High Drama Hits Paris

Paris Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2016/17

There was an alliance of opposites at this year’s Paris Haute Couture shows: While some runways had a distinctly warrior feel (with an ultra-glam edge), others radiated sheer decadence. Perhaps it’s the ambivalence and uncertainty of a fast-changing world that is driving this period of fascinating creativity.

In his ninth season of collaborating with Swarovski, Alexandre Vauthier opted for an all-out camouflage effect inspired by python patterning. We adored Bella Hadid in her khaki-camo tulle dress with bodice encrusted in a glittering snakeskin of crystals. Other keynotes were sumptuous furs, silks and leathers, with crystal detailing expressed in the fringing on bandage-wrap dresses, and crystal transfers on fishnet and sheer silk—100,000 crystals, to be precise.

Ludovic Winterstan’s she-warriors were more tribal than modern military: 180,000 crystals in metallic and femme fatale shades were embroidered, knitted, mounted on beaded silicone, and even painted across clothes and faces, adding up to a technically ambitious, finely wrought collection. The result was pure primitive-gothic drama.

Meanwhile, Serkan Cura’s laced, corseted and elaborately plumed nude looks were given a carapace of crystallization that riffed on uniforms, making the line-up of models resemble a legion of angels. The Belgian-born designer’s schooling with Jean Paul Gaultier was evident in the wit, as well as the sculptural silhouettes, of this collection.

At the other end of the spectrum, former Swarovski Collective member Iris Van Herpen was enamored of rather more esoteric ideas. Inspired by cymatics (sound waves visualized as geometric patterns) she conjured a breathtaking collection of ethereal beauty. The penultimate outfit—a ‘crystal dew-drop’ gown featuring over 60,000 crystal beads, combined with silicone and white tulle—was a true showstopper.

Giles served up jaw-dropping new-fashioned opulence: Rich velvets, decadent damasks and jacquards, trompe l’oeil effects and photo prints, were ornamented with laser-cut floral embroidery, layered silk petals, feathers and lustrous Swarovski Pearls. The inspiration was Lady Ottoline Morrell, a patron of the early 20th-century Bloomsbury Group of artists, intellectuals and bohemians, who was famed for her spectacular parties and, of course, her love of crystal.