Francesco Lo Iacono
HAUTE COUTURE AW21
The words Haute Couture instantly make everyone think about a one-of-a-kind fashion, unique pieces created by hand from start to finish, a never-ending world of elegance and craftsmanship that allows anyone to dream. Or at least that's what I usually have in mind when thinking about Haute Couture.
In 1945, La Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, first established to protect high fashion and its legacy, invited its designers to present their new couture collections, respecting some very specific standards that have changed through the years but that have always been a synonym of great quality and excellence. Since then, official members of La Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture including Christian Dior, Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent, have been presenting their new creations along with new and guest designers like Valentino, Versace, Armani and many more.
With so much going on in the world right now, I thought this Haute Couture week represented a true breath of fresh air. As most designers invite us to dream once again, I picked some of my favourite looks from the Autumn/Winter 2021 season in order to experience the shows from the point of view of an illustrator.
In January 2020, Jean Paul Gaultier staged a majestic fashion show (that I had the huge pleasure to attend!) to mark the end of his career or better a new beginning. In fact, later that year, he announced a new concept for his brand, inviting a new designer to explore his codes and present a new haute couture collection every season.
The long-awaited collaboration took place during the last couture week, with Sacai's creative director Chitose Abe presenting 31 looks that investigate the archives of l'enfant terrible de la mode. The collection highlights once more the collective value of House of Gaultier, including tattoo artist Dr Woo and shoe designer Pierre Hardy as part of the creative process.
The show presented also a unique collaboration between Nike, Sacai and Jean Paul Gaultier to create a new hybrid model of VaporWaffle sneakers, that went instantly sold out on the brand website.
"For two years, I’ve been saying that I didn’t care about nostalgia. This season, though, it’s where it all started. I found myself wondering, again and again: What if you combined a little Manet; a little Lacroix; a little 1980s; a little 1880s; a little matador; a little space alien; a little Ingres; a little shimmer; a lot of color? Could I do it? And what would it look like?".
Daniel Roseberry, at the helm of Schiaparelli since April 2019, presented a dreamy and emotional collection, a feast for the eyes and the heart, an ode to romance and excess that made me instantly fall in love with every look.
"No more cookie-cutter fashion. No more pieces that look like they could have been made by anyone. Give me more beauty, more earnestness, more romance, more effort. I hope this collection reminds everyone who encounters it of the sheer delight that fashion can bring us in hard times, and with it, the promise of more joy when the clouds part".
This season saw also the come-back of a much-anticipated fashion house to the official Haute Couture schedule. After 53 years, creative director Demna Gvasalia felt the duty to present a new haute couture collection for Balenciaga. The collection is an honest tribute to founder Cristóbal Balenciaga under the lens of Gvasalia and his aesthetic, a modern take on couture whose foundations can be found in the powerful legacy of the brand DNA.
"Couture is above trends, fashion and industrial dressmaking. It is a timeless and pure expression of craft and the architecture of silhouette that gives a wearer the strongest notion of elegance and sophistication. Couture is the highest level of garment construction, that is not only relevant in today's mass-productive industry, but even absolutely necessary for the survival and further revolution of modern fashion design".
Dior new collection focused on the value of textiles and crafts, celebrating the essence of sewing. The show setting was enriched by a huge and colourful embroidered work by French artist Eva Jospin, inspired by the walls of the 'Sala dei Ricami' in Rome's Palazzo Colonna.
The new Dior Haute Couture collection by Maria Grazia Chiuri presents very different looks including textured tweeds, sharp-edged pleats and elegant gowns in patchworks of floral motifs enriched by feathers. The Dior savoir-faire is once again a wise juxtaposition of traditional technique and imaginative creativity.