The Fall 2023 edition of Paris Haute Couture Week was all about extremes. Some designers chose to celebrate quiet luxury, while others went OTT. All, however, focused on redefining femininity.
Chanel's creative director Virginie Viard, for instance, staged the brand's show along the charming Seine river. Known for serving lace bermudas and tweed shorts, Viard this season decided to redefine the essence of French girl cool with a collection that nodded in favour of sophistication and simplicity.
Dior's Maria Grazia Chiuri, on the other hand, tried to capture the essence of goddess dressing. Extrapolating pleats, straps, mesh, appliques and texturing, she sent out a monochromatic collection with tone on tone detailing. Rahul Mishra's outing titled, We, The People, highlighted the slow handwork of his atelier. Each piece was realised over an average of 3,000 hours, depending on the silhouette.
Here are some of the other key highlights of the Paris Haute Couture Week, which concluded on 6 July:
The French elegance
Chanel's creative director Viard had Parisian chic on her moodboard. She illustrated a typical week day in Paris, with women taking their dog out for a walk near the Seine dressed in double-breasted tweed blazers and pin-striped trousers. The designer attempted to depict a true Parisienne. Entered long coats, skirt suits, separates and evening gowns crafted out of tweeds, silk chiffons, organza and inlaid lace. Best selling author of the book
How To Be Parisian Wherever You Go, Caroline De Maigret, a house
muse and a style savant, opened the show in a floor-length navy tweed
coat followed by model Vittoria Ceretti in a sparkly duster coat and block-heeled Mary Janes. Moreover, Viard's caravan of chic adorned with embroidered fruits and flowers motifs was reminiscent of the still-lives dear to pictural arts. She brought back the house code, the camellias (Gabrielle Chanel's favourite bloom), peppering it on ensembles either as a recurring print or in the form of rich surface texturing. French elegance has baffled and hypnotised the world time and again and it was refreshing to see it being channelled again, with a charming twist.
Cult of goddesses
At Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri stayed true to her core narrative of tough yet fragile femininity by sending out models that looked like modern-day goddesses, exemplifying the strength and fragility of feminine forces. Presenting creations that underscore the sartorial elements, which can be described as archetypal, such as the tunic, the peplum, the cape and the stole, Chiuri focused on vertical silhouettes befitting a true goddess. Hues of white, beige, silver and pale gold lent gravitas to the column-length gowns and dresses as the designer recontextualised the founding emblems of
Chiuri has often rooted for feminine forces, which support and sustain the artistic communities and this outing was tinged with her sensitivity and essential attention to detail. The highpoint of the showcase was an exceptional large-scale artwork (featuring the works of artist Marta Roberti created with Karishma Swali, the head of Mumbai's design establishment Chanakya school), invoking imagery of ancient goddesses and feminine energy. Under the stewardship of Chanakya’s artistic director, Karishma Swali, 360 artisans from the Chanakya ateliers and Chanakya School of Craft used over 80 hand-embroidery techniques, including crochet, running stitch, back stitch, satin stitch and honeycomb techniques, leveraging materials such as cotton threads.
Inspired by Russian-born French artist Erté's Art Nouveau drawings, couturier Rahul Mishra's showcase featured some subversive shapes, gravity-defying silhouettes and unexpected details. From the opening cocoon-like high-collared cape crafted out of glistening petals to the fully sequinned silver dress with balloon sleeves and a hem crafted with cascading appliques, every ensemble was a tribute to the artisan and their craft.
There was no paucity of conceptual ideas and off-kilter presentations.
At Schiaparelli, Daniel Roseberry reinterpreted the Surrealist codes of the house. For example, one vibrant blue ensemble blended into the spray-painted body paint of the model and the wooden jewellery. It was the designer's way of making a statement making and tricking the eye of the onlooker.
Iris Herpen, meanwhile, explored the structural element of architecture in a fluid way. For instance, there were gowns cut close to the body and put together with laser-cut pieces bonded on to mesh bodices.
Thom Browne stayed true to his signature grey tailoring and staged a presentation featuring eleven characters dressed as bells, with bell-hats and patchworked coats and bells on their heels.Eliza Douglas closed the Balenciaga show with a warrior-like
metallic ensemble (made from 3D printed chrome resin). The show also
showcased ensembles which looked like denims but they were actually
oil-painted canvas. At Jean Paul Gaultier show, designer Julien
Dossena sent out a couple of beaded sheer bodysuit with trompe l’oeil