The French capital hosts an uncanny, spirited fantasy of luxury design.
There is a particular breed of Frenchman who wins the world with his unassuming wit and floppy charm. The Parisian is one such, and his personality, from a cultural standpoint, has infused global businesses to great effect and success for many decades. This season, it’s been the very realm of Couture to deliver such uncanny-yet-spirited fantasy, which demands a high degree of focus. It’s exactly the reason why Couture’s Spring 2023 shows were such a success. They delivered focus, occasionally veering towards the unconventional and the outlandish while shaping the sartorial traditions of craftsmanship and the rumbles of modern society.
This message was underscored by impressive tailoring. The classic ball gown was made over with unexpected proportions that were just short of extreme. Slicing thighs came with décolleté that were employed as mediums for sculpting the body; biker jackets were deconstructed and teamed with intricate lingerie, splicing executive seductiveness with a dose of street basics. A dash of silk, a hint of corseted denim, a few flounces, and modern skin-tight shapes added a romantic twist.
In a Couture landscape bouncing from extra-chic to uber-cool, designers’ Spring outings were increasingly whimsical, and expressions of daring felt relegated to volume; indeed, luxury factors upped by the use of ample textures and unerring, neat execution. Clearly, examining the complex structures at play in our world is how Couturiers get their kicks. It certainly makes for thought-provoking and compelling fashion.
From opulent peplums to body-morphing silks, treat yourself to our rundown of the top highlights from Couture’s Spring 2023 shows, below…
Designers go to great lengths to find a plausible subtext to their garments, a narrative that can somehow substantiate the predictable, undeniable physicality of the collections. Christian Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri is no exception, but she did it smartly for Spring, finding inspiration in clothes that riffed on Joséphine Baker’s work, the African-American singer and dancer who left the United States in the mid-1920s for Paris. “Iconic, glamorous and committed, she embodies the modernity of those years, the mixing of cultures and shared experiences that notably animated the vibrant world of cabaret, from New York to the City of Light,” denotes Chiuri, who brought forth a lineup that toughened-up the attitude of female suiting with opulent jackets, styling them with relaxed trousers which in turn translated to a muted palette of neutrals. This season, delicate pieces, central to Dior’s meticulous savoir-faire, came to life in a scenographic narrative, specially envisioned by artist Mickalene Thomas who composed giant portraits of extraordinary personalities symbolising a new pantheon of women.
There’s no shortage of flounces this season, but Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli offered a twist on the Spring detail. Keeping things whimsical without accidentally verging into commercial territory, Piccioli played to his strengths, colour and billowing detailing, conceiving a far-fetched, thought-provoking blend between the contrasting universes of Couture and the club into a synergy of sartorial extravaganza. Dichotomies and technicalities aside, Piccioli’s Couture vision created an appealing mashup of formal and casual, embroideries and hand-drapes, as in pale pink feathers knotted with black satin bows; then came play time: with scale, of course, an element that magnified garments’ proportions to sublime levels. The easy dressiness fitted right in with Piccioli’s mission statement, conceiving clothes ready to induce a heart attack.
Jean Paul Gaultier
“Couture is what remains when everything else has been forgotten,” denote Haider Ackermann and Jean Paul Gaultier in the collection release. Spring 2023 saw Ackermann passing through Jean Paul Gaultier’s history, revisiting the body of work of his peer in thirty-six passages composing the Couture collection, elevating femininity to new heights with supermodel galore and impeccable touches of tailoring. These passages cut through time as well as space, they are both moments and motions. Because Jean Paul Gaultier is an emotional designer, it is of course from the heart that comes the answer to this season’s collection. “The heart speaks, the heart draws,” he opines. “The heart sews.” Haider revels in lucid, levelheaded precision, finding crazy yet supremely serene elements to play with in Jean Paul Gaultier’s multi-faceted œuvre. Here, two voices mingle and merge to reach an overwhelming unison, opening towards an intense and melodious lineup for Spring. Haider Ackermann puts it better: “Since garments form a language, they must be surrounded by silence so that the message they carry can be heard.”
After a two-year hiatus and a wealth of power-driven collections, Mugler’s Casey Cadwallader re-materialises the house’s experience. Nestled within the vaulted, industrial hangar of the Grand Halles de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, the veritable whiplash gets personified by a cast of extraordinary characters (or better, supermodels). Both odd and familiar, their unapologetic individuality and freedom remains the pulsing lingua franca of the Mugler attitude. With grit and glamour dosed in equal measure, the collection revels in the daring, the deconstructed, and the decadent, proposing a revelatory line that embodies feminine strength for our time. Grazing erogenous zones from head to toe, lines are drawn slicing thighs, pelvis, décolleté. What’s more, satin, leather and lace are employed as mediums for sculpting and draping, allowing construction and fluid movement to coexist. Masculine archetypes alongside the ultra-feminine reign supreme: boned biker jackets, spiral denim shorts, parkas and topcoats collide with intricate lingerie, and silver fringes. Body-hugging, but seductive.
Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise: One cannot exist without the other. Indeed, it’s Paradise, Purgatory, and Hell that epitomise the three key passages that infused Daniel Roseberry’s vision for this season’s Schiaparelli Couture show, serving as a poignant reminder of the theatrics of fashion, coupled with Dante Alighieri’s literature, The Divine Comedy, which dates back to 1308. From faux lion heads to vegan-crafted beasts (recalling those present in Alighieri’s poem), this collection is a homage to doubt. The doubt of creation, and the doubt of intent. The twinned, sometimes contradictory impulses to please one’s audience and to impress oneself; the ambivalence that is every artist’s constant companion. “And so with this collection, I wanted to step away from techniques I was comfortable with and understood, to choose instead that dark wood, where everything is scary but new, where I would be feeling my way through someplace I didn’t know and didn’t understand,” says Roseberry. This season, the focus was less on deliberate artifice, such as the house’s signature anatomy jewel, and more on blurring the lines between the natural and the unworldly. An exaggerated mimicry, with an unabashed dose of surrealism to match the skillfully draped gowns around the body, creating a fun juxtaposition between the classic and the avant-garde.