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Change is in the Couture Air

Fashion News

By Jessica Michault

This Haute Couture season was filled with poignant and highly significant fashion moments. Top of the list was the final Haute Couture show of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli as a team at Valentino. Running a close second was Karl Lagerfeld’s touching tribute to his couture atelier. And the Dior show also marked the final presentation led by the two young designers Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux who had been holding down the fort at the house until the arrival of its new creative director.

Less than 24 hours after the presentation of their Valentino Fall/Winter 2106 Couture collection, the rumored news that Chiuri would be leaving the house was finally made official. The collection—an ode to William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death—was filled with regal, sometimes austere Elizabethan-inspired looks that moved from a court squire in black britches and crisp white shirts through prim handmaiden dresses and embroidered gowns fit for modern day royals.

Rumors continue to swirl around Karl Lagerfeld and his possible retirement from Chanel, even if he has a “contract for life.” And that speculation wasn’t abated by the designer with his latest Haute Couture collection, which was an homage to the “petite mains” who, for more than 30 years, have brought his fashion dreams to life.

The entire couture atelier was transported to the Grand Palais show venue. The yards of tweed fabrics, the Stockman dress models, the sewing machines and the ironing boards were all there. More importantly, the 70 seamstresses that are the beating heart of the Chanel house were also in attendance. They diligently toiled away on the couture collection as models walked the circular runway in pointy-shouldered ensembles in myriad tweed treatments. And when Lagerfeld took his final bow he asked the four Chanel “premières” to accompany him.

Donatella Versace is on a roll. After a highly successful and innovative menswear collection last month, she returned with a Haute Couture collection that was equally surprising. She moved away from her traditional shimmering gowns and created three-dimensional draping on garments that had a modern sensuality to them.

One of the best examples of this new direction Versace is taking was the first look that hit the catwalk. Supermodel Karen Elson returned to the runway wrapped up in a luxe mint green cashmere coat that was designed to curve off the shoulders and leave exposed a glossy blush pink lining. A delicious start to a lineup that then unfolded to reveal statement gowns covered in undulating fabrics that were beautifully tailored to accentuate the female form. Actor Bradley Cooper, whose model girlfriend Irina Shayk walked in the show, certainly seemed appreciative.

Giorgio Armani knows what his roster of Haute Couture clients want, and this season he went all out to give it to them. The Armani woman does not want couture with lots of bells and whistles or distracting volume and an ingénue slant. These are women who know who they are and what looks good on them. That is to say, a structured chic that is designed to stand the test of time.

Armani’s couture is evergreen. A world of velvet black dresses, strong shouldered geometric jackets and some of the best tailored trousers in the business. Invest in those three pieces from this collection and a woman would be sartorial set for many a season to come.


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