Couture fashion week: Gaultier and Valentino go back to nature

Highlights from Jean Paul Gaultier, Valentino and Elie Saab in Paris's couture fashion shows

Jungle motifs, vivid hues and leafy prints made the couture shows in Paris yesterday seem more like watching a nature documentary than a fashion show.

We almost expected a voiceover from David Attenborough, explaining the appearance of a host of rare and exotic creatures stalking down the catwalk.

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Jean Paul Gaultier, the enfant terrible of French fashion, took his inspiration from James Cameron’s blockbuster film Avatar. The Na’vi tribe were alive and well and sashaying down the catwalk, but it wasn’t just the models’ physiques that were reminiscent of the alien species: cornrow hairstyles ended in long plaits adorned with palm fronds and tropical flowers. Several outfits seemed to be woven together from leaves, with many of these structured into unravelling basket-shaped skirts whose colours graded subtly from ochre to violet.

Couture fashion week - Jean Paul Gaultier

The designer’s other inspiration came from Mexico – from the mariachi music accompanying the models down the catwalk, to beautifully embroidered sombreros and hand-tooled leather cowboy boots. Gaultier’s sense of hunour was revealed in an outfit entitled simply,‘Tabasco!’ The country’s conquistador invaders got a mention too – in the form of a model wearing armour. Taken all together, Gaultier’s collection was an eye-catching visual feast packed with outfits we wish we could afford.

The Avatar theme ran on into Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli’s collection for Valentino. Blue makeup was smudged over the models’ bodies, or painted in a strip over the eyes. The design duo’s continuing efforts to reach out to a younger crowd resulted in a collection that was short on hemlines and big on impact. Whereas some models were bandaged head to toe in tight bands of ruched material – sort of a sexy, high-fashion version of ancient Egypt’s mummies – others wore floaty little numbers that covered just the bare essentials. Many pieces in the collection came adorned with sashes of neon bright colour fluttering against subdued browns and pinks. During a preview, Piccioli explained that the designers wished to create a sense of ‘magic and fantasy’ in a ‘virtual Eden’. For us, he certainly succeeded.

 Couture fashion week - Elie Saab

The other main show of the day, attracting front row guests such as Dita von Teese, was that of Elie Saab. The red-carpet favourite stuck to his tried and tested looks with a collection that was reminiscent of Monet’s paintings. Long gowns were heavily beaded and came in an array of muted tones from grey to pink. It was nothing new, but will be sure to sell to all those customers who adore looking like princesses.

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