Recap: Haute Couture January 2016

Collage © Julia Zierer Visuals

Normally couture is the most relaxing time of a fashion week. For example, customers prefer to lunch with friends at Voltaire between the shows and fittings (where, at the neighboring table, Anna Wintour can lead uninterrupted power meetings with the hottest designers and creative directors) rather than post themselves on their various social media channels.

This time though, the mood at the summer 2016 shows was in general a little troubled. Could it be because it’s a turbulent time for journalists and buyers, because the men’s shows just finished and at almost the same time pre-fall is being shown? Or because a lot of couture customers prefer to stay at home in times of crisis, following the shows on an iPad, to fly in their favorite velvet robe couture dressmaker and suddenly the seats in the front row are free for the street-savvy ready-to-wear regular customer?

When, however, it comes to the current number one topic of conversation, everyone agrees: The rumors are coming hard and heavy. When will it be confirmed that Hedi Slimane has finally turned his back on Saint Laurent? All of Paris further speculates about who will follow in Raf Simons’ impressive footsteps at Dior? At the moment it is rumored that Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen is in the running. Raf’s name, however, is mentioned in the same breath as Calvin Klein and fans from Phoebe Philo are mentally preparing for her early exit from Céline. After a short break, the most unrealistic and most exciting of all fables, she is supposed to take over Karl Lagerfeld’s legacy at Chanel. One of the reasons my previous relaxation transformed into a latent curious excitement.

My personal highlight: Valentino! There’s definite diary entry potential if only because I sat across from the fabled Maris Berenson (dressed in a black floor-length Frans cape), Gaspard Ulliel in the thinking pose as he puffed on his electronic cigarette and, of course, @realmrvalentino personally (he’s actually on IG), in one of the sumptuous salons at the Hôtel de Salomon Rothschild.

The very first looks were accompanied by gasps from the guests sitting around me: velvet in abundance, in the reddest red, in mossy greed, in papal violet, in washed sky blue, in deep Bordeaux, and yes, really, in my current favorite color: yellow. One! The brightest! King’s yellow! Despite the opulence of the exquisite materials and high-quality processing these clothes feel light footed and dreamily dancing, without leaving the historical depth and beauty of Rome behind. When, after a few exits, I managed to turn my eyes from the exquisite robes to see which shoes the two Italian creatives, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, had chosen, I wasn’t sure if I was even awake. I saw bare feet! The models weren’t wearing shoes, rather, nothing more than Indian-inspired jewelry as they walked over silk flowers and leaves. Like temple dancers.

Best show sets: No surprise, that it’s always the same big players here. Continuity implemented through great ideas deserves a bit more enthusiasm: In the Grand Palais Chanel created a square blockhouse designed in a Scandinavian manner, surrounded by green lawns and bright warm, artificial sunlight. The whole appeared to be a Japanese Zen garden (on IG the set was somewhat less charmingly renamed Bento Box). The topic of sustainability and naturalness played an important role in the collection – coming through as consistent and luxurious in its creation. During the show you could imagine all this: wooden beads and sequins prevailed, elaborate couture embroidery techniques involving recycled paper and even the yarn was “organic”! All this proves the pure understatement and the true luxury of the house.

Without a creative mastermind at the helm, Dior had it much harder. All the better that Raf Simons’ team, with the Swiss Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux, could still show one or two faces after the show. The mirrored tent set in the garden of the Musée Rodin from Alex de Betak almost seemed like a parable. Equipped with corner, edge and even ceiling mirrors, the tent was surprising with dark wooden floors and dimmed light in the interior.

The best princess moment: Giambattista Valli’s cloud-like sugar-icing cake finale with fantastically bobbing and flowing dreams of tulle would soften even a minimalists heart. And transformed from moment to moment to Anna Karenina or possibly a portrait from Tim Walker. And I, I’m incredibly inspired for the wedding of a very dear friend in an Irish castle in summer of 2016!

Best dinner: At the opening of Paco Rabanne’s first boutique in 14 years (in the 1st arrondissement, designed by architects Kersten Geers and David Van Severen) artistic director Julien Dossena was celebrated in Paris’s oldest restaurant fittingly named Le Grand Véfour (as luck would have it, one of my favorite places to celebrate in Paris). Also at the party were Pierre Hardy, Nicole Phelps, Carine Roitfeld, Marie-Amelie Sauvé, Elizabeth von Guttman and Alexia Niedzielski, Ashley Heath and, of course, Olivier Zahm (without a camera!) and the beautiful and cool-relaxed muse of the house, Liya Kebede. Cheers!

Translation: Alicia Reuter