Paris Haute Couture SS18

From The Front Row
The international fashion calendar comes into sharp focus for Paris Haute Couture Week. Running from January 21–25, the Spring/Summer 2018 collections demonstrate why Paris Haute Couture is as relevant as ever. Designers are at their most devastatingly directional, and front row devotees scan the runways for who they’ll wear on this season’s red carpets (you can bet that we’ll be seeing some of the creations reappearing at the Oscars). The boulevards teem with bloggers, models and wannabes walking a killer street-style walk in the hope they’ll make this season’s iconic image. We take a look at three standout shows:

In the spirit of its legendary founder, Bertrand Guyon pushed the limits of fashion fantasy with his collection for Schiaparelli, staged at the atelier apartment that Elsa Schiaparelli occupied in the 1930s. It showcased cobweb lace gowns and nature-themed embroidery in homage to her 1938 Pagan Collection, which famously featured blossom, leaf, and even beetle embellishments. We were also reminded of her extraordinary vision by this pioneering young talent’s breathtakingly innovative “Crystal Tartan Dress.” Created from nylon yarn intertwined with crystalbeads, this gauzy fusion of translucent knitwear and 3D embroidery conjured an unexpected lightness of volume that appeared to defy gravity. 

Silver Shadow and Jet crystals boasting more than 2.4 million facets were used for the tartan effect. Another highlight was the sweeping, caped wedding gown in porcelain silk crêpe adorned with lilies and irises. Inspired by a Lesage embroidery swatch for a 1940 Schiaparelli collection, each bloom had been hand-sewn following the same technique, again by Lesage, using silver thread and 54,795 Swarovski Pearls. 

At the Grand Palais, Alexandre Vauthier channeled London’s Blitz Kids of the 1980s in a high-octane interpretation of the New Romantic silhouette. Volumes were huge, shoulders were super-sharp, and eyewear (Alain Mikli X Alexandre Vauthier) abandoned years of oversize shapes for a horizontal futurist frame last seen on Devo, the seventies synth-rockers. This was his twelfth season in collaboration with Swarovski, and he marked the occasion with embroidery by Lesage and over 350,000 crystals. They blazed from five fully crystallized looks in jewel shades of Jet, Red and Purple Velvet, as well as crystal-blitzed stilettos, belt buckles, brooches and veils, a crystal-embellished zebra print, and a leather jacket ornamented with crystal jewels. Bella Hadid brought the maison down for the finale: a voluminous petrol-blue belted jacket-cum-gown teamed with crystallized sunglasses and heels that featured giant crystal buckles.

Over at Ronald van der Kemp at the end of the week, couture came fully conscious of fashion’s impact on the environment. The Dutch designer showed how sustainability can be done with full-throttle glamour by sending two show-stopping looks down the runway, plus statement jewelry and accessories that shimmered with 5,000 upcycled Swarovski crystals. Noteworthy moments had glittering rainbows of Fancy Stones and beads recreated as a flamboyantly floral necklace and garlanded on a gown that played with stripes, splashes and pops of color. This “conscious luxury partnership” is part of Swarovski’s aim to drive change towards a more responsible fashion industry, and it’s very clear that Paris Haute Couture has a brilliant role to play.


Runway images Alexandre Vauthier: Alexandre Vauthier
Runway images Schiaparelli: © Schiaparelli
Backstage images: Marion Leflour