Paris Couture Week Up Close

With an average of just six shows per day, Paris Couture Fashion Week is both manageable and pleasurable for its clients and fashion journalists. It also makes attendance possible for all major shows without conflicting time slots as seen during the ready-to-wear calendar. Of course the Fédération Française des Créateurs de Mode aims to fill its calendar as much as possible.

Ulyana Sergeenko is the latest designer to be made an official guest member by The Chambre Syndicale. Showing on opening day, the Russian designer and socialite found inspiration in the interiors of Saint Petersburg's Soviet-era communal apartments, which roughly translated to sculpted forms, like a sofa tufted fur coat, an embroidered dress with a lampshade hem, or a more boudoir theme like floral jacquard pyjama trimmed with a fur collar.

Atelier Versace presented its softer side

Atelier Versace closed the inaugural day of Couture Week, which took place in the Bourse, the French stock market. A parade of chiffon gowns, opened by Dutch model Lara Stone, which showed a softer, easier and deconstructed Versace, with raw edging, layering, and stylistically channeling a 70s vibe. Of course there was plenty of flesh on show, it wouldn’t be Versace otherwise, but it was the detailing - like strings of flowers seemingly holding together the seams - that showed the house can be both lavish, delicate and luxurious all at once.

At Dior, Hieronymus Bosch’ triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights planted the seeds for designer Raf Simons’ forbidden fruit. A curated Dior Garden served as the catwalk and was not just a surface display of flowers but rather a metaphor for Simons to pit virginal white floor-length sheaths versus decadently embroidered dresses that gaped wide open at the sides. That amount of flesh on show might have been a first for Simons.

Giambatista Valli, a modern stalwart on the Couture calendar, sent bulbous dresses down his runway, seen in sherbet shades and florals with tasselled fronts and feathered hems. Cascades of tulle plunged around waists and were accessorised with chandelier earrings.

Paris Couture Week Up Close

At Margiela, John Galliano sent men in couture down the runway

John Galliano’s second Artisanal collection for Maison Margiela was full of expectation and he didn’t disappoint. Fuzzy cellophane skirts, unfurled tapestry dresses, embroidered potato sack coats and a bride complete with a shrink-wrapped tentacle train made their way down the runway. The unexpected element came in the form of three male models wearing women’s couture, full on artisan with rose breastplates made of mirror and enamel, as well as a blue turban with matching lipstick.

It was an extravaganza of all things pink at Giorgio Armani Prive, and the sparkle of Swarovski crystals, purple and blue sequins, and shiny lurex were in contrast to the dark velvet trousers. Wearing only flat shoes, the models sported uniform dark hair bobs and bushy brows, which added a punk element to the show. Armani is a genius when it comes to cloth and texture, and there was a notable sensuality despite the rawness of dangling threads and shaggy feathers. All executed by the most artistic seamstresses.

Paris Couture Week Up Close

Anna Cleveland in a Couture crepe inspired dress closed out the Jean Paul Gaultier show on Wednesday. Gaultier, who bowed out of ready-to-wear last season, continues to present couture and made-to-order collections. This may in fact seem like a strange time for couture, when one of our union countries is on the brink of collapse but yet the fashion world is showing its most prestigious collections where dresses can take hundreds of man hours to be completed and costing tens of thousands to purchase. But even for those that can’t afford to buy couture, you can buy into the dream.