You Like Football & I Like Couture

It was Tuesday evening when we (England) held our breath and watched our football team win, during penalties, against Colombia. Personally, as a well-versed English football loser, I hadn’t held out any hope. And then I was proved wrong. And now, I might just follow the football some more – until we get knocked out. Again. 



Iris Van Herpen Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION. 


While this all rumbled on, couture loomed large in the background of Paris. It’s easy to forget that the calendar it orbits also includes Wimbledon, the 4th of July, and, this year, the World Cup. And it’s safe to say we saw no such references regarding that on the catwalks – we’re unlikely to. Couture is a sport in its own right. Customers have their teams they support and high expectations that they’ll give them what they want this season. 

 

And while we’re on the analogies, another way to go would be: couture is rather like fine-dining (indeed, Alexis Mabille told us it was like eating a cake), Michelin star-style. And rather like a restaurant attains those by serving each course on a different plate with a different server and more, couture requires those extraordinary techniques that set it apart from ready-to-wear. Sometimes, it’s not obvious to the eye – as Alexis Mabille once again told us in an interview this week – but it’s the time, the complexity of the fabrication, it’s all of those ingredients and the way in which they’re served up that makes it. 

 


Givenchy Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION. 


You’re therefore less likely to see trends, because what comes out in front of you is a snapshot of a designer’s creative world at that time and the options you might want a piece of. Even Clare Waight Keller’s Givenchy couture debut, for example, felt less like one whole collection with a particular theme than it did a repertoire of what she can do. It varied from Mary Poppins skirting to conceptual dresses to striking colour combinations on contrast sleeves. It didn’t necessarily all marry up, but then did it need to?

 


Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION. 


The same can be said of other houses. Jean Paul Gaultier, though presenting a largely le smoking-inspired collection, threw a couple of Christmas jumpers in there, too. Presumably because that’s a good idea to do among a collection that so singularly, and cleverly, stuck to one idea. What if you booked an appointment with the express notion of wanting a jumper? 

 


Giambattista Valli Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION. 


But what you don’t find in trends, or a feast of options as per the above, you find in reliability for houses such as Giambattista Valli. The designer continued in his delicious meringue mountains, the girls almost looking as though they were climbing to the summit of one in those hefty tiered skirts in pink and pistachio frou. Bows, there were plenty, and veils and blooms; it was pretty and the right side of girly. There’s always something so incredibly romantic about Valli’s designs, dream-like without losing sight of fashion. Vivid fuchsia flowers on swingy numbers that trailed with feathers were a highlight for something that didn’t require the red carpet or a wedding as its accessory and there were plenty of nods to be taken, codes that exist in his ready-to-wear, that translate. Because, in some ways, shouldn’t couture be the same look as ready-to-wear but just better? Because if it goes too creative, it loses something.



Elie Saab Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION. 


Which seemed to be the case at Elie Saab, where conceptualism through architectural constructions spiralling out around the designs made them confusing and complicated. No doubt they’re show pieces and it won’t be mandatory to take a spider-web-like frame home with you, too, if you place an order for said piece, but it seemed like an odd move for a designer for whom the princess fairytale look has so become his formula. Perhaps it felt like time to try something new? But it just felt like, then, that those elegant and “simple” architectural lines that the clothes actually tried to celebrate were then outshone. 



Georges Hobeika Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION. 


At Georges Hobeika, if it’s sequin-dipped you want, it’s sequin-dipped you get. The designer does sparkle and more sparkle to create Barbie doll dresses for gala adventures: it was pink, it was blue, it was princess dress-up more than it was the everyday fashion that anchors the work of someone like Maison Rabih Kayrouz. There’s room for both. It just depends what you’re in the market for – and your budget. 

 

If you want more conceptual, then Iris van Herpen, who has polished up her act over the past few seasons in both ready-to-wear and couture offerings, is maybe for you. It’s sculptural and riffs on fossil lines and angelic silhouettes. It’s not necessarily red carpet, but does boast some kind of art-intellectual-lens, whether correct in perception or not, which can often be a lure. 



Alexandre Vauthier Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION. 


Back to the more contemporary and wearable and there’s Alexandre Vauthier, who circles around the high octant of the Eighties. Big belts, hats, bold colours, broad shoulders, his retro nod came with ever so slightly a few Marc Jacobs notes too. Bugsy Malone moments merged with Glamazon dresses, equestrian tailoring, and splays of flashy feathers, a sexy unabashed and confident glamour compared to that of other couture that says so because it doesn’t say anything. 


Backstage at the Dior Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris. Photo by Valerio Mezzanotti for NOWFASHION. 


Really, it just comes down to what couture team you’re on – and which players among that squad strike goals for you personally. Football-speak aside, and it was a season that did play to a sense of nostalgia – be it Dior’s beautiful real clothes or Olivier Saillard’s T-shirts that explored the art of the drape, accessorised with old-school numbered couture cards parading as bags.