Four days, collections great and small, here we take a handful of highlights from the couture autumn/winter 2017 season - from the known names to those who pleasantly surprised us.
Rami Al Ali (left), Alexis Mabille (middle), Ulyana Sergeenko (right)
Rami Al Ali
It’s been six years and 12 seasons now that Syrian designer Rami Al Ali has been showing his couture creations in Paris. One looks to him for something elegant, typically elegant, feminine. Standout this season was a pale dusk pink tuxedo suit, the jacket of which faded into seemingly nothing but erupted into embellishment almost as though it was jewels simply sitting on the skin. How? It was seamless. And testament also to this was the fact that the girls required little additional styling – hair and make-up kept low-key and natural so that his work could take its moment in the Ritz spotlight.
A renewed breath of fresh air could be found in Alexis Mabille’s static presentation this season, a format that suited him far better it felt. Where in the past a catwalk has perhaps overwhelmed his collections, it felt like he was able to grow into this presentation space, at 19 Place Vendôme. “Each room expresses a different idea, the different facets,” he said, dressed in a white shirt and jeans, a twinkly-sparkly belt too. “The idea is to give people time to look around and take in the details.” We could and there were plenty to see: from his more signature bow-sweet looks – an incredible patisserie-like creation – and young, fun styles to the more dramatic. It’s a toss-up between the metallic and the meringue marvel, though.
Couture was feeling a little gangster over at Ulyana Sergeenko where the designer brought film noir, villains, and Bugsy Malone style to life for a collection heavy on coats and Forties silhouettes. Femme fatales, detectives, spies; hallmarks of said characters came to life as pistol brooches perched on cinched coats, fedoras up top, and jazz trumpet motifs featured too. What Sergeenko offers is a more “fashion” approach to couture. Less dress, more wear – though there were a couple of stellar Ginger Rogers moments to be found too.
Antonio Grimaldi (left), Elie Saab (middle), Giorgio Armani Prive (right)
A less instantly recognisable name on the couture schedule is Rome-based designer Antonio Grimaldi. But it pays to wander off into unchartered territory. A surprise hit for us this season, in a steely and focused colour palette that centred on grey and dusky pink tones, he presented a calm and collected collection whose opening looks were the most winning: grey tailoring punctuated with feathers, be that down the front of trousers or as light flusters to edge the silhouette of a poncho proposition.
Fans of Game of Thrones, this one is for you. Elie Saab has such a signature now that he can so easily waver it into whichever territory he wants. This time that was back to medieval times – warrior queens in velvet and lace, encrusted bodices, and long-flowing capes. He ended the show with the standard bride finale but out she came with two bridesmaids, too. This was a clever thing to do because let’s not forget that the couture industry and the bridal industry are essentially wed to one another. From an outside perspective, the wedding is probably the most legitimate occasion to go all out and go couture after all (budget permitting, naturally).
Giorgio Armani Prive
Twinkle, twinkle. Armani Prive is a style stalwart when it comes to couture – not too over the top; classic, but there’s always some shimmer and shine to spy, which makes him a red carpet favourite time and again. In pink, blue, and black, this made for a pretty night-time collection, glamour and sophistication emitting from every sequin. Take the net hats off and you have pieces that will appeal undoubtedly to his customer.
Left to right: looks from the Ronald van der Kemp, Alexandre Vauthier, Ralph & Russo shows
It's party time, folks! As usual, Alexandre Vauthier excelled in showcasing a range of sensual and appealing mini-dresses and frilly cocktails numbers. This time around, Vauthier was in a cheerful mood and celebrated femininity – and the 80s disco fever with a joie de vivre beat. On this occasion, the influencer and model-of-the-moment Bella Hadid illuminated the runway in a full-crystal dress embroidered by Maison Lesage, therewith marking Vauthier's 11th season collaboration with Swarovski. It's all about the bling factor, after all.
Ronald van der Kemp
This season, Ronald van der Kemp kicked off the Haute Couture shows in Paris, and while the debut runway show on the calendar is mostly likely to be the one that the audience forgets about first – Too many visual impression during fashion week! – Ronald van der Kemp's neo-hippie flavored Fall/Winter 2017-18 Haute Couture offering was one of the most memorable collections this season. In fact, the Dutch designer has a one-of-a-kind design concept: each single piece is crafted from ancient or vintage fabrics that he reuses in order to create a new garment. He thereby not only manages to breath new life into valuable fabrics but does it in the poshest way, mingling fabulous retro-flavored styles with utterly contemporary references and a free-spirited attitude. This season's must-have looks included a pair of low-waisted primary red patchwork trousers that were paired with a lapis lazuli blue short-in-the-front-long-in-back crop top.
Ralph & Russo
This season, the dynamic duo Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo celebrated the timeless beauty of women captured by fashion legends such as the photographers Richard Avedon, Norman Parkinson, and Cecil Beaton, and as such, their Fall/Winter 2017-18 collection reinterpreted a woman's classic Haute Couture must-haves, namely the perfectly cut tailleur, the figure-hugging mini-dress and the beautifully adorned, floor sweeping evening gown in icy mint and pearly lavender hues. Our highlight? A black and silver tweed tailleur with an asymmetric off-the-shoulder collar that "screamed" sophistication with an edge.
Left to right: looks from the Fendi, Giambattista Valli, Zuhair Murad shows.
Shining bright like a diamond – this is the very essence of a Haute Couture gown designed by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad. For his Fall/Winter 2017-18 Haute Couture collection, Mr Murad played with Belle Epoque aesthetics, which are, according to the designer, a symbol of empowerment. The allure of the silhouettes was regal and gracious, and Zuhair Murad edged it with layerings, plunging backlines, and boyish trousers, as well as with opulent textures and fabrics that contrasted with each other. A lavender blue off-the-shoulder envelope dress adorned with feather applications and 3D thistles was particularly desirable.
As usual, the Italian designer Giambattista Valli excels at his Haute Couture shows, with this last one being staged in the enchanting and bucolic inner courtyard of the Petit Palais. His dresses always seem to come straight out of a modern-day fairy tale, where the princess is as much delicate as she is emancipated. Draped silk gowns, tulle numbers, and frilly look-at-me-now cocktail dresses are always a must at a Valli show. This season's highlights included a lemon colored evening cape dress with a seemingly endless train crafted from draped and ruffled silk chiffon and a cocktail suit embroidered with crystals and adorned with a maxi-sized pussy bow. Both looks were truly representative of Valli's DNA, as the Italian designer crafts his Haute Couture pieces both for Roman princesses and worldly business Ladies.
Ending the fashion week on a high note, Karl Lagerfeld showcased his third Haute Fourrure collection for Fendi. This time around, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées made for a fairytale like scenery: models came out of the picturesque woods (suggested by the set design on stage) and hit the runway in style. Last year, the Roman heritage house showcased its collections in the Eternal City – the last show was notably held inside (yes, inside!) the iconic Fontana di Trevi and had the models seemingly walking on water (which was in fact a transparent plexiglass runway). Needless to say, both Mr Lagerfeld and Fendi know how to impress their audience by staging a dreamy show that offers the most exquisitely crafted Fourrure numbers. And frankly, who other than Karl Lagerfeld himself would be able to turn shaved mink into beautifully crafted flower embroideries on Couture dresses? Kendall, Bella, and their fellow top models were all graciously sporting Mr Lagerfeld's unique pieces – and by doing so they were the were the envy of le Tout-Paris.