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Jul 9, 2020
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Paris first digital Haute Couture season ends amid teasers and very few new clothes

Jul 9, 2020

Day three of the first ever entirely digital French haute couture week began not with the unveiling of a collection but with a teaser from Maison Margiela, summing up the most puzzling Paris in memory.


The house’s couturier John Galliano took what he called “an elucidated approach.,” showing just one look in a clip that lasted just 45 seconds. It turned out to be the first in a series four “digital installments,” which Margiela will reveal every couple of days and build to climax on July 16 at 6PM CET.

This first instalment of the house’s couture Autumn-Winter 2020 co-ed collection, which is called Artisanal, did look great. Shot in hyper DayGlo tints of orange, ochre and electric blue, it featured just one model, advancing like an after-hours club highwayman in a deconstructed top-coat. Before posing in profile in front of the camera – a latter day David Bowie in broad brim gaucho hat. “Re-emergence calls for the illumination of values and intents,” explained Galliano in a release that promised fans “a new proposal for the house in a manifestation of clarity, interaction and inclusion.”

Like every video on the official Haute Couture calendar, this is available on the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode’s freshly launched web platform, which is powered by Launchmetrics.

The prize for the symbolic presentations must go to Franck Sorbier, who named his film 'Il Medico delle Peste,' meaning The Plague Doctor, and shot inside Paris’ Musée des Arts et Métiers. Featuring a disturbed figure in black lace, coal-eyes and enormous head plumage pursued by a large man clad in tails, top hat and a Venetian white birds mask, worthy of Eyes Wide Shut.  It all climaxes with the pair circling Foucault’s famous pendulum inside the museum’s gothic church; before a black stallion chases a heroine in a paisley poncho across a medieval courtyard.

Bouchra Jarrar - Fall/Winter 2020 - Haute Couture

“We wanted to speak about a parallel between Covid-19 and the plague,” revealed Sorbier. Sorbier may not be the richest couturier in Paris but there is a wealth of ideas in his imagination. Again like Margiela, the credits explained that this video was a prelude to a longer film to be released on September 21. A superb short, that ended by gently recalling the house’s old friend, singer Manu di Bango, brought down by coronavirus in March.

From China’s most famous couturier Guo Pei, a mediation on  her inspiration. This season animals on a savannah; travelling shots of Paris’ Museum of Natural History; images of sheep wool felt teased out and remarkable embroidery of Chinese gardens.

“The global health challenge has impacted us all. It has changed our perceptions towards life. Not just to mankind but towards animals, plants and the planet,” opined Guo Pei, who marked her 10th season showing in Paris with pale gray padded jumpsuits with elephant shaped patch pockets; leather cocoon dresses with zebra heads designs; and sheep wool giraffe appliqués on red cocktails.

Elie Saab kept things uber concise with 1.35 minute clip called Le Retour aux Sources. Where the great Lebanese couturier included delicate sketches; Lebanese cedar forest, petits mains sewing; glass beads; buzzing bees; bold shots of dry earth and soil; and a seagull flying towards the Qurnat as Sawda mountain.  Touching and telling.


Good to see some actual clothes at Bouchra Jarrar, whose youth-inflected black and white video was easily one of the season’s best. Christian Dior may have been clobbered on social media for the all-white cast of its brilliant video; Jarrar will receive plaudits for her casting: the beautiful black sisters, Aissa and Aida Kane. Playing about in a Haussmann apartment or strolling soulfully before the Eiffel Tower the clip evokes this uniquely wary Springtime in Paris. Dressed in Jarrar’s signature biker gilets; perfectly cut serge coats with reflective lapels and feathered midriffs or dapper boyfriend’s jackets – all very contemporary couture.

“I express through these twins the fraternity and universality dear to my heart,” commented Jarrar at the end of this Marcel Hartmann-directed short movie entitled Edition no2.

The award for the couturier who will most make people want to visit Paris has to go to Christophe Josse; who roamed the city with a loving eye – from the banks of the Seine to after-midnight bridges to beautiful vistas of its finest museums at dawn. The French tourist authorities or Mayor Hidalgo should give him a grant. Plus, the Art Deco embroidered ecru coats; ladylike dresses and embellished lace hipster hostess looks were pretty darn good too. Entitled Pavanes Intemporelles, or Timeless Strolls, this was an impressive display from Christophe.

Jean-Paul Gaultier may have retired but can still he relied upon to produce a great behind the scenes – in this case “a full immersion show that is not a show.” Transgressive, tawdry, humorist, faintly hysterical and all very Gaultier, all the way to Miss France 2020 taking her bow on Jean-Paul’s rooftop, the Eiffel Tower visible in the distance.

Fashion’s great conceptualist duo – Viktor & Rolf – had plenty of fun, with an academic pontificating about the link between the pandemic and pricey clothes. “For the final appearance in this panoply of gloom a majestic coat in an animal friendly faux leather. There is a lot to be angry about and this garment will communicate exactly that,” says the narrator of a giant conical coat with huge conical protuberances, worn by a model in a matching mask.

Guo Pei -Fall/Winter 2020 - Haute Couture

France’s most happening new couturier Julie de Libran, who launched her maison with a July 2019 couture show in her St Germain home, didn’t present a single stitch of new clothing today. Deciding to prioritize in lockdown, she concentrated on delivering orders from her second collection, staged in Paris in January and presented to great acclaim in early February at a trunk show organized by Matches in Los Angeles, just four nights before the Oscars, and not long before lockdown. Catapulting de Libran to another level.

“I have to thank the Fédération for suggesting carte blanche. They put great efforts into finding partners, letting us express our creativity. Still, it is so weird to show couture which is such a personal thing. You are meant to meet a client and to measure them. It is very physical by definition. So, I decided to concentrate on a video with Frederic Sanchez. He put together some videos of fittings and making-ofs, and all these capture the energy of backstage and the beautiful moment when it all comes together. That’s what I wanted to show,” explained de Libran.

The result was assemblage of her sketches, fabrics, words and, above all, models both pre and during her two salon shows in her chic home. Capturing what Julie does best – sexy but never too saucy dresses; arty style that is never obvious.  All created in end-of-roll haute gamme fabrics  guaranteeing that the creations are genuinely very limited edition. Most memorably; de Libran even tries on a few of her own creations and looks thoroughly swell.

It was left to Valentino to finish the season – without any clothes again! But at least a video from Nick Knight documenting the inspiration behind a collection, which the house will actually be shown live to a small audience inside the great movie studio of Rome, Cinecittà, on Tuesday, July 21 at 4PM CET.

Lasting barely one minute, it had huge swathes of smoky fabrics undulating in the air, around a mysterious figure all shot in black and white to the music of FKA Twigs’ Daybed. Entitled Of Grace and Light, Pierpaolo Piccioli in dialogue with Nick Knight, this was the most puzzling teaser of a clever yet puzzling day.


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