Haute Couture? Make that Alta Moda in Paris
We know they call it Haute Couture in Paris, but it really should be rechristened Alta Moda a Parigi this month. For, never before have we seen a French season so dominated by Italian talent.
Like Garibaldi in exile in Paris before returning to establish the independence of Italy, a half dozen Italians conquered the Paris haute couture catwalks in a couture week which will probably be regarded as a vintage season. A season which heralded the return of daywear to couture; and despite an explosion of color, the revival of all-black. That and a certain sense of artfully exposing the interior architecture of fashion.
Maria Grazia Chiuri for Christian Dior, Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino and Giorgio Armani for himself all staged excellent shows, winning standing ovations for their latest ideas.
Chiuri was even awarded the Legion d’Honneur, in a packed salon in Dior’s avenue Montaigne headquarters. Recalling her youth as the “curious young woman who went to study fashion in Rome,” and going on to become fashion’s most prominent feminist. In the age of Me Too, she has grown Dior’s fashion businesses better than all her male predecessors in the past half-century.
Plus, her collection for Dior was excellent: a meditation on the similarities between architecture and what Chiuri termed “archi-couture,” it contained all manner of elegantly austere chic clothes – nearly all in black.
However, the true leader in the aesthetic onslaught on Paris by creators from the peninsula turned out to be Piccioli, Chiuri’s former design partner at Valentino.
His hyper-inclusive, cool historicism and beautiful sense of proportion and volume, made his latest show for Valentino a real fashion moment.
Plus, one could only admire Piccioli’s gentlemanly gesture of asking his entire atelier to join him in an extended tour of the runway, to a standing ovation from an audience that included Gwyneth Paltrow and Celine Dion. A show staged in the historic Salomon de Rothschild mansion in a wealthy neighborhood where many of the ATMs have still not been repaired after being destroyed by the angry "yellow vest" protestors.
Stars flooded into Paris shows designed by Italians. Nowhere more so than at Armani Privé, where Nicole Kidman sat between her two husbands, Keith Urban and Alexander Skarsgard, her character’s spouse in the world’s number one TV series – "Big Little Lies."
Armani mingled up Eastern promise, with Art Deco references in a fine show that reminded the entire audience that when it comes to tailoring Giorgio is still the top dog. Anywhere.
No wonder he got another standing ovation, taking his bow like a duke from a Visconti period movie.
In other Roman moves, Giambattista Valli wowed with a new-form presentation – a five-hour exhibition inside the historic salons of the Shangri-La Hotel.
Not that there were not other noble shows: from Gaultier’s absurdist high glam to the really rather fabulous feather fantasies of Clare Waight Keller at Givenchy. While Frenchman Stéphane Rolland impressed with his fluid shapes, so inspiring they immediately found new life in some beautiful illustrations by English artist David Downton. While Ralph & Russo also impressed with their glitzier vision of couture staged elegiacally on a never-ending white catwalk inside the British Embassy.
That said, couture is also about novel construction and few couturiers dreamed up more novel aesthetic edifices this week than Giovanni Bedin. His cool and clever corsetry marks him out as a special talent.
However, to complete the Italian Connection, the house founded by the most famous couturier ever born in Italy – Elsa Schiaparelli – unveiled its latest creative director. Albeit a young man born in Texas, Daniel Roseberry.
And, no sooner had the season ended that scores of editors jumped on planes Thursday morning for two more days of couture – again, make that Alta Moda. Dolce & Gabbana at the weekend in Sicily; and Fendi in the nerve center of the Ancient World, the Palatine Hill in the Roman Forum.
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