Paris Haute Couture Spring – Summer 2011
Paris Haute Couture Spring – Summer 2011: Last week’s Paris Haute Couture spring/summer 2011 shows offered real insight into each designer’s distinct style, says Hilary Alexander.
I ran into a radiant Jerry Hall, leaving the Chanel haute couture show, last week, on the arm of her new beau, the Australian property tycoon, Warwick Hemsley.
She praised the appearance on the catwalk of ‘older’ models, such as Stella Tennant, 40, and Kristen McMenamy, 46, adding, “it just shows, a woman can never go wrong with Chanel. I loved the flat shoes that came with everything, even with the long, full skirts; very me, because I always wear flats, and I thought the idea of wearing skinny jeans under little skirts was just adorable. I’m going to have to get back all the mini-skirts I gave to my daughters now and wear them over skinny trousers.”
Miss Hall’s take on the spring/summer 2011 Chanel couture collection was spot on, but, curiously enough, quite specific to that house alone; she would have picked up completely different signals being transmitted at any of the other ‘maisons’ showing on this season’s calendar.
It is what makes the world of Parisian haute couture so intriguing, such a unique insight into each designer’s creative thought processes.
Unlike the ready-to-wear ‘fashion weeks’ in London , New York , Milan , and Paris , where ‘key looks’, colours and references for the coming season emerge – sometimes with such regularity you start to think some designers have all been drinking from the same well – each haute couture collection has a distinct personality and style.
Punks, paintings, and precious jewels; Japanese traditional dance and American Indian native dress; hi-tech fabrics and high-priestesses; modernist architecture and retro romance; mega-volume and micro-lengths – the fashionista who sat in on every one of the 20 showings over three days last week, would have been offered a bewildering choice of themes.
Where Jerry Hall and dozens of other celebrities and clients at Chanel would have come away thinking ‘flat shoes, layered proportions, skinny leggings, pastels’, for example; if they had been at John Galliano’s collection for Christian Dior , they would have been swept up into a high-drama, high-heeled vision of high-style, inspired by the 20th century illustrator, René Gruau, and interpreted with chiaroscuro hand-dyed silk tulle, voluminous, multiple layers, and ‘brushstroke’-hats.
Conversely, at Bouchra Jarrar, the former Balenciaga studio director, who was showing at couture for the third season, her trouser suits, dresses and evening gowns which were cut and piped with the precision worthy of an école militaire, were as restrained and linear as the elaborate, hand-painting, beading and fringing at Franck Sorbier represented unbridled fantasy.
Giorgio Armani took inspiration from the multi-facetted cut of precious stones for a sculpted, space-age silhouette in his Privé collection, while Maria Chiara Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli translated the romantic, feminine heritage of Valentino into a dreamworld of sheer chiffon, semi-transparent silk tulle and cascades of ruffles, tiers and pleats.
Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy combined the bizarre extremes of the Japanese ‘butoh’ dance movement, with elaborate ‘plumage’ embroidery and fluorescent embellishments based on the construction of robot-toys, the polar opposite of Elie Saab ‘s extravagant red carpet Chantilly lace gowns, encrusted with crystals, and aimed at Hollywood royalty like Cameron Diaz and Scarlett Johansson.
Haute couture speaks with many tongues, but is united in the common language of hand-craft, whether it be the 400,000 pearls painstakingly embroidered on a pair of Chanel skinny trousers, the dozens of tiny pleats pressed by hand into the bodice of a Valentino gown, or the hand-painted silk-organza which created Stephane Rolland’s high-priestess gowns, ornamented with hand-blown glass.