Elbow pads at a Chanel show? Chanel couture? High fashion’s intoxicating appeal has always derived from the dream-like vision of a world much more exciting than one’s own. It thrives off of its exclusive and unattainable nature. I wouldn’t walk to campus in a Dior ball gown, just as I wouldn’t have spent hours of my youth pasting Vogue editorials over my bedroom wall if they had reflected the world outside my window. And yet last week’s couture shows proved that despite street-style’s ever-growing influence, haute couture still has the ability to turn symbols of both mass and high culture into the most beautiful of fashion fantasies.
The Chanel show is always the show of Couture week. Year after year, the catwalk (never your typical runway strip) gets even more extravagant and is graced by the hottest models of the moment. This year Karl Lagerfeld didn’t disappoint with a colossal white stage that rotated in its entirety, after Karl took a final bow with this year’s chosen bride, Cara Delevingne.
Never one to stay within the confines of couture, yet always loyal to Coco’s iconic style, Karl matched delicately sequined trainers, elbow pads, and bum bags with classical tweed skirt-suits and chemise style dresses; all in a shimmering, super-sweet colour palette. Can’t visualise it? Just imagine Coco roller-skating in California. After all it was Coco who introduced a more masculine, liberated silhouette to the modern, post-war woman. So if anything, it makes perfect sense that Karl created a classy collection suitable for the 21st century girl-about-town.
Free movement was also a design imperative for Raf Simons at Dior, who “wanted to liberate couture” this year. The innovative designer enhanced the classic silhouette with sheer layers and modern perforated fabrics, making even voluminous shapes appear lightweight. Trainers embroidered with sequined clusters also grounded the looks. The two kings of couture proved that high fashion wasn’t just to be looked at and admired; it was for modern women to really live and breathe in, like a beautiful second skin.
Hair is always such a big thing when we think of Western fashion and femininity. For this reason it seemed quite surreal to see beautiful draped hoods at the Versace show, and iridescent turbans at Armani Prive. Versace, particularly, has never been a brand known for it’s modesty, but I couldn’t help thinking of the “Mipsterz” video that’s been circulating the web in recent weeks. (These young Muslims clearly care as much for their religion as they do their style, and show that you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.)
The Versace collection was far from modest and didn’t disappoint with striking figure-fitting gowns in a powerful colour palette of jewel tones, black and white. Always glamorous, the collection remained classy and was definitely worthy of couture status with their beautifully elegant Swarovski detailing. Donatella proved that a woman’s identity could still be expressed with hair covered. Versace, forever oozing sex appeal, will never go hand in hand with the Muslim faith, but let’s hope this couture trend will trickle down and stop everyone freaking out just because a girl wants to cover her head.
I am not by any means suggesting that we’re going to see shining, sparkling bum-bags, elbow pads and turbans in the JB Morrell from now on. But consider this, these unlikely items have made their magical way onto the couture catwalk. I suspect they’ll trickle down and find themselves part of the quirky street-style ensembles of those who attend fashion week. Meanwhile I’ll be having fashion dreams of Coco Chanel on roller skates enjoying candy-floss in the sun, and Mipsterz starring in the next Versace campaign.