades of indigo.