Review: Haute Couture Paris Fall / Winter 2016

©Collage / Oriane Baud

Veronika Heilbrunner visited the Haute Couture Shows Fall / Winter 2016 in Paris: A look back at her personal highlights

How does a Couture Fashion Week, after which pretty much everything will be completely different, begin? Quietly. Overshadowed by the end of the men’s shows, the omnipresent European Football Championship and unfortunately, the related security measures.

The usual, very relaxed Sunday evening kickoff – a stimulating dose of Versace glamour and a standardized party – was replaced by a Russian-Italian delegation of more-or-less successful couture premieres. Alberta Ferretti and Francesco Scognamiglio both gave their debuts, followed by Ulyana Sergeenko, whose time slot unfortunately suffered a little under the excitement of the eagerly awaited Vetements show coming up afterwards. And only at this point did Versace enter the picture, but it wasn’t allowed to shine as the crowning glory because of the Miu Miu Club and the Resort Collection presentation. That was taken by a high-spirited Kate Moss on the turntables (of course not too occupied with the mixer, considering an always-full glass of whiskey and Coca Cola).

The best look

Dior – draped from head to toe in black, the first model floated by me in simple, flat gladiator sandals to classical, heavy tones (played by a live quartet). And I was done for. The fabric fluid, resonating in its movement with the form of a voluminous “New New Look” skirt – as the skirt sat on the hips – balanced out with a very delicate, lightly cascading top. The hair drawn away from the face with a large gold clip so as to direct all attention to the outrageously chic “film noir” eyeliner. And it carried on like that without mercy. The only addition to the color palette were variations on white. Of course there was also elaborate embroidery, but it always appeared light, weightless, and modern.

At first I was completely surprised by the extreme change of direction taken by Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux, who hold the creative position since Raf Simons’ surprising exit. Then suddenly it hit me: all of the rumors about Maria Grazia Chiuri’s departure from Valentino must be true, as the Dior show carried her unmistakable signature – starting with the cuts, this lightness, the color palette, from the shoe choice to the hair. But with exactly the right touch of French modernity: the emphasis on the waist and a little more “maquillage”. But still there was no official statement. That followed, however, on the day after the Valentino show when it was announced that Pierpaolo Piccioli would now be the house’s sole artistic director. That made it all clear! Now, however much influence Maria Grazia really had on this couture collection for Dior…probably no one will ever reveal that. In any case: bravo!

Best show

Brioni – as I’m obviously biased, but nonetheless extremely excited for the results of the first show (and with only three months lead time) under Creative Director Justin O’Shea, I’ll try to keep my cheering as short as possible. This explosive show was named “Paris One” – appropriate considering the show track One (coincidentally also my favorite Metallica song). The Sir David Chipperfield redesigned shop served as the location for the first show to usher in O’Shea’s era. Of course, members of Metallica were among the guests – the band is, after all, the face of the first campaign, shot by Zackery Michael.

I heard rumors (;-)) that half of the male models were casted from boxing clubs. Surprisingly, I was nevertheless a big fan of the eleven women’s looks, worn by my favorite up-and-coming star Yana Bovenistier from Woman and “Last Exit” Jamie BochertObviously, I’ve since dreamed on sleepless nights of their Paspaley pearl-studded velvet suit, velvet ankle boots, and the Mina Bag (derived from Winona Ryder’s character Mina Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula). All of the women’s looks are couture and, following the well-known “Hedi Slimane Principle”, can only be ordered on request. The men’s looks have been available since the show in selected stores like London’s Bruton Street, Dover Street Market, of course in the Paris St. Honoré store, and online. But, take a look for yourself.

My personal highlight

Chanel! Here I have to go into a little more detail. A few days before the show, one of my biggest dreams was fulfilled: I was allowed to visit three selected Chanel studios during the final production of the collection! I’ll reveal the results of this unbelievable trip in an upcoming collaboration with German Harper’s Bazaar, but more about that in September.

Since the theme of the Chanel show is always strongly guarded and even internal press people are only informed a day before the show, the surprise couldn’t be greater: the inner set-up of the Grand Palais was an exact model of the couture studio complete with all the associated equipment and of course including the “petites mains”, as the skilled seamstresses are lovingly called. The creations were Chanel through-and-through and reflected the know-how, refinement, skill, and luxury of the in-house studio. As Karl Lagerfeld made his rounds after the parade, firmly arm in arm for his premiere (the respective circuit of the studio), I wasn’t the only one holding back tears and even included a quick prayer: please, may Karl create many more collections to come!

Best party

Cartier for the launch of Cactus, the high jewelry collection. A rain shower wiped over the festivities every twenty minutes, but this was offset by the auspicious location. With a view of the Eiffel Tower from the terrace of the Monsieur Bleu restaurant in Palais de Tokyo, the evening was danced away to live music and, as it got later, Mimi Xu’s DJ set. Inside, guests could gaze at the jewelry pieces laid out in a desert of red sand dunes and outside the green pool of the neoclassical museum building glowed.

Conversation topic #1

Vetements! The reports that came out in advance already had suggested so much, but ultimately only provoked more questions. As it turned out, almost every second invited guest had thrown away their invitation before the show – it looked like an advertising mail out with the logo of Galeries Lafayette (which served as the show location) and a list of the participating brands from Schott and Juicy Couture all the way to Manolo Blahnik. They played (surprise!) elevator music for the show soundtrack, which was replaced by thrash metal for the finale. I’m already giving away so much: the Levi’s short with a zip all the way around is at the top of my shopping list and I can hardly wait to see a pair of Juicy Couture x Vetements overalls on a Hollywood star. My spontaneous suggestion: Julianne Moore!

Best re-see

Valentino! Even during the theatrically beautiful show (accentuated by Romeo and Juliette-sounds, Prokofiew’s ballet music), I was fascinated by the wonderful contrasts. Delicate silk robes embroidered all over with pearls, high yet gentle blouse collars paired with heavy, knee-high buckle boots that would pass as jackboots without anything else. At a closer look in the gorgeous rooms of the Maison on Place Vendôme, I discovered corset lacing over white blouses with perfectly pointed cuffs, typically Valentino embroidered phrases and sentences  on the top of a black robe, and many more beautiful treasures for for the vaults of countless couture customers and traditional houses.

Translation: Melissa Frost

Born and raised in Munich/Germany, Veronika’s professional career has developed from being a model to a fashion editor, to online luxury retailing and most recently style editor of Harpers Bazaar Germany. She currently lives in Berlin where in the beginning of 2015 she started a company with Julia Knolle, the ex-editor at large of Vogue Digital.
Oh, and she loves pugs!