Celine Dion and Gwyneth Paltrow added star power to the finale of Paris couture week by gracing the verdant Valentino collection. Meanwhile, Jean Paul Gaultier followed through on his pledge to go fur free, as Elie Saab reached a creative high with inspiration from China.
Here are some highlights from the autumn-winter 2019 couture displays.
Luscious green trees that were installed inside the Valentino venue scraped the ceiling, wafted in fresh air and provided some shade for celebrities Paltrow, Dion, Naomi Campbell and Kristin Scott Thomas as the Paris sun scorched guests.
This season, Pierpaolo Piccioli celebrated the organic: In its literal sense, through floral and bird-shaped embroideries, and figuratively, with ethnic fringes, crystals, gold baubles and sections that seemed to grow out of dresses and headpieces.
It made for a highly original show.
Collar bands that were constructed with beautiful black feathers mixed with long, Renaissance-looking “intarsia” capes.
There was even a loose, pink sequinned gown that looked ready for the disco.
It was a diverse show that brimmed with ideas, but one that was sometimes hard to pin down as a whole.
Piccioli included a disclaimer in the program notes: “Trying to explain it all... would be betraying the deepest meaning of the journey.”
The standing ovation followed, and as the soundtrack blasted, a smiling Dion mouthed the words, “You make me feel like a beautiful woman.”
Amid the rousing applause, all the couture artisans that worked on the collection came out to cheers and hugged the house founder Valentino Garavani, who sat with Paltrow on the front row.
JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
Fake fur and authentic celebrities got all the attention at Gaultier.
In a corseted gown, singer Christina Aguilera held court with ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ stars Violet Chachki and Miss Fame, as well as French cinema icon Catherine Deneuve at the fur-free show.
Last November, animal rights groups hailed Gaultier’s announcement that he is joining the growing ranks of designers to ban animal fur from their collections.
The designer used this as a muse for a playful fall-winter collection that used feathers to mimic real fur on 1980s-themed looks with a funky retro soundtrack and flashes of bright colour.
An oversized Russian winter fur hat, or chapka, looked initially like the genuine article and shimmered alongside a red “fox” bubble jacket. They were, so said the program notes, all constructed in marabou feathers.
Leopard print graced a billowing chiffon gown, geometric zebra stripes jazzed up diaphanous pant look, and all this was followed by a “panther” coat with oversized collar that was made with jacquard.
A blood red silk coat, which was the strongest look in an excessively theatrical display, opened up with its wide collar as if to evoke a carcass cut open, albeit in a very elegant way.
Gaultier’s programme notes have become legendary over the years. Each season, guests pour over the house cards that humorously detail the couture looks with tongue-in-cheek word plays and rhyming puns.
‘Downtown Abyss’, ‘Black Panther’, ‘Grey of Thrones’ and ‘Mein Hair’ were among some of the quirky couture look titles in this season’s lot — all the work of wordsmith Raphael Ciotti.
Ciotti, a 36-year-old screen and stage writer who co-wrote the Gaultier ‘Fashion Freak Show’ musical, says he has been penning the couture notes for several years after first meeting the humour-loving designer during a television show a decade ago.
“He realised we had exactly the same sense of humour and so asked me to write his program notes. He just tells me the show theme and then (I) have free creative rein,” said Ciotti. “I try to make as many jokes as possible in each look.”
Amid mysterious clouds of Persian blue mist, Elie Saab fashioned up a standout couture collection using the symbolism of China.
The Lebanese designer reimagined traditional Chinese drawings through embroideries with sequins, paillettes and sparkle that depicted fauna and flora” elements, the house said, that represent powerful protective spirits in Eastern legend.
“Nature, through mystical creatures and divine characters, sparked the curiosity of the designer, inspiring him to translate them into his very own art,” it added.
Long diaphanous tulle, velvet and chiffon trains brought a magical romance to Saab’s bread-and-butter silhouette of sexy, cinched waist gowns. Models with decorated tiaras walked to Asian traditional music.
There was some sophisticated and thoughtful fashion designs amid the show production — for instance, the famed Chinese traditional dress, the Cheongsam, was reimagined in a light tuxedo-style with a provocatively open bust.