Paris Couture Week: what you need to know

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  • Paris Couture Week has finished on a cloud of tulle and Celine Dion (more about that later). And yes, there were dreamy dresses and rich ladies aplenty. But there was also news galore - read on for our insider's guide...

    Paris Couture Week 2017 finished today. And boy oh boy, is Paris on a high. Post Macron victory, there’s a sense that France and the city of light in particular are on the verge of a renaissance – and this played out in one of the most exciting couture weeks we’ve seen for a long time.

    For years, the most elite skill in fashion was seen as a dying art for one-foot-in-the-grave clients, with the shows playing second fiddle to the buzzy ready-to-wear fashion weeks. But the (newly renamed) Federation de la Haute Couture is pulling aside the velvet rope, welcoming non-couture labels – hello, Vetements – onto the schedule as guests. This week, a whole host of cool labels made waves. Lots of celebs had new hair. And of course, there were still dresses you generally only see in dreams. Here’s the headline news.

    Seasons, who needs ’em?

    Schedules and seasons – the fash-chat has been endless. Labels like Tommy Hilfiger and Burberry are showing ‘see-now, buy-now’ collections straight off the catwalk, while European luxury houses are sticking to the old model of showing a season ahead. This Paris Couture Week, we could take our pick from a smorgasbord of in-store dates. Miu Miu showed ready-to-wear for Cruise 2018 – a joyous mash-up of 1980s-tinged overalls and flight jackets with Hawaiian prints – while Rodarte and Proenza Schouler both made the jump from New York to show their ready-to-wear for SS18 – the season that won’t be shown by everyone else till this coming September. Both met with rapturous reviews and presumably a deluge of orders from buyers who haven’t got FW-fatigue yet. Sneaky! Meanwhile, back in couture land proper, the collections on show were all AW17. Confused? So are we. But never mind – the clothes are all fabulous, no matter when they actually become available.

    RVDK is so HRN

    Ronald van der Kemp is the new name to know – the Dutch designer has worked for Bill Blass, and Celine (under Michael Kors), and as a creative consultant, before launching his own ‘demi-couture’ label in 2014. His pieces are ethically made using existing fabrics, and his idea is all about presenting a timeless ‘wardrobe’ of limited edition pieces. His debut salon show during this Paris Couture Week was big news – inspired by ‘eccentric ladies who all had their own look’, he said he was imagining how style icons Loulou de la Falaise, Nan Kempner and Paloma Picasso would dress if they were young women today. Can they be our style icons too?

    Azzedine Alaia Couture

    Naomi Campbell at the Azzedine Alaia show.

    The Return Part 1: Alaia

    An Azzedine Alaia show is about as rare as seeing Lady Gaga in flats. It really doesn’t happen much. In fact, the last time was in 2011. The Tunisian perfectionist doesn’t really do schedules or time pressure. His timeless figure-sculpting dresses take the time they take – and that’s why his fan base adores him. In fact, his admirers border on the obsessive – including everyone from Grace Jones to Michelle Obama, and most of the fashion industry to boot. His number one fan is Naomi Campbell, who he ‘adopted’ when she first arrived in Paris at the age of 16, taking her under his wing and giving her a place to stay at his apartment. She has modelled and worn pieces designed by the man she calls ‘my papa’ ever since – and came out of catwalk retirement to model in this week’s show. Her Instagram tribute? ‘It’s always an honour to walk for you, 1986-2017 #unconditional love #legend’.

    The Return Part 2: Peter Dundas

    Peter Dundas, the tousle-haired Norwegian who turned Emilio Pucci around with his sexy but sophisticated take on party-girl dressing, made a return to fashion with the debut of his very own label. It launches today on Moda Operandi, with plans for a more accessibly-priced collection available via FarFetch in the autumn. After Pucci, Dundas went to Cavalli (where he had worked under Roberto earlier in his career), but exited the house in 2016. He’s obviously been busy since then – meeting and teaming up with his partner, former model Evangelo Bousis, to found a label that doesn’t mess around with anything as unsexy as practicality (whaat? eugh). No, the 28-look collection he unveiled in the baroque, gilt-encrusted setting of the Hotel de Gesvres, is best described as ‘Peter does private jet – with an extra engine’. All his most fabulous signatures were here – wisps of gold beading, haute-bohemian kaftans and the sharpest, slinkiest tux were modelled by an all-star cast including Georgia May Jagger and Natasha Poly. Beyonce has already worn one of his gold dresses on the red carpet and the rest of the glamour gang are sure to follow.

    Karl Lagerfeld’s gold medal

    King Karl of Chanel was recognised for his indefatigable services to fashion in a touching ceremony held in the middle of the show space at the Grand Palais, right after his latest collection had wafted off the catwalk. He’s been at the helm of Chanel for nearly 35 years and was awarded La Medaille Grand Vermeil de la Ville, Paris’ highest honour, by the city’s mayor Anne Hidalgo. “You are one of the most beautiful people I’ve known, you make Paris more magic, more creative, more beautiful. You are a true Parisien. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you,” she told him in front of an audience wiping the tears away with their perfumed silk hankies. The show itself was business as usual – if by business you mean recreating a giant version of the Eiffel Tower inside the Grand Palais (which disappeared into a sea of clouds up above) and showing an impeccable ‘greatest hits’ parade of Chanel classics, including sumptuous grey tweed suits and an empire-line bridal gown covered in feather rosettes. A-list attendees turned KL well-wishers included Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Cara Delevigne and Katy Perry. Which brings us on to…

    Bleached buzz cuts and Celine Dion

    The Frow eschewed the usual take on inoffensive glamour – on view were not one, not two, but three edgy bleached blonde buzz cuts. Step forward Katy Perry, Cara Delevigne and Kristen Stewart. The other A-list surprise of the week – Celine Dion is out of the couture closet. She’s a true afficionado! In town for the French leg of her latest tour, the singer’s starring role at the shows saw her giving Giambattista Valli a standing ovation and posing and shimmying her way around town, cosied up to none other than Anna Wintour. It has now been revealed that Ms Dion has in fact almost exclusively worn couture on stage for the last five years and is a total couture-nerd. Stitching, seams, hems….she’s got an expert eye for it all. This earth-shattering news even has its own hashtag: check out #celinetakescouture and marvel.

    Dior gives good exhibition

    The historic French house has its 70th anniversary this year – and is celebrating with a spectacular exhibition spanning its entire history. Christian Dior: Couturier des Reves, was unveiled at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs during Couture week with a party to end all parties. Topiary in the shapes of the iconic ‘Bar’ jacket, champagne on tap, Cara Delevigne rubbing shoulders with Gabriella Wilde and milliner Stephen Jones – it had it all. The exhibition itself is a tour de force, showcasing pieces from every decade – from the 1947 New Look collection to the short-lived Yves Saint Laurent era, the Gianfranco Ferre years and of course, some of the most show-stopping pieces John Galliano ever created during his time at the helm. Rooms full of incredible fashion imagery shot by legendary photographers Richard Avedon et al, magazine covers featuring the label from the 1940s to the present day and a room with a ceiling covered in specially-created paper-cut flowers…an excuse for a quick hop over on the Eurostar if ever we heard one.












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