On entering the shop of Charles Worth – 19th century dictator of fashion and anointed “father of haute couture” – a well-dressed woman of means would lightly tread on a red carpet, pick from rich velvets and delicate silks in a rainbow palette of colours, and when weary from her fitting rest on a couch with sumptuously overstuffed cushions. Today, the House of Worth under the leadership of Giovanni Bedin still considers lavishing attention on its customers instrumental to its success. The advantage it has over comparatively younger brands is creating under the name of the Ur-designer: it’s the blue-blood versus the nouveau riches of haute couture.
The house of Givenchy, by contrast youthful in its 60th year, captured a rebellious adolescence with crystal nose rings, a vest top worn with an intricately embroidered gown, and large, heavy zips that were worn open to reveal an iridescent grid of beading. Preferring not to hark back to the couture designs of former centuries, Riccardo Tisci’s collection was remarkable for its relevance to the present. With a level of craftsmanship that justifies the price, it is also comprehensible and desirable attire in the modern world.
“It’s unrealistic and an old-fashioned notion that a designer needs to reinvent the wheel each time”
For many of the designers on the couture schedule, these collections are one of their 14 produced over a year. It’s interesting to see how a designer cleverly ties together ideas over several seasons. It’s unrealistic and an old-fashioned notion that a designer needs to reinvent the wheel each time. Case in point: Tisci debuting nose rings at his gothic menswear collection last week, and incorporating with delicacy and finesse at couture. The same could be found at Maison Martin Margiela – the oriental rug that became the keystone of its women’s A/W12 collection, reappeared in the form of fringed tops. And foliage which had inspired ready-to-wear jewellery, appeared in the backdrop of the collection. The “news” at Margiela was the nod to British culture, with Margiela’s interpretation of the Pearly King, which dates back to the 19th century.
Key themes across the collections included a focus on the back at Givenchy, Worth and Versace, whereas Karl Lagerfeld’s sky blue, airline-inspired collection for Chanel, chose the shoulder as its erogenous zone. Jean Paul Gaultier dedicated his show to the late Amy Winehouse. The singer’s style was referenced previously for Chanel and Comme des Garçons ready-to-wear during her lifetime, but the latest tribute was deemed inappropriate by her father Mitch.
Text by Agata Belcen and Laura Bradley