We love the seasonal ready-to-wear collections as much as the next person, but there's another fashion week that is even more special and spectacular: Paris Haute Couture. It's here where all your fashion fantasies can (and often do) come true. It's a celebration of craft, technique, and skill, and the closest that clothes come to actual art.
The term couture refers to bespoke pieces, so they're all handmade individually, as opposed to the mass-produced garments seen at the ready-to-wear shows. Twice a year, private (and extremely lucky) clients come to pick the pieces they like with the option of making various stylistic tweaks, and the press come to see what's what in the world of high fashion. We went to Paris to see what's in store for the fall/winter 2016 season and to compile our very own imaginary shopping list—because while this stuff costs eye-watering amounts, a girl can dream.
Who: This was the second and last couture collection designed by Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux, part of the in-house design team, following the exit of previous creative director Raf Simons last year. Just days after the show, Maria Grazia Chiuri, formerly one half of the genius Valentino duo, was appointed the creative director role. So this was a collection not only about the beautiful clothes on show, but about rumors waiting to be confirmed, too.
The Collection: In a monochrome palette of pristine separates and elegant dresses, Dior does couture in a contemporary and wearable way. You won't find fussy design or gratuitous amounts of the shiny stuff here, it's all in moderation. But what you will find is an update on the signature Dior bar jacket, a shapely style that helped make the house legendary.
The Look: This off-the-shoulder, sequin-smattered number.
Where We'd Wear It: A fancy picnic. On this occasion, we'll take Dior's runway lead—low-key flats make it feel appropriate to wear during daytime hours just as much as the sequins convey its nighttime-worthy status.
Who: The storied Italian house has been helmed by the much-adored Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli since 2008. Following the news that Grazia Chiuri was to leave the house, this became the duo's swan song. Grazia Chiuri now heads to Dior.
The Collection: An incredible style sojourn through the scenes of a Shakespearean play, this was an ode to Elizabethan ruffles and frills, featuring little, laced-up bodices, troubadour suiting and, of course, stunning gowns—a hallmark of the former design duo.The Look: It's hard to pick just one when it comes to Valentino… but, if we must, this one.
Where We'd Wear It: This is the one for that red carpet event we're still waiting on the invite for.
Who: The legend that is Karl Lagerfeld.
The Collection: An ode to those who literally make it all happen, Lagerfeld made the artisans who stitch and sew the centerpiece of the show—they got to work while the models did theirs, showing off a collection that put a focus on trapeze shapes and the refined daywear that has become a Chanel signature. Of course, this being couture, there were evening gowns to get excited about toward the end!
The Look: We would very much like this one, please.
Where We'd Wear It: To the Ritz in Paris which, after four years of renovation, just re-opened its doors. It would be rude not to wear Chanel there, really, seeing as it was a favorite haunt of the designer herself.
Jean Paul Gaultier
Who: The designer is the original enfant terrible of Paris fashion (you may also recall him as a sometime presenter of the television show Eurotrash back in the '90s-'00s), though he stopped showing his ready-to-wear collections back in 2014 to focus on his couture efforts, which are known for their sense of fun and drama.
The Collection: Inspired by a wander into the forest, this was a texture-rich collection full of heavily patchworked pieces, from parka coats with fuzzy hoods to cinched-waist feather gowns, in a perfectly autumnal color palette. Making sure that sense of theater was more than adequately provided for, JPG enlisted catwalk favorite Anna Cleveland to do her thing: her runway walk is more akin to a jive or piece of performance art than your average walk, walk, turn, turn scenario.
The Look: This plaid-on-plaid combination.
Where We'd Wear It: There's something very rock 'n' roll and a bit Bay City Rollers going on with this look, which makes it perfect gig fodder! We'd be hanging out in the VIP section—we wouldn't want anyone getting too carried away and snagging that maxi skirt.
Who: A relatively new name to the couture calendar, French Vauthier cut his fashion teeth at Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier before launching his own label in 2009. He became a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture—the French fashion governing body that decides who can and can't show depending on their couture attributes and capabilities—in 2011 before becoming an official member in 2014.
The Collection: A sexy take on sportswear and military themes, there was camouflage, sparkle, attitude and sass in spades with dresses that were either barely there (little wisps of mesh) or those that very much were—the designer played with proportion to create a cool coat-ballgown hybrid.
The Look: This velvet puffer jacket. Yes, that's right: a velvet puffer jacket!
Where We'd Wear It: Everywhere. It's just so cool. Styling it with sequin pants elevates it from being merely practical to seriously glamorous. But you know that it would dress up a pair of jeans instantly, too.
Viktor & Rolf
Who: Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren are graduates of the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem, The Netherlands, and launched their label in 1992. Last year, just like Jean Paul Gaultier, the pair—who are known for their art-meets-fashion ethos—decided to concentrate their efforts solely on their couture collections, ceasing their ready-to-wear line. They have long been known for their installation-style shows, which suit the couture context.
The Collection: An innovative exploration of recycling, the pair plundered their own past for fabrics and pieces from previous collections to create this one. They then added to that by taking Dickens's vagabonds as style inspiration, resulting in classic frills and ruffles festooned onto sweaters and hoodies or macs, often finished off with a big top hat.
The Look: The trophy sweater. Just when you thought you didn't need another one!
Where We'd Wear It: It's one to try out on the weekend. The sweatshirt says dressed-down, but the froth says dressed-up. Find a cool enough club, and you'll fit right in.