Here’s Your Couture A/W23 Rundown
The Autumn/Winter 23 Couture Week has come and gone, and I’ve decided to spotlight some of my favourite collections from what the designers have put out this season. There’s normally so much to cover due to the amount of detail and wealth of construction in every look, so to save us the time, I’ve picked only five brands, and decided to skip some of the big ones that we all know – I don’t think I need to write about Chanel since it’s usually all the same and a bit of a tweed snooze-fest (sorry, not sorry Virginie). So here we go:
Let’s get the elephant out of the way – we all know Demna is persona non grata in the fashion sphere at the moment (if designers can ever be persona non grata – looking at you Alexander Wang) and true to his word, he’s decided to stop making commentary about the world and focus on the construction of clothes instead. As much as it hurts me to say… he slayed this couture season, with showstopping looks like Look 57, crafted as a piece of jewellery instead of as a dress. Normally a base fabric is embellished, but this time the Artistic Embroidery team welded metal clasps together which housed a crystal each, creating a dress made entirely from a crystal sheet – no fabric necessary (ouch).
Look 59 was by far my favourite, referencing Joan of Arc in a structured metal gown as a play on armour (also referencing its own chevalier boots from the Autumn/Winter 21 collection). Naturally, he had to say something though, so here’s a quote from him about good ol’ Joan (that should have been left unsaid, preferably):
“Maybe she wouldn’t have been burned at the stake for wearing men’s clothes if she was wearing that. Because all my life I suffered because of what I wear.” …I think he should practice what he preaches and let the clothes do the talking from now on….
When I saw that Valentino had opened its show with Kaia Gerber in a pair of jeans, I thought, ‘Here we go, the curse of casual clothing has migrated over to couture…’ But oh, how wrong I was. At a closer look, Look 1 is no ordinary pair of jeans – in fact, they’re not jeans at all. It’s a pair of trousers crafted entirely from beads, with the chosen colours creating a trompe l’oeil that makes it look like your everyday off-duty outfit essential. Insane.
There was a little drama with the bow- topped ballet flats, with Korean designer Kimhekim having done the same silhouettes for years beforehand, and not receiving any credit. A good tip to have for the future when you don’t want to pay Valentino couture price for what will undoubtedly add to the ongoing ballerina trend.
Jean Paul Gaultier
This season Jean Paul Gaultier’s guest designer was Julien Dossena – who by day designs for (Paco) Rabanne. It’s a testament to Gaultier’s work and legacy that every guest designer feels the need to create an ode to him in some way, having been the inspiration for them when they were younger – and the guest designer position has quickly become a hot seat in the couture industry, also allowing for traditionally non-couture designers to have their time in the sun, practising their craft and developing their skills. An apt and earnest reflection of Gaultier’s own start in the industry, giving others chances he wishes he had had himself back when he was starting out.
Frankly, not my favourite collection with lots of metallic lace and awkwardly placed modesty patches, but it was a genuine attempt at a recreation of Parisian regal glamour. “I wanted a feeling of characters you pass in the street in Paris,” he said. “I wanted to make all of them queens, each with a different crown.”
Renowned jewellery designer Delfina Delletrez has taken over her spot as the brand’s high jewellery director, and Kim Jones took inspiration for his latest couture collection by working closely with her to replicate precious jewels into clothing. While normally embellishments can be gaudy and in-your- face, Jones expertly plays with neutral tones for a grown-up take on evening wear, communicating the original idea that high jewellery was for serious and mature women, who favour elegance and dignified sophistication above all else. Thankfully, with his eye for modernity, it’s the silhouette that imbues each piece with a sense of the contemporary, paired with his love for texture.
What results is a surprisingly minimalist take on natural gemstones. “It’s the idea of the silhouette being ‘nothing’, but everything at the same time.“
Delletrez’s presence is also felt through the addition of the clutch bags, designed to look like small jewellery boxes, and carried by every model (bar 4) clasped over the heart.
Like Balenciaga and Jean Paul Gaultier, Elie Saab also took a historical route on a regal inspiration, with gowns featuring capes, crisscrossed bodices and gauzy hoods reminiscent of medieval-style fashion.
Immediately up my alley, the designs took on an element of opulent fantasy, and wouldn’t look out of place on Arwen (from Lord of the Rings) or Daenerys (Game of Thrones). This is often the most thrilling part of fashion; using design to transport wearers and admirers to a different place or time – sometimes not even of this world.
Saab went easy on his typical embroideries and embellishments (although not doing away with them entirely), instead letting the construction and flowing silhouettes of the garments doing the talking.