On The Runway

A New Era of Couture: Fall/Winter 2012

raf simons, haute couture, christian dior, fall/winter 2012

Christian Dior’s fall/winter Haute Couture collection (above)

Editors have been complaining for a while that fashion needs a new Phoebe Philo moment.  I think we finally got it during the fall/winter couture shows when Christian Dior creative director Raf Simons sent out an incredible collection that will no doubt redefine Haute Couture in the 21st century.

Simons is a highly respected designer, which is why legendary names such as Azzedine Alaia, Alber Elbaz, Donatella Versace and Diane von Furstenberg came out in full force to support him at his first show. We caught a glimpse of his couture skills at his last collection for Jil Sander, but I was amazed at how beautifully he translated Dior’s signature codes into a pure, modern vision that paid respect to the house while looking firmly into its future.

The volumes were controlled from the very first look – a chic black tuxedo complete with a new bar jacket – but everything had an ease to it (who thought coat dresses with pockets could look so elegant?) Peplum tops inspired by 1950s ball gowns were cut short and worn with cigarette pants. Grace Kelly style strapless gowns came with rounded skirts or covered in digital prints inspired by contemporary art.  I am sure everything looked even better up close. It was a far cry from Galliano’s fantastical creations which although magical seem dated in contrast.

Also making a debut on the couture runways was Donatella Versace who held her first official Versace Atelier presentation at the Ritz. It was pure Gianni but without the excess of the 1980s (thank god). Donatella added her signature va va voom in the form of sexy evening gowns with beading or form fitting dresses with sheer panels. There was plenty of modern pieces like a woven trench made from patent leather.

Riccardo Tisci is another designer trying to modernise couture although I sometimes feel that his personal vision gets the better of him. At Givenchy he revisited many of the signatures he created – elaborate fringing and beading, floor length capes, dark leather and stunning beaded dresses that could easily be showcased in a museum – but this time inspired by Italian gypsies. While the detail and craftsmanship were painstakingly beautiful, his gothic vision seems out of synch with what modern women want to wear, bar the last few nude dresses which were alluring in their simplicity.

Armani has made billions off a look that you could recognise instantly but sometimes I wish he would experiment more especially when it comes to couture. His latest foray however was more interesting with wide legged trousers (some in velvet) and rounded shoulder tops and jackets in a silvery palette of lilacs and pinks.

Speaking of beautiful colours, Karl Lagerfeld’s greys and pinks at Chanel were so ladylike and prim. His theme was neo-vintage, which you could spot in the 1940s inspired shapes. It was all about luxe updates on Chanel classics – tweed coats were actually made from embroidered tulle, or woven through with silver.

armani, versace, chanel, haute couture, fall/winter 2012

Looks from (left to right): Armani Prive, Versace and Chanel

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