Reporting from Paris. Here’s the very best of Haute Couture Week, as it happened.
Haute Couture Week S/S 2024 took place in Paris this week, exemplifying the zenith of French sophistication and skill in a series of lavish runway presentations.
Haute couture represents the very pinnacle of French style and savoir-faire. At the zenith of French elegance and craftsmanship, haute couture stands as the epitome of style. Membership in the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode is so exclusive that only a select few houses earn it annually. This rarity not only results in opulent runway extravaganzas, with grandiose sets and celebrity-filled front rows but also provides an opportunity to honor the artistry of fashion and dressmaking. Each meticulously handcrafted garment often demands hours of painstaking work for perfection.
This season has been characteristically enchanting. Chanel kicked off with a whimsical journey led by Virginie Viard, inspired by the romantic allure of dance, sparked by a misplaced button. Over at Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri showcased a blend of luxuriously crafted fabrics against the backdrop of a set by artist Isabella Ducrot. Meanwhile, at Alaïa, Pieter Mulier transformed his store into an intimate stage for a tightly woven show, embodying the emotional essence that defines the designer.
Pierpaolo Piccioli named his recent Valentino haute couture collection ‘Le Salon,’ a tribute to the revered salons of Paris’ couture houses—what he described as ‘the habitat of haute couture, a realm of anticipation and marvel.’ Reflecting this sentiment, he selected Valentino’s own haute couture salon, a sequence of opulent rooms in the brand’s headquarters on Place Vendôme, to unveil the collection. This choice echoed Piccioli’s aspiration to revisit the ‘timeless essence of haute couture,’ considering it the spiritual home—a realm harmonizing both craftsmanship and imagination.
While this signaled a return to tradition—historically, couture presentations occurred in such salon settings—Piccioli injected a touch of modernity and ease into his haute couture creations. The silhouettes flowed with a sense of languid freedom, and a collection of tailored jackets and overcoats, paired with gently flared trousers and low-cut vest tops, hinted at interpretations of everyday style, albeit in a luxurious manner. Ornamental details throughout paid homage to craftsmanship: whether it was the lively plumes of feathers, metallic petals adorning sweeping opera coats, or garments meticulously crafted to resemble exotic skins and furs (crafted from ‘rouleax’ of silk organza or hand-cut sequins mimicking the scales of an alligator).
‘The salon here is not a stage, but rather a cultural milieu, to valorise craft, to celebrate the act of creation,’ said Piccioli, via the collection notes. ‘It is a place to bear witness to beauty, therefore to experience humanity. It is the heart of haute couture.’
Giorgio Armani Privé S/S 2024
Giorgio Armani’s Privé collections consistently exude opulence, drawing an international clientele devoted to the designer’s quest for beauty. The front row, adorned in previous season’s runway looks, serves as a testament to this lavish aesthetic. Armani achieves beauty not only through the graceful lines present in his Emporio and Giorgio ready-to-wear collections but also in the remarkable embellishments, intricate embroidery, rich jacquards, lace, and iridescent fabrics that envelop the body, casting a shimmering glow in the light. Mr. Armani succinctly expressed that this was him ‘indulging in unexpected bursts of creativity’, Establishing the collection’s carefree atmosphere were dresses unfolding into tulle fronds and oversized plissé hats. Similar to the previous season, the designer highlighted an ‘imagined journey from west to east,’ materializing in the form of sumptuously embroidered, kimono-inspired robes.
Alaïa Summer Fall 2024
In Pieter Mulier’s latest collection, each garment showcased a remarkable feat of engineering, crafted from a single piece of yarn. This achievement pays homage to Azzedine Alaïa’s architectural approach to dressmaking. Mulier emphasized that the specially developed merino wool, created in collaboration with the house’s knitwear and textile suppliers over a year, embodies a spirit of reduction, stripping fashion down to its essence. Despite this focus on simplicity, the collection featured intricate details such as fluttering layers, looping, sculptural gowns, and pom-pom-like fronds cascading from sleeves and hems.
Mulier clarified that his inspiration was centered around ‘less meaning more’—a contemplation on intimacy, reducing to an essence, and discovering freedom and invention within that concept. He emphasized that it’s a deliberate decision, not to minimize but to focus and broaden possibilities. The continuous, looping twists of yarn symbolized the intimacy inherent in Alaïa—’circles of friends, chosen family—an idea fundamental to Alaïa’s essence, always present with Azzedine like a heartbeat, and enduring,’ as Mulier stated. This mood permeated the show itself, held in the Alaïa store on Rue de Marignan, attended by just a handful of individuals perched on Mollo sofas by Philippe Malouin, creating an intimate setting for the runway presentation.
Chanel Haute Couture S/S 2024
In a slightly surreal opening video, Margaret Qualley, donning a Chanel jacket, experienced a wardrobe malfunction, only to be assisted by Naomi Campbell in a quest for its replacement—featuring oversized spools of thread and gleaming scissors. Directed by Dave Free and scored by Kendrick Lamar, the short film set the stage. Like magic, after a grand recreation of the iconic Chanel button descended from the Grand Palais Ephémère’s ceiling, Qualley transitioned from the screen to the runway, embodying the collection’s opening look.
This marked the beginning of Virginie Viard’s enchanting and romantic collection, where the button symbolized the ‘jewels’ that Gabrielle Chanel adorned her original jackets with, always treated with the ‘utmost respect.’ Viard, aiming to evoke emotions and explore ‘physical poetry,’ drew inspiration from ballet and dance. The sugared-almond palette of white and pale pink showcased details suggesting both romance and movement—tulle fronds emerging from jacket sleeves, pannier-like accents at the hip, layered body suits with embellished bustiers, and white tights evoking the freedom of a dancer’s rehearsal room. Viard, emphasizing Chanel’s connection to dance institutions, choreographers, and costume creation, sought to unite the power and finesse of bodies and clothes in an ethereal collection featuring tulle, ruffles, pleats, and lace.
Dior Haute Couture A/W 2024
Maria Grazia Chiuri opted for an exploration of what she referred to as ‘aura,’ steering away from strictly defined themes. This approach resonates with the mood she has consistently crafted during her time at the house, blending historical nods and archives into a distinct manifestation of contemporary femininity.
The show’s backdrop featured Isabella Ducrot’s Big Aura, a collection of large-scale clothing silhouettes resembling the warp and weft of cloth. Fabric, the couturier’s medium, took center stage, showcasing rich moiré moments alongside the sheen of iridescent fabrics and lush velvet textures. Chiuri, acknowledging Christian Dior’s infatuation with moiré, described it as something that ‘unfurls over winter like a wave.’
For silhouettes, Chiuri drew inspiration from La Cigale, a dress from Christian Dior’s A/W 1952 collection, originally crafted in moiré. The iconic Dior silhouette, characterized by a cinched waist and cantilevered hips shaping the posture, underwent a reinterpretation by the designer. Gowns gracefully wrapped around the body, gently cinching the waist, and hourglass tailored jackets were paired with free-flowing plissé skirts, introducing a new ease to the stringent lines.
Schiaparelli Haute Couture S/S 2024
Daniel Roseberry consistently marks the beginning of Parisian couture week with his distinctive collections for Schiaparelli, attracting a star-studded front row (this season featuring Jennifer Lopez, Zendaya, and Hunter Schafer). Having honed his craft at Thom Browne, known for fantasy, Roseberry’s unpredictability is a hallmark, as seen in a previous S/S 2023 collection featuring oversized animal head replicas.
This season, Roseberry continued his avant-garde approach with a cosmic collection inspired by outer space and sci-fi elements. Notably, a ‘robo baby,’ crafted from gleaming discarded tech, made its way down the runway, carried by model Maggie Maurer, who amusingly mentioned its lighter weight compared to a real baby. The unexpected use of old mobile phones and compact disks on a gown echoed Roseberry’s artistic philosophy, emphasizing the fusion of seemingly opposing elements to create new and surprising chimeras.
Among the sculptural gowns, some were richly embroidered, soaring high on one side, while others featured massive fan-like breastplates made from patchworked black lace. Roseberry explained, “A series of profiles both familiar and not – part human, part something else,” encapsulating the essence of Schiaparelli.
Toteme A/W 2024
Toteme, the Swedish fashion brand, has experienced a notable surge in success, marked by the opening of a chic London outpost on Mount Street last year, adding to its global presence in New York, Shanghai, Seoul, and Stockholm. Opting for an off-schedule presentation during Haute Couture Week, founders Elin Kling and Karl Lindman hosted a select group of press and associates to unveil the A/W 2024 collection on a stark white runway reminiscent of the stripped-back stylings of 1990s runway shows.
Creative director Kling highlighted a focused approach on ‘line, cut, and shape’ in a thoughtfully curated collection. The lineup featured gently tapered wool overcoats, featherweight knits gracefully wrapping around the neckline (a motif echoed in sinuous dresses later on), and impeccably cut gowns that concluded the show. These gowns, delicately hovering off the shoulder or intricately knotted and adorned with crochet flowers, epitomized the refined aesthetic. Kling emphasized that the collection is designed for real-life situations, offering a highly curated edit that explores and consolidates Toteme’s distinctive codes—a perfect combination of styles for an elegant look.
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