Peter Dundas ended his tenure at the house of Emilio Pucci pretty much exactly how he started it. We were in the Palazzo Serbelloni, the gilded Milanese mansion-house we biannually cram into, cheek to jowl, to watch Dundas’s prints, and furs, and beaded dresses. He even had a few of the models from back in 2009, Lily Donaldson, Iris Strubegger, some others. The clothes weren’t tremendously different either. Dundas established his signature at Pucci early on, and ran with it.
Chinese Whispers at Versace, Frankenstein’s Monster at Schiaparelli. Haute couture autumn/winter 2014
I’m sure I’ve talked about the importance of individuality in haute couture before. It’s the raison d’être for the thing – couture clothes are complete one-offs, made to the specific measurements and requirements of incredibly wealthy and demanding women. Those demanding women come in all shapes and sizes, with different tastes.
They always have. While haute couture once set the trends – there’s an exhibition about to be launched at Paris’ Musée Galliera titled “Les Années 50, La Mode en France 1947-1957″, which lauds that golden age – it still had room for disparate voices. Balenciaga showed his unfitted suits when Dior-influenced cinched waists were at their tightest. Chanel, Schiaparelli and Vionnet had violently opposed views of dressing women, but they co-existed, and thrived.
Paris fashion week is the great consolidator, the grounder of the fashion season. It rounds off the ideas we’ve seen emerging in the other three fashion capitals, adds a few more of its own and a distinctly Gallic flourish, and ties the whole thing up in a fancy, florid Frenchy bow. It adds the punctuation. It makes the whole thing make sense. It does usually at least. This season, however, Paris seems, somehow, subdued. It’s throwing up questions rather than answers, and bucking the trends. It’s an intriguing turn of events.
In less than 24 hours, we’ve had four very, very different interpretations of twenty-first century haute couture. How to reconcile the whimsy of Marco Zanini’s Schiaparelli debut with the hyper-modern aerated layers of Raf Simons’ go-faster Dior? How could you compare the cinched-in, souped-up sexuality of Donatella Versace’s Atelier ode to Grace Jones with Giambattista Valli’s embroidered, gazar-wrapped chocolate-box frocks? Couture is about contrasts. There’s aren’t that many customers out there left, so canny couture houses are appealing to niches with deep, deep pockets.
The third day of my Paris fashion week – the fourth overall – has just finished. Raf Simons showed his latest collection for Christian Dior this afternoon. The major editors are out in force. The week has truly begun.
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