Haute Expectations

AltaRomaAltaModa and Paris Haute Couture, Fall/Winter 2016

July was a busy month on Europe’s Haute Couture fashion calendar: Four brilliant couturiers displayed technically miraculous and stunningly creative use of crystal embellishment on their couture presentations: Atelier Versace and Francesco Scognamiglio in Paris, and Renato Balestra and San Andrès Milano in Rome.

The French capital has been the beating heart of haute couture since the 16thcentury. Beautiful clothes are very much of the Parisian “l’art de vivre”—as important as good food. It was against this cultural backcloth that Atelier Versace and Francesco Scognamiglio revealed their breathtakingly soigné, sparkling designs.

For the Atelier Versace Fall/Winter 2016/17 collection, the emphasis was on intricate tailoring techniques, complex draping, and pleats that interweave and flow across gowns, creating fluid shapes and dramatic silhouettes. Duchess satin appeared frozen in dramatic twists, voluminous cashmere coats were worn over slip dresses, draped evening gowns were worn with slender tailored pants, and body-skimming high-glam pleated gowns had a futuristic feel. These haute couture pieces feature refined embellishments, such as the Swarovski crystals that seemed to be used spontaneously like starbursts, adding a scintillating edge.

For Francesco Scognamiglio’s Paris Haute Couture debut, supported by Swarovski, he presented a baroque feast of ruffles and ruching in a powdery palette of optical whites, transparent greens and dusky pink, with flashes of black. Playing with transparency, upwardly pleated ruffles, and embroidered flowers glistening with luminous crystals—some 300,000 were used for the collection—he created an ethereal, sensuous elegance shot through with erotic romance.


 Rome’s celebrated couture event traditionally holds two annual appointments, January and July, which celebrate an exciting collision between historic Italian sartorial tradition and cutting-edge trends. Two houses in particular—Renato Balestra and San Andrès Milano—displayed Swarovski embellishment with spectacular effect.

Rome’s great couturier, the 92-year-old Renato Balestra, offered a collection entitled Blue, My Love, a celebratory symphony of the blue spectrum ranging from icy tones to midnight skies, with particular emphasis on “Balestra Blue”. Models took to the runway in strong cutout silhouettes and embroidered pearlescent detailing, along with diaphanous, plissé-effect flowing gowns reminiscent of Old Hollywood. Sexy sheerness and chain embroidery gave an edgy glamour to a yesteryear fairytale, while some of the more formal looks were enriched with subtle tonal crystals that added magical shimmer.

Mexican-born Andres Caballero, the man behind San Andrès Milano, riffed on a tropical mood with fresh floral colors expressed in combinations of precious jewel-bright fabrics such as translucent jacquards, plissé silks, and intricate embroidery using Swarovski crystals. His models emerged in see-through, flowing fabrics, heavy brocades, and immaculate tailoring, featuring cutout details, ruffles and peplums, topped with dazzling embellishments. The result? An astonishing interface between expert craftsmanship, traditional tailoring and contemporary glamour.