THE FALL 2014 COUTURE REPORT
by Jeremy Danté
each season, i question the relevance of couture. and though i’m one for the glamour, the concepts and the imagination- i also find great importance in wearability and everyday function. real women- that’s what fashion is really about. the couture collections begin with versace, and have since the italian fashion house made it’s way back to the runways of paris with atelier versace. fresh off the runway, the versace collection was inspired by the time period of 1947-1957. dark and appropriately as a fall collection, there were deep purples and use of leather in the collection. always a stunning cast at the house of versace, this season was no different. mariacarla bosocono opened the collection, as late 90’s supermodel stella tennant brought the collection to a close. there was a greater amount of restraint and modesty in this collection, which was nice. the versace collections from ready-to-wear to menswear have been more gimmicky in recent years. i can fuck with theatricality but the label has seemed to try to remain relevant in the mainstream with associations with rappers and especially musical fixtures like nicki minaj. these things do keep a label in the eyes of consumers at a range of levels within the market, but there is a certain grade of style that should be executed. i loved this atelier versace collection and really loved the modernized take on the 40’s and 50’s. donatella is really a master of feminine charm, and this collection was chic and refined with a female sense of mystique. that balance is necessary for their archives, and that almost crass aesthetic that they toss to the masses is definitely, regardless of how i feel about it, a part of the versace brand. it’s that in your face, more-is-more, maximalist approach. all things balanced, loved the concepts of this couture collection.
leaning to my mention of theatricality once more, i still cannot help but think of galliano during show season; especially at the house of dior. old habits die hard, i suppose, but when looking at the dior collections, there is a complete 360 that the house has done. admirable, in trying to refine their aesthetic and draw it back to the original code of the house, the new dior look relies on intricate details seen in construction. while there lacks a sense of drama, in obvious ways, the drama is filled into these collections at a different angle. that angle, from what i have seen and can foresee seems like it may become dulled if worn out for another season. the backdrop of the runway show, though stunning, seems too familiar in comparison to the last three seasons that raf has been at dior. couture is an especially important aspect of the house, and for a fall couture collection- the drama did seem a bit more turned up. there was use of fur, and greater attention to a range of silhouettes. simple dresses with flowing lines were accentuated properly with couture details- duh, that’s what this shit is all about. the white lacquered floors of the runway accented the clothes in a pure way. that’s what the work of raf simons has done for the house of dior- it’s cleaned it up. and though this beauty is visible, i wonder how much longer it will be before this classically sophisticated direction will be traded in for a more modernized take on things. obviously, ready-to-wear is just around the corner, and all eyes are usually on dior in paris, along with the other big labels, like givenchy and louis vuitton. but in the arena of haute couture, dior wins. and almost by default before vuitton does not produce couture, while the house of givenchy has made the conscious decision to opt out of the historically haute tradition.
the usual romanticism was seen at elie saab, again- another house that has no issues with dissing beauty in the droves- it seemed all like something that we’ve seen before. armani privé continued it’s lull in a way that really only makes you feel like it really is time for giorgio himself to retire and for new, young blood to remix the codes of the house. while i respect the legacy of the armani label immensely, i often don’t take the time to speak on what they are doing out of the sheer annoyance of what they are not doing. the progression of the label, in ways that are visible in each and every collection they present is heavily weighed down with stagnancy. it’s almost as if giorgio’s refusal to retire, or clear avoidance of such are all for show- to prove a point. while no valuable points, in the form of design, are even seen. it may be a long shot; but it’s all boring. and then they shoot these excellent advertising campaigns that make the clothes look better than how they were presented on the runway. with giorgio’s comments about the fashion calendar, and his gripes of non-attendance from editors during his shows- with all due respect, it seems as though it’s unnecessary. there is a lack of growth. fashion is a business, and it seems like armani’s point in not retiring is as dull as his collections. it is now beginning to come off as grumpy old man gripes. if there was a concern with the label and it’s relevance through style and design, a plan to re-energize the label would be put in place. speaking to what appeals to me as a fashion consumer and spectator, no one is really checking for armani in the facets of armani exchange, giorgio armani and yes, armani privé. as seen in the collection and mentioned in reviews, it was noticeable that shorter hemlines were intended to appeal to new, younger customers- but those attempts to entice will fall flat. the approach is old, dated and expired. it’s time for the armani label to rise back into relevance through new creative direction. or nah?
in lieu of my mention of what this new direction looks and feels like in these modern days of couture; and yes, you might think that modern and couture is touchy. considering the historical techniques of couture, i think it’s almost just as important if not more important to apply those techniques and weld them with undeniably innovative approaches to silhouette and character. fashion is really about an energy, the clothes can disguise this, accentuate it, balance it or kill it all together. alexandre vauthier has quickly become a master of modernization, and a viable competitor of what such competition looks like. then you have the margiela approach of intentional awkwardness or their fuck-with-the-psyche approach to dressing. the thing about this sense of modernity is that it can also read like a gimmick, as i did mention with the house of versace. modernization, when done the right way should not cheapen, but cool. it should add layers of content instead of stripping them away in a way that makes it more digestible to more people. couture is the unapologetic approach to design- we’re talking hundreds of hours on one garment, for one customer- it’s the lap of luxury that many fail to even touch, much less become aware of. giambattista valli seemed to almost marry the philosophy of design seen at margiela with what we seen at vauthier, as well as at dior. they borrowed the flowered girlies from dior, while fucking with the silhouettes in a way that reminded you of margiela in an intentionally psychological way. then there was the purple fur numbers that incorporated or gave vauthier a run for his money. this is the type of competition worth keeping score for. concepts are only as great as their interpreters and the giambattista valli collection housed and personalized his take on what all the other labels were doing, and have done. perfectly executed in my opinion.
collections that fell flat for me were schiaparelli. a label to watch more closely since they are attempting to revitalize the brand, but perhaps its only because i am not as familiar with the house and their codes. the collection was seemingly animal themed, which again lead me to my pet peeve, no pun intended; for collections that rely on gimmicks to sustain or gain greater traction. it’s difficult to make a way for yourself as a free standing fashion entity, but to be held to an existing legacy and to deal with the pressure of properly reintroducing that level of aesthetic to a set of future and present day consumers who almost always lack a sense of understanding and information must be a challenge. while i am holding out on forming a real opinion before a few seasons are under marco zanini’s belt, i will say- i am not a fan of such a design direction. modern, yes- not cheap. and these concepts felt that way to me. granted, construction could’ve been on-fucking-point, the visual was just not desirable to my eye that seeks and gravitates towards beauty. unnecessarily resorting to gimmicks as well, was viktor & rolf, with a fleet of red velvet looks. which i hated. understanding that the fashion design duo are more avant garde, this just wasn’t pretty, nor did it embody the attitude of couture. this could’ve been something really strong and great, but instead- if seemed like a joke.
the house of chanel is king, and alongside it was valentino as it’s queen equivalent. the juggernaut of a house, chanel took inspiration from architecture of le corbusier, while valentino referenced the 19th century. both collections contained a true sense of romanticism, beauty and regality that was unmatched by many others this couture season. a pleasant surprise was to see much more variation at valentino, and to see the ways that lagerfeld abandoned more modern ideas seen last season for couture, like sneakers. true range, growth and beautifully executed method of interpreting inspiration. both collections were standouts for me this season, beautiful and sparing in their own ways but balanced by all the other gimmicks that seemed to stumble onto the catwalks. overall, fall is where you bring the drama and that’s what these two did. while the other labels are still perfection in waiting, it’s all one big process. it’s not even about what collections do from season to season, it’s monitoring that progression and looking at things down to the detail, and from the bigger picture. with show season looming, we’ll get our big picture soon, then we can rest on the beauty, the cool and the elegance through the holidays to do it all over again, come january. welcome to SS15 show season.
visit style.com for complete coverage of the FW14 haute couture season
stay tuned for coverage of new york fashion week this september