new glamour: margiela, fendi and valentino on the final day of couture
Haute couture got a contemporary injection of relevance on the last day of autumn/winter 17 shows in Paris as Maison Margiela, Fendi and Valentino redefined glamour.
At his epic and freaky men's show in Paris two weeks ago, Rick Owens reflected on the state of the union--the fashion one and the global one. "I'm seeing this normality in the world that's kind of being lionised and deified, and personally this is my refrain: I need a freak," he said. "I need to be surprised. I need effort. I need things to be rare and not banal." It's as if his words have echoed in the halls of fashion ever since. Going into the haute couture shows this week with those statements still reverberating in the back of one's mind, the role of these out-of-this-world extravagant garments seems more acute than ever. Why? Because as much as we love streetwear and all subscribe, hype and mass-production inevitably creates gentrification. Couture is about elevation, something John Galliano illustrated to mind-blowing precision on the last day of haute shows in Paris. Through his Maison Margiela Artisanal collection, he sought to establish a contemporary redefinition of glamour. Cleverly, his proposal was found in the unassuming: an everyday trench coat, a cardboard box, a skiing jumper. But rather than lionising and deifying normality, Galliano re-appropriated its meaning.
As those fantastical couture creations passed you by in the Maison Margiela headquarters, they didn't make you think of everyday normal things, because they weren't. They were the highest form of fashion you'd ever come across. And in his masterly way, Galliano managed to use his couture to paint a picture of contemporary throw-something-on dressing, while elevating it to a new height of glamour. He was reminding us that looks can be deceiving, and in the current fashion landscape where streetwear logos reign above all, it's an important lesson to remember.
Watching Fendi's haute fourrure show that night, you wished you'd been able to freeze time and study the scrupulous detail involved in every inch of those dresses. Sometimes haute couture -- which, in Fendi's case, is mainly fur oriented -- feels like it acts as much of a reminder to the designers and ateliers, who create it, of their own ingenuity--powers they didn't know they had--as it serves as otherworldly eye candy to the rest of us. For Fendi's designer Karl Lagerfeld, these couture shows are fairytale dreams. Much like the 90th anniversary show last summer in Rome where models walked on the Trevi Fountain, this show was the uncomplicated fashion dream, set in Théâtre des Champs-Elysées with a magical stage backdrop like an enchanted forest.
You couldn't say the garments were uncomplicated either - there's no such thing as simplicity in haute couture - but in all of their intricate glory, these dresses embodied the straightforward message of high-high fashion: to keep the craftsmanship alive and kicking, to evolve it, and allow it to serve as a guiding light for everything that follows in its wake and eventually ends up in streetwear. In true stage style, Lagerfeld came out for three bows. Couture runs through his veins, but in his innate understanding of all the corners of fashion -- of old glamour and new glamour and everything in between -- he is more than worth his stage time.
The Catholic Church understood the power of glamour before anyone else, jazzing up its pious message with all the pomp and circumstance it could take. The simple cloak of a priest walking down the street in Paris or Rome will turn heads. Never mind the religious aspect, there's just something so widely ceremonious and arresting about it that we can't help but stare--something innately glamorous. You could say it's the original haute couture: garments raised above normality, only a priest's everyday cloak is meant to exude modesty.
In his Valentino collection on Wednesday evening, Pierpaolo Piccioli nailed that ambiguity, drawing on a wide array of the garments of the Vatican, which is ever-present to him in Valentino's hometown of Rome. Graphic cloaks and capes and coats ruled the show, illustrating both that arresting simplicity of the church's everyday uniforms and the ceremonious splendour of papal dressing. Backstage, where those of us tardy for the party had to sit, dressers were lifting up trains and correcting hoods like the Hotel Salomon de Rothschild had turned into Saint Peter's Basilica for the night. And it was divine, heavenly, celestial--not in the biblical sense, although haute couture like this could convert even the staunchest agnostic. The last day of autumn/winter 17 haute couture shows didn't carve out a new set of rules for glamour, but in their quest for answers and excellence in fashion, Galliano, Lagerfeld and Piccioli gave haute couture a contemporary injection of relevance you couldn't argue with.
Text Anders Christian Madsen