Couture week has come to a close in Paris, but that doesn't stop the garments swirling in our minds. We've spoken about Dante at Schiaparelli, top hats and bow ties at Chanel, and the reigning influence of Josephine Baker at Dior, but what about the rest? The collections that had our heads spinning and hearts thumping? For our highlights from Spring 2023 Haute Couture, keeping scrolling.
Pierpaolo Piccioli's Club Valentino is not an exclusive one. As the Metier expands into a more inclusive definition of couture as it has been tracking so in the past couple of years, Piccioli is crafting a direct line to the youth of today, and offering up a version of couture that feels almost democratic to a point. Don't get me wrong, Valentino's expert couture sensibilities were as evident as ever, but what underpinned this season's collection was a sense of freedom and individuality. There were moments of Garavani’s signature 80s couture draping – big frothy ruffled necklines and oversized bows, and Piccioli's more newly established codes. PP Pink, for one, and menswear suiting with the perfect slouch and mini skirts slashed above the crotch to expose matching underwear. His knack for subversion? That's what keeps us coming back.
If there is one person who can explore the continuation of a singular idea throughout an entire collection, it's Mr. Armani. This takes dedication, and this season, the dedication was towards harlequins. The diagonal diamon shapes were embroidered in crystals and offered as patchwork metallic leather, they were printed on silk and beaded into tulle, all in Armani's signature palette of pastel pinks, blues, and purples that were punctuated by rich emerald green, cobalt blue, and, naturally, deep sparkling blacks. Some silhouettes felt more deco, a theme that has continued throughout the week. Others felt a little more 80s in their approach to volume. In all, what a meditation on diamonds!
Like Christmas, Haider Ackermann's spin on Jean Paul Gaultier Couture was on our list of fashion moments we were most looking forward to in 2023. As the fourth guest designer to come onboard couture since Gaulter retired, Ackermann is proof that it's a winning format. For Spring 2023, the Colombian-born French designer ignored the more theatrical and camp aspects of Gaultier's archives in favour of precision tailoring and an overwhelming sense of grace. Harking back to old world traditions of couture, the models took their time moving deliberately for the camera as their vintage idols did back in the 80s. Everything gleamed on the frosty blue carpeted runway, with the collection's cool-toned palette, big shoulders and long lines. But nothing beamed quite like Gaultier himself, who radiated with delight from his place in the front row.
Viktor & Rolf
It was fitting that for the final day of Couture Week, Viktor & Rolf got a little topsy-turvy. Taking the ball gown, a staple of any couture collection, Rolf Snoeren and Viktor Horsting leaned into the absurd, with looks filing out that had gowns positioned at all angles, as if it was one of those early internet games where you use the enter key to pin down a moving item. A joyful tactic to punctuate what can often feel like a self-serious week.
For Spring 2023, Kim Jones endeavoured to ditch costume and embrace the human element of couture, as displayed through a certain flexibility and lightness. This doesn't mean the collection was without a level of formality, evening gloves dropped below the elbow in luxurious folds and the leather and fur codes of Fendi were translated with modern technologies and couture techniques in mind. “It’s a celebration of the ateliers and the craftspeople who realise these garments," Jones says, "the intense work and emotional commitment to each piece that exists for both maker and wearer, and how the intimate traditions of the couture are both living and breathing." Pair modernity with the fact that Jones studied an archival Karl Lagerfeld dress for the drapery and swoops, and you have a collection primed for the 2023 Met Gala.
While not officially couture, Mugler's AW23 show, which rebelliously took place during couture week in Paris, gets an honorary mention. Casey Cadwallader's digitised display of the new Mugler has had everyone in the palm of its hand since releasing viral, supercharged campaign videos for the past few collections, and for AW23 in Paris, the brand committed to a sort of live-action version of what they've been putting out via the internet. It was a content-palooza, filled with silhouettes that were originally Manfred's but have been adopted as the backbone of Cadwallader's reign at the House. Manfred's version of couture spectacle was in both theatrics and craftsmanship, and while Cadwallader's highly technical approach to the wearable has some commenters up in arms, you can't deny that the drama was brought in heaping spoons for AW23.