Paris Haute Couture: The Showstoppers

Now that the Spring/Summer 2019 Haute Couture season has come to an end in Paris, we've compiled the most eye-catching collections for you that came with a certain je-ne-sais-quoi with Couture gowns that turned out to be true conversation pieces. 

Viktor & Rolf Spring/Summer 2019 Couture show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren are no strangers to strong statements and impressive silhouettes. Throughout their career – it's been over two decades – the designer-duo has always been breathing new life into traditional Haute Couture and designing the unexpected by creating bold evening numbers that come with a decisive dramatic twist. Speaking of drama, this season was a particularly dramatic one: A-shaped floor-skimming voluminous gowns crafted from masses of tulle featured eye-catching statements, which were making a nod to the millennial generation and its both humorous and sarcastic social media taglines.

Maison Margiela Spring/Summer 2019 Couture show in Paris. Photo by Valerio Mezzanotti for NOWFASHION.

John Galliano, for his part, did what he does best at Maison Margiela: a visceral mix of opulence and eclecticism with deconstructivism and subversiveness – notions that were very dear to Martin Margiela himself. Once again, Galliano's vision for Maison Margiela's Artisanal collection came with a dystopian and highly explorative twist – hence the conceptual look of the models and heavily deconstructed tailoring and styling of the looks. However, the show's set design and soundtrack were less dramatic than before and came with a bit of kitsch: models walked the mirrored runway to the rhythm of a bouncy hip-hop song by rapper Tommy Cash, while an intriguing – and cute! – blue poodle motif appeared as a recurrent tapestry motif on the graffiti painted walls. The blue poodle was also featured both as a print and as a woolen embroidery on some Galliano's Haute Couture pieces, which were worn both by women and men this season. However, as much as this poodle motif may have seemed innocent at first sight, we shouldn't forget that it bears a deeper cultural meaning: after all, in Faust I, his most tragic play, Goethe had his Mephistopheles – the evil spirit to whom Faust sold his soul – emerge from a poodle (sorry, poodle-lovers). As the saying goes, the devil lies in the details. 

RVDK Ronald Van Der Kemp Spring/Summer 2019 Couture show in Paris. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION.

True to his sustainable and ethical Haute Couture concept, Ronald van der Kemp crafted his eye-catching and nostalgic cocktail numbers and evening gowns from vintage fabrics that he reinterpreted and upcycled into something new. In fact, each gown was crafted from a multitude of repurposed archived pieces, remnant fabrics, and other production leftovers. A floral printed gown with an intarsia bodice crafted from silk mousseline stock form a French Couture mill was matched with a pair of early 90s-inspired sunnies crafted from sustainable horn – it made quite an impression on the runway. The strength of Ronald van der Kemp lies precisely in creating the unexpected by breathing new life into old, forgotten clothing, and fabric stocks. His collections ultimately give the impulse to a conversation between the past and the present. And as such, his Haute Couture numbers are not only aesthetically but also intellectually pleasing. 

Olivier Rousteing at the Balmain Spring/Summer 2019 Couture show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

Finally, it was Olivier Rousteing who ended the season in style – and raised another interesting question, "What is Couture in 2019?" which he promptly answered himself in his show notes: "It is a very welcome break from the daily hype, trends and commercial pressures, allowing me the immense luxury of stepping back for a minute – a chance to clear my mind, dream and revel in a moment of unfettered creativity," he explained. "While the outside fashion world might have remained obsessed with sportswear and streetwear, my all-too-brief couture escape allows me to momentarily swim against the current, thinking only about dreams, beauty and aspirations." And he did get his aspirations from a place of beauty and heritage: Pierre Balmain's legacy was the starting point of Rousteing's first Haute Couture collection for the French luxury house, and the designer mingled a mix-and-match of Pierre Balmain's signature style – such as intricate details, impeccable tailoring, and body-conscious sculptural shapes – to his of-the-moment youthful and highly feminine style. In a way, this was more of an imaginative conversation between Rousteing and Balmain, more than an homage to Pierre Balmain. And it is precisely this expressive, conversational guiding thread that made the collection highly desirable.