It’s funny how all of my wildest fantasies somehow circle back to a couture appointment, but some psychologists would agree I don’t actually control the narrative, people. This week, Paris welcomed back the throng of sharpest fabric cut-craving devotees during the Celine Dion Is Just Having Fun With It™ appearance tour otherwise known as Haute Couture Week, and we were all blessed slash reminded once more of our actual social status.
In the immortal, shade-brimmed words of queen Aretha Franklin: “Great gowns, beautiful gowns” were everyone’s to behold, albeit most likely through a cracked phone screen and not in physical reality. Agreed, a lot of it was sequins on pearls on chiffon on volume, but fresh gulps of air were equally provided for. Take the sleek, graceful, contempo-couture of Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino who is just soaring, left to his devices at the helm of the Emperor’s fleet.
The techno-fabulous imaginings of Iris Van Herpen were only rivalled in absurd beauty by her fellow countrymen at Viktor & Rolf’s bomber dolls on acid(wash). Thrill-seekers – and I challenge you to find one fashion fiend who doesn’t subscribe to ‘Drama & Extra Weekly’ – were certainly not left feeling peckish there (insert half-hearted “I haven’t eaten since 1983 except for that one crisp that was actually pot pourri” Ab Fab line misquoted on front rows the world round).
Even though haute couture as an economic concept will always be left struggling for relevancy in today’s society, the pure art and excruciating craftsmanship that’s at the foundation of it will fascinate for eternity. But just like when you feverishly avoid eye contact with strangers in the personal hygiene aisle, we all know what we came here for. As hoped and expected, two masters of construction, cut and execution dominated the wheezingly polished stage this week: couturier icons Azzedine Alaïa and John Galliano.
Though the Galliano name will unfortunately remain clouded with an indelible aura of discomfit, the work being flung out of the Maison Margiela ateliers will never provoke less than total awe. Inspired by an evening during which he had forgotten to walk the dogs and sped out of the door in a half done-up trench coat over a bath robe (bona fide Gallianesque story-telling), John Galliano started pondering the concept of new glamour. This musing then trickled through the solid gold cogs and rare peacock feathers which line the Imaginarium inside the legendary British designer’s mind (I mean, that’s got to be what it looks like) and out came a marvel of a collection. The trench coat has literally been deconstructed to death, but in Galliano’s hands it turns into corrugated cardboard or frayed, whisp-thin corseting at the drop of a pleating pin. Fair Isle jumpers hanging by a thread like birthday garlands skimmed the most fragile-looking suggestions of skirts including one constructed of what seems like divine intervention and broken feathers. Pair that with the wizardry of Pat McGrath and the shampoo chic by Eugene Souleiman. The audacity of this kind of skill!
A wholly different kind of exquisite was given to us at the first Azzedine Alaïa haute couture presentation in six years. Monsieur Alaïa will never be rushed, in fact, he’ll most likely ghost you, so whatever comes out of that mystic Marais loft will be savoured piecemeal. Opening the show with his long-time muse and surrogate daughter Naomi Campbell already had me keeled over. As newly-minted contributing editor to what is already looking like the most legendary editorial team in fashion history – thank you Edward Kobina Enninful OBE – seeing Naomi open for her ‘Papa’ like utter royalty was just as striking as the first time she walked for him in 1986. There was an iron-clad, infallibly-constructed elegance that spoke in every piece. The signature ribbed knit undulations of eveningwear gowns were just as elegantly cut as cropped shearling caban coats. You’d think ‘leopard thigh-highs’ are not the main trapping for an achingly chic look, but then again: Azzedine Alaïa would know how to fashion a piece of lint into a state dinner look. The Julien d’Ys head wraps of pharaonic proportions added the perfect amount of now, while the neo-folk motif embroidery theme added an intense element of tradition. I feel like only a mushy Celine Dion lyric will do here: “my world is a better place because of you”, mister Alaïa.