PARIS – Elie Saab whisked his guests away to Thailand for a Paris Fashion Week couture show Wednesday that gleamed with gold and intricate silk embroidery.
Sheer diaphanous cloth floated around the runway in Le Marais’ Carreau du Temple amid wafting perfume, as “Emily in Paris” star Paul Forman and socialite Olivia Palermo posed for the cameras.
Haute couture is an artisanal tradition invented by English designer Charles Frederick Worth in the 1870s. It involves intricate, time-consuming sewing, use of unusual fabrics and luxurious embellishments such as rare feathers and semi-precious stone beading — and is exorbitantly priced.
Here are some highlights of Wednesday's spring-summer 2023 shows:
Elie Saab called it “an indulgent escape from the ordinary.”
Amid the dull Paris weather, inside blinding lights lit up long dragons gracing asymmetrical bodices, or in waves on ivory peplums. Embroidered motifs of sacred koi fish seemed to swim on mermaid tails and scalloped overskirts, while 3D guipure lace captured Eastern blooms on gowns that shimmered in gold.
This season, the Lebanese designer used the Thai kingdom as a springboard for a highly embellished, yet delicate, couture collection.
The show, entitled “a golden dawn,” had regal ambitions and was executed with flair.
The most beautiful gowns were sometimes deceptively simple, where the sumptuous material -- like one blue satin sash rippling asymmetrically across the shoulder -- could speak for itself.
Following a trip to Kenya in October 2022, Yuima Nakazato was shocked by what local people told him about waste and ecological destruction.
The collection's starting point was to use 150 kilogrdams of used clothing brought back to Japan from Africa and recycle it — thanks to dry fiber technology — into new garments.
This season’s co-ed couture became a manifesto against a desolate African future. The Japanese designer staged a powerful underground show set amid smoke and hazy lighting as if to herald the end of the world.
A loose black one-shoulder gown — on top of baggy pants -- fused Asian with African styles with an embellished belt clasp resembling a talismanic eye.
Bone or thorn jewelry adorned minimalist looks like one slope-shouldered column ensemble. It was matched with Rick Owens-style black thigh-high wading boots for a fashion-forward vibe.
VIKTOR & ROLF TURN COUTURE ON ITS HEAD
The inimitable Dutch design duo staged a quirky and surprising show featuring gowns that tried to turn couture on its head — literally.
The collection started regularly enough, aside from the punk-like colored mini-beehive hairstyles. A shoulderless bodice gown shot out into a voluminous pale tulle full skirt fit for a bridesmaid. Later, a sculptured hourglass bodice descended into a segmented skirt that swept the floor.
But then came the surreal fun.
Causing half the audience to reach for their cameras, a model appeared wearing an entire gown attached to her front on top of another look. The dress was placed at a 2 o'clock angle with a cloud-colored tulle full skirt sweeping out theatrically to the left.
Another gown in yellow tulle was then hoisted up in a trompe l’oeil effect. The two exaggerated breast reliefs of the bustier sat less than an inch from the model’s chin.
The most surreal of all was one violet gown whose waist was turned out to become vertical. It was weirdly inventive -- if a little gruesome -- with a black hole appearing around the midriff.
THE ART OF THE INVITATION
The age of email and rising environmental awareness hasn’t left much of a mark on the fashion industry’s antiquated system of invitations.
Season after season, gasoline-guzzling couriers crisscross Paris to personally deliver ever-elaborate, often handmade, show invites.
Top houses vie for the wackiest or most imaginative idea that often offers a clue to the theme of the runway collection.
Schiaparelli’s was a giant weighty golden brooch featuring a face in relief -- ahead of a couture show which drew controversy for featuring a fake lion’s head.
Dior’s was a beautifully packaged white box with a note from Dior Perfume Director Francis Kurkdjian and containing small, perfumed vials.
Then Valentino’s was like an invitation to a disco or concert, on a plain black card with the show details in the font preferred by club organizers. The name of the show? “Le Club Couture.”