Isolated from the clutter of spring and fall ready-to-wear collections, Fall Haute Couture Week offers a look at the artisanal, often outlandish, sometimes dull creations of the world’s most esteemed fashion houses.
Here are the 10 looks that inspired audiences, went viral, and generally dominated the competition—with design, styling, makeup, and model all playing their part to achieve excellence.
Hint: you can expect more than a few ostrich feathers.
10: MAISON MARGIELA
The opening look worn by Shanelle Nyasiase for Maison Margiela immediately voices that for creative director John Galliano, couture is more about making a statement than producing wearable garments. All the same, Galliano pleads his case for a world in which smart trenches are snuck beneath highlighter-orange coats with lampshade silhouettes. Known to employ such uncommon fabrics as polyurethane, neoprene, and boiled wool, Galliano continues to push Margiela, and the couture industry as a whole, fearlessly forward.
9: RONALD VAN DER KEMP
At times, RVDK’s work appears like an amalgamation of other influential designers; but when he gets it right—it’s so right. In his fall couture presentation, there were more than a few hits and misses, with a fair share of odd styling cues harkening back to the ‘80s and ‘90s. But van der Kemp’s adoration of the puffy-sleeve/big-shoulder fantasy of the ‘80s is admittedly given the respect it deserves with this striking heart-shaped look worn by striking model Thais Borges.
The ‘60s were a prevailing theme throughout all of couture week, and Karl Lagerfeld’s fur-dominated catwalk for Fendi was no exception. The German designer has long been a controversial advocate for using genuine fur, although the best look from this recent collection was ironically an effervescent sheer gown over a sequined pink unitard. The look was tied together with a play on the beehive, a bold cat eye, a low heel, and model Birgit Kos’ strong presentation. The mix of ‘20s nightlife with ‘60s chic proved to be another excellent addition to the Fendi canon.
Another Lagerfeld-led house, the famed Chanel has erred on the side of understatement in recent years. This year, Langerfeld brought back some of the make-believe of his earlier shows, while retaining the house’s signature tweed coat and Western European styling—as can be seen in this robin’s egg blue skirt and jacket worn by soon-to-be-superstar Adut Akech. Perhaps not daring by some designers’ standards, this look, with its tulle veil atop fascinator, signals a potential return to the fantasyland Lagerfeld has visited throughout his career.
This year, Bertrand Guyon’s couture showing for Schiaparelli was a direct homage to the house’s founder and late designer, Elsa Schiaparelli. Showcasing a tremendous sense of play and a hint at surrealism (a major influence throughout Schiaparelli’s career), fantastical silhouettes and prints were bolstered with ornate masks and plumes of feathers—the latter being an overwhelming trend this season. Nonetheless, Schiaparelli set themselves apart with looks committed to Elsa’s legacy, such as a shocking pink gown paired with butterfly mask, as well as this slinky metallic look shown on model Lorna Foran. With the simple styling and minimal makeup, the weighted gown is the main event—and a slight deviation from Guyon’s usual offerings.
Clare Waight Keller’s couture for Givenchy was decidedly focused on a midcentury aesthetic of well-tailored, imposing garments. Although individual pieces may seem simple, the atelier’s dedication to exact tailoring is an admirable one, given that even some of the biggest celebrity designers fail to account for major fitting flubs. Not here, though. Keller’s divinely fitted ¾-sleeve jacket flows into a floor-length cape in the back, adding a timeless touch to the dramatic 3D silver sequin and ostrich feather frock worn by Fatou Jobe.
Couture often has the tendency to veer headfirst into the arena of bridal wear—a trait seen this year in the collections of Giambattista Valli and Elie Saab. As such, it’s refreshing to see houses carve out their own couture ambitions. Such is the case with this stunning orange look from Valentino, worn by Adut Akech. The flowing taffeta gown and monochromatic headpiece reveal the art of creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli in such a way that the look is both wearable and outrageously luxurious.
3: IRIS VAN HERPEN
Call her a fashion designer, call her an architect—either way, Iris van Herpen is a visionary in her own time. In addition to her devastatingly detailed designs and tricks of the eye, van Herpen is known for bringing some of the most exciting accessories to the table. However it was managed, this headpiece just barely overshadows the dress to match, a black, patterned garment of exquisite fabrication. Van Herpen’s designs are hard to pin down and exist in their own venue. And at only 17 looks (compared to the 60 or 70 of most designers), van Herpen is taking her time to show only the best of the best.
Maison Valentino is known for its elegant silhouettes, expert draping, and consistent inclusion of the color red. Led by Piccioli, Valentino takes glamour to new heights with this light pink ostrich (surprise!) feather gown. Given the oversized nature of the dress and model Kaia Gerber’s slight frame, the addition of giant ‘60s coif made for perhaps the most memorable look of the season. The hair was created and colored by Guido Palau and Josh Wood respectively, and took over 150 hours of prep. It doesn’t hurt that Gerber is one of the industry’s best new walkers, keeping her poise despite the overwhelming silhouette.
1: MAISON MARGIELA
When many people think of couture in the aughts, only one name comes to mind: John Galliano. As the former creative director for Dior, Galliano now leads Maison Margiela with his trademark balance of whimsy and intensity. Unlike many of the couture looks this season, most of Galliano’s garments are not exactly wearable. And this is exactly what makes him one of the most profound and exciting couturiers not just today, but ever. With streetwear being such a popular design avenue, Galliano indulges in the trend while disrupting the flow with oversized coats, phone-holders worn on the calf, and hats, veils, and makeup obscuring the persona. Model Leah Rodl bravely displays Galliano’s most oversized creation of the collection.
**All images sourced from Vogue.com