This week in Paris was cold, damp and grey. But wasn’t it gorgeous?
The disparities between seasons in the haute couture are vast: One is held in July, the peak of summer and when Paris is teeming with tourists and sunshine. The other in January, when the town is decadently empty. Each is remarkable in their own way, and as I reminisce on this past week I am fashionably fulfilled.
Since she has returned to the couture schedule two years ago, Donatella Versace has kicked off the festivities with her Atelier Versace fashion show. This year, she had a little help from her doppelganger Lady Gaga, who sat front row during the show and then next to her at dinner. (All in all, I counted the former Stefani Joanne Germanotta in no less than three ensembles throughout the evening.) Gaga herself, with a good measure of Grace Jones, was the inspiration for the show, which was dripping and draped in sumptuous fabrics and crystals and hooded in sheaths in long, blown out hair. A few days before the show, Donatella decided to throw a dinner. What she lacked in time for planning she made up for in spontaneous glamour. I was sat opposite Gaga and D.V., who cuddled like school girls with their matching black strapless Atelier dresses and long blonde locks. Gaga took selfies with Karlie Kloss, Mario Testino mugged with Azzedine Alaia, and Riccardo Tisci held court with the rest of the Italian contingency, including Italian Vogue’s editor Franca Sozzani.
The following day saw the launch of the revamped Schiaparelli label with an early morning show that drew fellow designers like Alaia, Jean Paul Gaultier and Pier Paolo and Maria Grazia from Valentino. Carla Bruni and Elle McPherson were there too. The show provided us all with a joyous, whimsical start to the day. The new designer, Marco Zanini, explained that not a single machine touched these completely handmade clothes, though they still reeked of modernity: even the finale bride wore a cropped pantsuit and veil. The shoes, all flats with plumps of feathers on the toes, made me regret ever telling a woman to put on a pair of high heels. Then there was Raf Simons’ haute couture show for Christian Dior, which was held in a specially constructed igloo structure in the Musee Rodin. The show was soft, flowing and full of holes in the fabric — but not in concept. The emphasis was on whites, which felt very modern and light in the confines of the space, with some navy blue thrown in. I was particularly taken by the off-the-shoulder dress that Stella Tennant wore in the show, as well as a white layered dress that draped away from the body in front, but created a perfect landing for some embroidery on the back. Later that day was Giambattista Valli, the gregarious Italian living in Paris, and his sixth couture offering. As is often the case with him, he turned to his garden for inspiration, with a flowering collection of short, strict dresses and long gowns. My favorite ensemble was a split gown worn over cigarette pants.
Tuesday was an iconic day, meaning it included two of the industry’s biggest icons: Chanel and Giorgio Armani. Chanel’s show was sequined and pasteled and sparkled within an inch of its life. The emphasis was on the waists, which were cinched and teeny tiny. Karl Lagerfeld also introduced an unexpected element: haute couture running shoes held together by lace ribbon laces. Mr. Armani this season turned again to two of my favorite things: Hollywood glamour and champagne, though in the case of the latter I mean the color more than the bubbly. He followed his show with a sit down dinner for about 400 of his closest friends which, in true Italian style, didn’t end till well past midnight. (Speaking of champagne, I must have had too much because I left my hat at dinner, and only by the grace of Armani’s stellar PR team did I get it back.)
The last day of couture started with Margiela. If you’re not familiar with the brand, start Googling. The mysterious house of Martin Margiela is a fashion industry favorite because of his unique, intellectual take on the seemingly unfashionable world around us. One of the first Margiela shows I ever went to had jackets made entirely of Pic pen caps – but it still looked like the most elegant thing we had ever seen. This season, we saw tops that were embroidered to look like couture tattoos, patchwork wrap tops in Frank Lloyd Wright fabrics and, my favorite, a pair of giant cuffs in the shape of sequined eyeballs. Jean Paul Gaultier followed with a new commentary on burlesque butterflies, which included a cameo from Dita von Teese herself. And finally, there was the Valentino show, which had everyone enraptured in its ethereal glamour. It was if the models were nymphs and they had emerged from a place in the woods were beautiful things are born. Even butterflies, which I had heretofore only associated with Mariah Carey, were reinterpreted as fanciful fashion candies. Florence Welch, who wore a green coat full of colorful embroired butterflies, said it was so beautiful she wanted to weep.
So, the two biggest trends? Trainers and butterflies. Who would have guessed? When Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci (who no longer shows on the couture schedule, though still does couture pieces for clients) was announced as the new designer at Nike, it should have been a clue that sportswear was coming back. But no one saw the trainers at both Dior and Chanel coming. It is funny how the fashion zeitgeist works, isn’t it?
Scroll down for more pictures from the haute couture.
Captions, from top: A subtle shot from the Versace dinner with Gaga, Donatella, Franca, me and Mario; Lily Allen and Karl after his Chanel show; Anna dello Russo and Carine Roitfeld perched in the front row of the Margiela show; Tilda Swinton with some Asian fans, with a priceless expression on her face; Lindsey Wixson following her turn on the Versace catwalk; Stella Tennant in the opening look at the Schiaparelli show wearing a Stephen Jones pirate hat; the fries at Brasserie Lipp, served best with their chicken; Giorgio Armani and Afef Jay at his dinner; Gaga and Donatella looking like twinsies at dinner; my menswear moment at the Saint Laurent show; Hamish Bowles and Elizabeth Debicki, the breakout actress from the Great Gatsby, at Armani’s dinner; Florence at Valentino; me with Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing and Joan Smalls at dinner; the embroidered tattoos at Margiela; Caroline Seiber at Giambattista Valli’s show; Alexander Wang, Vanessa Traina and Kate Bosworth at dinner; Donatella and Riccardo at dinner; Andreea Diaconu on the Versace runway; Joan at the Gucci documentary screening; a carousel in the Tuilleries, which I sadly didn’t get a chance to ride; the Chanel finale; my favorite look at Giambattista Valli; Tilda; WSJ. Magazine’s Kristina O’Neill with some undressed fashion patrons at the JPG show; Catherine Baba, Roland Mouret and Ellen von Unwerth at the Sidaction gala; the violinist virtuoso Rae Chen and the Chinese actress Ziyi Zhang at the Armani dinner; Lily and her chips at Lipp; Andreea Diaconu showing off her favorite Acne coat; Gaga taking selfies with Karlie; Lauren Santo Domingo, Joan, Florence and me at the Gucci party