It’s estimated there are just 4000 couture customers in the world, and the last week of January is normally when this select group flocks to Paris, to sit in the front row at Paris Couture Week.
This time its different. The couture shows, ordinarily a form of wallet-tantalising theatre attended by the brand’s top spenders are, for now, a virtual experience, with clients tuning in from all corners of the globe.
How then to communicate the magic of these fairytale creations, many of which require hundreds of hours of hand sewing and reach sums in the six figures? And with white tie events and super yacht holidays on pause currently, what clothes does the super-rich client want in her wardrobe?
The answer, by and large, was that designers focused their energies on creating stunning digital spectacles designed to pause the Instagram scroll – from fantasy feature films at Dior to the supermodel bash at Fendi – and that the clothes themselves were a commercially sensible mix of wear now, and wear later: ubiquitous ballgowns, headdresses and flowing trains, alongside Armani’s ultra-wearable velvet trousers and Valentino’s sparkly hoodies. Read on for the highlights.
The bridal entrance to end them all
Aah weddings – remember those? For her Chanel SS21 couture collection Virginie Viard recreated a nostalgic, petal-strewn nuptials in Paris’ Grand Palais and invited brand ambassadors like Penelope Cruz, Marion Cottilard and Lily-Rose Depp to sit in the socially-distanced pews. The clothes were divine as ever, but it was the bride’s entrance that really stole the show. Mounted side-saddle on a white horse and wearing a Twenties-inspired long sleeve gown with flowing train, Chanel’s bride was so utterly breath-taking, one quite forgot the absence of a groom.
Couture shopping tends to be event and travel-centric, but this season offered plenty for those looking to inject some theatre to life indoors. Dior had fabulous high-wasted jacquard cropped trousers and organza shirts and Alexandre Vauthier paired sequin flares with white tank tops, while almost half of Giorgio Armani’s Privé collection was dedicated to understated velvet trousers. “I have always felt that clothes should be comfortable and functional as well as beautiful,” said the 86-year-old Italian fashion king.
Dior was the talk of the ton
Maria Grazia-Chiuri’s SS21 Dior haute couture collection took inspiration from a 15th century tarot deck, with signs of the Zodiac and the Tarot a’plenty. Alongside the medieval silhouettes however, several gowns positively begged for a Bridgerton ball. Whether Grazia Chiuri is a fan of Netflix’s wildly popular British Regency-era romance drama (set, mercifully, to return for a second season) is unknown, but the empire line dresses in shimmering floral damask and tiaras bedecked with giant baroque pearls and matching drop earrings were certainly enough to get Lady Whistledown’s quill a’quivering. Could Maria Grazia Chiuri be the ultimate “modiste”?
Valentino goes for gold
While most of us haven’t so much as touched a pair of heels this year, the Valentino SS21 collection, unveiled via an audience-free runway show filmed in the sublime gallery of the Palazzo Colonna in Rome, was choc full of them. From golden glittery slouchy knee-high boots to metallic platform Mary Janes, these were shoes ready to stomp and shimmy (or totter?) their way onto post-Covid dance floors, and looked especially extra paired with disco faces entirely rolled in gold glitter, courtesy of makeup legend Pat McGrath.
Think couture and you think ballgowns, but with very few actual balls in the 2021 calendar – even for the super rich –designers subbed out voluminous dresses in favour of vast billowing maxi skirts; a versatile, drinks-at-home appropriate alternative. There were floorlength flamenco ruffles at Chanel and A-line coral floor-fillers at Valentino, and Alber Elbaz took it one step further, with ruffled duchesse satin maxi skirts that paired with activewear underlayers that promised to transition you “from leisurewear to fabulous” in less than a minute. Bravo.
Fendi’s superstar lineup
Fendi joined the January haute couture schedule for the first time in its 95-year history, with a womenswear debut from new British signing Kim Jones. The magnitude of the moment was reflected in the shows all-star cast, which saw Bella Hadid, Cara Delevigne, Kate Moss and her daughter Lila, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell all hit the runway.
When Kim Kardashian took to Instagram wearing a metallic green six-pack corset top from Schiaparelli in December, few would have considered the Grinch-captioned look – which triggered a slew of Hulk memes – might catch on. But for spring/summer 21 Daniel Roseberry has returned with all new abs-fab iterations, from a fuchsia pink body-builder mini to a shiny jet-black muscle man bodice. The best part? No gym time required.