What does it take to be a couture designer today? There are certain technical elements, of course. “I have to protect the past and also evolve techniques to project couture for the future,” notes Julien Fournie, who formally joined the calendar this season as an officially accredited couture designer. “I’m very proud,” he said, all calm and collected the morning of his show. After six months of work, it was he said “now or never”, having launched his brand seven years ago and having formerly worked with Galliano, McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier. “Couture has given me the freedom to express my story. I started to design when I was five years old, I was obsessed with the body. It’s about the French know-how, couture is very Parisian.”
Rami Al Ali Couture Fall Winter 2017 Fashion Show in Paris (Courtesy of PR)
Indeed, this is the week that, accredited or not – by which we mean those that receive the Fédération Française de la Couture seal of approval, something which has very strict guidelines – designers who boast couture credentials come to town to show off their wares. Wares, of course, being a pithy description for what we see: this is time and craft and fashion love and pain at its best. Among those showing off-schedule was Rami Ali Ali.
“For this collection, because of the amount of work, the way we’re showing is more of an art exhibition, we didn’t want to do a fashion show, we wanted to enable people to have more time to look at everything,” he explained of the Ritz-located showroom. Japan, cherry blossom and a reworking of the kimono provided inspiration for the extravagant sculptural shapes that sparkled with beaded blooms. “We worked more on the inside than the outside with the beaded skirts,” he pointed out, helter-skelter-style shapes showing off that internal shimmer.
It’s this kind of detail and nuance that for him, as a designer, makes it all worthwhile. “Because it’s [couture] very individual and very exclusive and gives you a very specific character. It’s not just about the craftsmanship and luxury, it gives you a private individual voice that none of the other fashion elements can,” he reflected.
Here, we round up some of those other individual voices from the week:
Schiaparelli Fashion Show Couture Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Paris (by Regis Colin-Berthelier for NOWFASHION)
Ever since it was resurrected back from the fashion dead four years ago, modern-day Schiaparelli has found its voice in a contemporary take on the surreal, which was the calling card of its namesake designer back in the day. It has worked sometimes better than others, it felt much too twee on occasion and then hit the nail on the head. It’s always hard to replace a brand that has its roots in a different, time, place and - in the case of Schiaparelli - world. Because surreal is part of it. But this collection felt modern indeed, short and contemporary shapes with youthful appeal, more of an attitude imbued this time rather than twee gowns. The babydoll number was especially cute.
Talking of surreal, that’s exactly what we got at Liu Chao, too. Sequin embellishments and motifs that weren’t all that dissimilar to what we saw at Schiaparelli, this also featured bomber jackets and hoodies, lots of pockets and deconstruction. Maybe it was because we had just come from Schiap, but it felt like it needed a point of difference.
Alexandre Vauthier Fashion Show Couture Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Paris (by Regis Colin-Berthelier for NOWFASHION)
Matadors: that’s all you needed to know. Yulia Yanina’s 20-year-old Russian took the idea and ran with it, literally, for little uniforms and lots of frou frou. Later there were some fun embroideries.
Denim cut-offs, bet you never thought you’d see those on a couture catwalk? Think again! Alexandre Vauthier teamed them with billowing ballgown skirts and Eighties one-shoulder tops, fluffy jumpers and be-zipped unfurling numbers. It was high octane and sassy, not pretty-pretty as couture so often does. That’s refreshing – but this felt like we had seen some of these ideas somewhere else already.
Ralph Russo Fashion Show Couture Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Paris (by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION)
The 2014-launched British label is a hit when it comes to the customer, of that there is no doubt. The show was packed with them, selfy-ing and shopping all at the same time. What were they taking their pick from? Well, this is couture in the traditional sense – flounce, frou frou, feathers, beads, the bride with the extravagant dress at the end. Iridescence and sparkle and flusters of feathers underpinned this collection, which had plenty of evening gown options as it did natty little numbers. It was a sheer and wafting robe that caught the eye of the client sitting next to this writer, though.