THE SPRING 2014 COUTURE REPORT

by Jeremy Danté

PARIS – with menswear coming to a close, we meet the immediate start of haute couture collections. at present day, the world of couture seems to be as expected as ready-to-wear. though much more exclusive, collections are presented in similar format, and inspiration of such seem to run through other facets of big fashion brands these days. in adopting a new format of runway coverage, i aim to sustain energy while balancing the need to bring about dialogue of these important fashion collections. the couture report is a report generated that includes five of the best the haute couture collections of the season. these collections protect an aspect of fashion history, as protected by the chambre syndicale de la haute couture. headquartered at 100 rue du faubourg saint honoré, in paris since 1935, the association dates back as far as 1868. made up of couturiers and designers of womenswear, the chambre aims to preserve paris’ position as the world capital of fashion design. in the process of such preservation,  designers are expected to follow guidelines in order to participate in this exclusive presentation of runway collections. established are calendars for each of the show weeks, which optimize scheduling for both venues and shows. hosted in january and july, approximately 30 haute couture shows are presented. such presentations are aligned with the fashion calendar, which accomodates 150 ready-to-wear women’s collections that are shown outside of haute couture. invitations for the couture collections are managed by the fédération française de la couture, which follows an accrediation process and tracks attendance. press and buyer information/welcome kiosks are set up during couture shows to give access to 800 buyers, 2000 journalists, 400 photographers and other fashion professionals. these kiosks allow for digital, print and audiovisual information about the shows to be disseminated to those in attendance. the fédération also aims to facilitate growth of new and emerging brands, while defending intellectual property rights, develop training and education programs and to resolve collective problems, while providing assistand and advice to members. of the season, these five collections are my selections for best couture showings this spring. through concept, detail and execution, as well as influence and discussion; these are my picks. in recounting the history, guidelines and activities of couture, my desire is to remind you, in case you’ve forgotten. when you see them bitches in valour on the street with juicy on their ass, understand how to separate that from this. make no mistake, this is couture.

VALENTINO – of my most loved labels, valentino has consistently produced designs, collections and campaigns that remain in the vein of all that i love of beauty and elegance. inspired by the protagonist roles of famed operas, the collection was thoroughy inspired and meticulously produced. comprised of 55 looks, the collection held a wealth of range in palette and detail. holding true to their brand DNA that, the house continues to defend their heritage in the world of haute couture. theatrical minimalism was presented while wondrous intricacies proved that the collection was among the most complexly inspired and thoughtfully designed. with the fast pace of high fashion rapidly building greater momentum each season, some of the collections that were presented as couture had that ready-to-wear feel. that feel communicating a sense of rapid release, or quick turn over in the connectivity of design. even in the moments of minimal, streamlined design- you felt the difference. you felt the care in the construction when viewing the collection and seeing it’s movement down the intimately staged runway show. my favorite collection of the SS14 couture season, was valentino. i always feel inspired by their merging of classic and progressive aesthetics. this inspiration is felt through not only their couture collections, but all they have done in recent years. from recovering from creative directing flaws, lacking marketing and a clear voice on the high fashion scene. they are owed the respect of being able to sustain as a viable fashion label, and iconic couture house. i applaud maria grazia chiuri and pierpaolo piccioli. completely stunning from the first look, to the last.

GIAMBATTISTA VALLI – beauty was in full bloom this season, as floral danced across the runways of paris. no collection felt as much of a representation of spring than giambiattista valli’s SS14 couture collection this season. usually a flair of the dramatics are seen by valli, but this collection was much more spring than any of his others- if only for the hemlines. short designs were seen this season, which are not as expected as one would think for a fashion collection. couture rides that line of differentiation from ready-to-wear collections. when i review couture, i look for that difference. i like the idea of transcendence with all things haute. that’s what you feel when you see a giambattista collection. you get that sense of wonder, that emotion of fantasy. this collection seemed a bit more tame than other collections by valli, for couture in seasons past. that said, it was no less beautiful. i loved the contrast of colors, and the modernity that was expressed in the creation of couture separates. it was young, while remaining mindful to the art of couture. loved the use of hardware, and though i could draw comparability to the likes of christian dior by raf simons, i won’t. this collection was far more interesting, as oppose to dior’s reliance of mundane minimalism. it was pretty, in an alluring way. not pretty as the sub-par little sister of beautiful. it was light, well constructed and imaginative. i loved the controlled aspects of drama that were injected in thoughtful ways.

3ATELIER VERSACE – power has long been the inspiration and founding presence of the house of versace. over the past five seasons, the house has returned to the haute couture runways, proving themselves to be strong contenders of the art form. grace jones was the female icon that inspired this seasons couture collection, as donatella described her as ‘power goddess’. the musical icons presence was felt in the clothes, and portrayed in her signature hooded look. maria borges of women model management, was the only black model cast for the show and she closed on the runway. strange as it may sound, there wasn’t enough color, representing a woman of color despite the fact that she inspired the collection. yes, there were versace elements and the embodiment of jones was vividly presented, but the casting proved to lack the true essence of her power. that power being the fact that she is black. grace jones has been widely regarded as an icon for women, but a large component of her influence is recognized by the fact that she afforded women of color the opportunity to be seen as true artists, commanding of power in undeniable ways. versace’s visibility, especially in modern day media is largely to credit for it’s lyrical reference by black artists, most commonly in the rap genre. the unease that i feel in seeing un-pigmented bodies strolling the runway to represent what cannot be faked or unrealistically reproduced is both jarring and unsettling to me. great inspiration- yes. execution? i find it puzzling, but more so, i find it annoying. represent the artist, and recognize what aspects of reality have aided her proclamation of that power. duplicate that through proper utilization of said reality.

CHANEL – in the last several months, i’ve discussed the merging of suit and sport. since that time, i’ve consistently highlighted and documented collections that support that theory. in areas of menswear, and womenswear- i’ve remained vigilant in observing various elements from magazine covers, to the silhouettes within pre-season collections. chanel haute couture goes on to further lends themselves in show of support of my theory even further. chanel is king with their crown being lagerfeld, himself. this season, they threw versatility high into the sky with their couture collection. opening the show was model it girl, cara delevingne, strutting rhythmically with a metallic accented eye onto the runway that was described by karl as, ”an ice palace, a nightclub from another planet.” the future? i completely agree. the collection began rather tame, taking casual looks and elevating them with couture detailing. a focus on silhouettes brought the eye to the torso, which was narrowed by hidden corsets that were only visible as the models walked away from the front row and back up the two-way stair case. the models walked the show with the greatest of ease, slightly galloping to the runway beat down the stairs in, and what could be more chic; chanel couture sneakers! there was no greater element to support my theory of suit and sport than the couture sneaker this season. as the collection progressed, the looks evolved smartly into formal looks that leaned more heavily into the essence of couture through to the end. the collection held a palette of iced tones, lending the idea that karl understands the vein of consistent and well executed vision. one of the strongest collections this season, and a tried and true mark of defense for chanel being held in regard as the greatest fashion house in fashion history. knee pads as well, the sport theme was in full effect and lagerfeld continues to prove why he is, very much so, the crown atop the head of chanel as king.

CHRISTIAN DIOR – dior has since been altered in aesthetics since raf simons has stepped in as the replacement for john galliano. though the discussion of galliano is now stale, the conversation of the brands transformation is not. i’ve been watching the collections, recognizing improvements and being mindful that change is a process. simons’ approach to design is very psychological. it’s almost as if it’s overanalyzed design, in my opinion. im all about clean lines, thorough inspiration and design abstraction. this couture collection’s strong suit was cut. whether it was strategic placement of cut-outs, or the shortened hemlines that brought about a spring feel- the only cut i noticed severely enough was couture. the collection seemed to lack design intricacy that is most commonly associated with couture, as an art form. here, i felt none of that in these clothes. though psychological and interesting in design, there seemed to lack a defining line between these clothes and that of ready-to-wear. the clothes were more closely aligned with simons’ aesthetic with jil sander, i felt, and didn’t particularly resonate with the brand DNA of christian dior. silhouette was destroyed, and widened in a way that seemed to deface the signature of dior in design. aside from the casting of grace mahary, a model who also appeared for both chanel and valentino on the couture runways this season, the collection was otherwise boring and seemed to lack beauty. simplicity is key, and overindulgence can be vulgar, but here there was no balance of theatricality, and no stretching of the imagination in a way that felt exciting. though not the worst collection of the season, i find it necessary to contrast ideas of excitement with those of wonder in curiosity. as historic as the dior label has been in fashion, i have a greater expectation than what was delivered here. for me, it’s simply not enough.

visit style.com for complete coverage of the SS14 haute couture season
click image to view collection gallery