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Haute Couture Brilliance: A Glimpse into Paris Couture Week '24

From iconic runways to intimate presentations, Haute Couture Week '24 showcased the pinnacle of French style and savoir-faire. By Devyani Sojatia

Paris hosted Haute Couture Week S/S 2024 from January 22 - 25, 2024, showcasing the pinnacle of French style and savoir-faire in some of the season’s most opulent runway presentations. The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode grants membership to only a few houses each year, indicating the event's exclusivity. Naturally, this results in some of the season's most breathtaking runway spectacles from dwarfing show sets to star-studded front rows. It also provides an opportunity to appreciate the poetry of fashion and dressmaking, with each handcrafted garment often requiring hours and hours of work to perfect. Here’s a lowdown of all the shows that took place this year. 

A robot baby, a dress swishing a faux horsetail, a bodice carapace sculpted almost like a space pod - Schiaparelli kickstarted the couture week where Creative Director Daniel Roseberry displayed a collection of extraterrestrial elegance suitably named 'Schiaparalien'. Zendaya stole the show in an all-black gown with knot-embellished sleeves and a ruched ponytail-esque train, complete with razor-sharp micro fringe. Jennifer Lopez was also in attendance and looked stunning in an intricate petaled white coat and opulent surrealist-style gold brow spectacles.

Christian Dior's Spring '24 haute couture celebrated craftsmanship, humanism, and the transformational power of clothing. Maria Grazia Chiuri typically avoided clearly defined topics in favour of an exploration of what the Italian designer referred to as 'aura'. The exhibition was set against the backdrop of Isabella Ducrot's Big Aura, a sequence of large-scale apparel silhouettes reminiscent of cloth's warp and weft composition. Indeed, fabric, the couturier's medium, took centre stage here, with rich moiré moments contrasting with the brightness of iridescent textiles and the luscious textures of velvet. Chiuri’s silhouettes took inspiration from the Dior archives such as the La Cigale dress designed by Christian Dior in 1952.

Drawing inspiration from D.H. Lawrence's introspective poem "Snake," Rahul Mishra paid homage to our planet's often-overlooked guardians: insects in his Couture Week 2024 collection. Aptly titled ‘Superheroes’, Mishra's patterns transform into a canvas that illustrates the interconnectivity of all life forms. Each piece of clothing represents the delicate dance of species, an acknowledgement of the subtle balance that keeps the earth alive. The atelier's signature embroidery evolves, combining silken thread work with zari embroidery, ek taar ka kaam, baadla, glass beads, and rhinestones. This painstaking craftsmanship creates a sense of 'biomimicry' within the motifs, which reflect the intricate patterns found in nature. 

Giambattista Valli had a double-big day because he not only showed his fabulous collection but also named a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, one of the highest honours bestowed by the French Republic on citizens who have distinguished themselves for their contributions to the world of arts and culture. The designer promised a rose garden and delivered a dreamy, flower-filled collection. Sleeves occasionally grew to the size of couches in a five-star hotel, while fishtail gowns ended in massive, layered fabric folds. Valli is the torchbearer for grandeur in couture, and his efforts resulted in a slew of new silhouettes and that dreamy sensation that has been sapped from fashion in the aftermath of the quiet-luxury juggernaut.

Lightness, prettiness, and frivolity—Virginie Viard gathered all of these elements and displayed them in the Chanel couture presentation. Viard's underpinning inspiration was ballet, which she threaded through a leggy collection centred on a massive Chanel button installation. The collection, which appeared in a sugared-almond palette of white and soft pink, was brimming with embellishments that indicated both romance and mobility, such as tulle fronds that erupted from the sleeve of a jacket or as a kind of pannier at the hip, or layered bodysuits.

With its thin and narrow forms, excellent craftsmanship, aquatic and rich tones - pale pinks, jade greens, soft blues, shards of gold, midnight blues, and royal blues - it is a Haute Couture collection that may be defined as profoundly "Armanian". Giorgio Armani's spring-summer Haute Couture 2024 immerses us in the idea of a woman who, wherever she goes, takes something and makes it her own, if only via her imagination. A delicate hue contributed to the collection's ethereal feel. This is a fantasy wardrobe achieved in one seamless floating procession. A touching tribute to the evolution of his doctrine and the women who shaped it. 

Elie Saab demonstrated his red carpet prowess by hosting Jennifer Lopez in the front row. The collection was inspired by the mystery of Morocco, inside the souk and the light of the desert. Saab was inspired by the elaborate geometric patterns found in the country's architecture. He transformed these into filigree on capes and gowns, with gold making its way across delicate sunset hues. The perforated metalwork of Moroccan interior design and lighting was also included in the bodices, as well as graphic lines and inlaid flowers. He deviated from symmetry, a one-shouldered wrap cape that hung from shoulder to wrist offered a refreshing sense of volume, while an outstretched batwing cape generated sombre drama as the model walked into the light.

Roses are a lifeline for Simone Rocha; bows are her lineage; and unapologetically huge, ultra-feminine dresses signify everything. On January 24, the Dublin-born fashion designer launched her spring 2024 collection in front of a sold-out audience that featured Kylie Jenner, wearing PVC, pleaser-inspired high heels and a sheer gown straight from the runway. Rocha's ingenuity and consistency shone through as she devised ingenious methods to bring concepts together. Across 36 ensembles, her love of volume, pink tones, and ruching was prominent, yet it was effortlessly blended with Gaultier's iconic corsetry and crinoline. Exaggerated hips were balanced with puffed-up sleeves, and the designer's signature crystals and pearls adorned bustiers and gowns.

Zuhair Murad, a Lebanese designer, exhibited his collection, A Tyrian Arabesque. With this release, the couturier celebrated the Phoenicians' love of the sea. The collection combines Greco-Roman elements, with drapery, Arabesque motifs, and cascading chains on sumptuous fabrics such as silk crepe, chiffon, lame lurex, charmeuse, and satin. Murad drew inspiration from the movement of water and the treasures of sea trips, creating a striking ivory satin kimono dress with crystal sea spray along the sides. The colour scheme is also influenced by Mediterranean tones and shiny reflections. Faded reds conjure sea twilights and antique amphora wine, but deep greens represent olives and the wealth of the Phoenician plains.  

At Valentino's spring 2024 couture collection runway show, dubbed "Le Salon," models flowed down a purple spiral staircase in the brand's Place Vendôme atelier, dressed in a sea of colourful gowns, suits, and separates for all genders. Pierpaolo Piccioli, the creative director, has occasionally been known to focus on a range of brilliant hues; for this collection, he truly took that concept to heart. Every colour of the rainbow was highlighted and refracted by the couture prism he had designed. Dramatic Piccioli-inspired designs appeared to glide along the aisles amongst the brand's well-heeled pals and A-listers such as Kylie Jenner, her daughter Stormi Webster, and Jennifer Lopez.

Gaurav Gupta's Spring 2024 collection, dubbed "Aarohanam," focused on form-fitting silhouettes heightened by various embellishments and techniques, some of which are unique to the brand, such as surrealism metal plating. They were showcasing dramatic, richly decorated tailoring with sculpted shoulders and corsetry accents, combined with pleated dhoti trousers or fluid-draped skirts. His embroidered bolero jackets had a textural irregularity and jagged snakeskin impression because of his embroidery, which used 20 distinct traditional Indian techniques. Kundalini snakes — a reference to the sacred feminine in Indian philosophy — were a constant, their sinuous forms reflected in the sweeping swirls of his signature designs, which included a bridal gown with a train that spanned the width of the aisle at the American Cathedral, his seasonal venue. 

Pieter Mulier's current collection features garments made from a single piece of yarn, a feat of engineering inspired by house founder Azzedine Alaïa's architectural approach to dressmaking. Mulier observed that this yarn, merino wool produced over a year in collaboration with the house's knitwear and textile suppliers, signified an attitude of reduction, of stripping fashion down to its core. This did not imply simplicity, as the fluttering mille-feuille of layers, looping, sculptural dresses, and pom-pom-like fronds bursting from sleeves and hems were anything but.

Fendi presented a captivating combination of minimalist futurism and homage to the renowned Karl Lagerfeld. Celebrities such as Zendaya and Reese Witherspoon were present to see artistic director Kim Jones create a spectacular futurist collection — complete with frothy, organic fringe — that not only honoured the past but also embraced a forward-thinking mindset.  It started with a new box-shaped style with precise geometric designs in silk gazars. Gowns with harsh, minimalist hemlines were embellished with exquisite beading, a refined departure from the brand's fur-heavy heritage. A new type of fur appeared, with feather-like fringe all around. Every piece exemplified Fendi's ateliers' craftsmanship, which included embroidery, tailoring, and fabric manipulation.

Maison Margiela, undoubtedly the most talked-about show, completed couture week with a sublime Artisanal Collection. Designer John Galliano is known for his love of theatricality, so it should come as no surprise that his spring 2024 couture collection for Maison Margiela (also a suitably dramatic house) featured moments of high-brow fantasy, from transparent corsets and ripped stockings to oversized vinyl gloves and steampunk-inspired goggles. Perhaps the most eye-catching moment of all was the presence of actress Gwendoline Christie, who closed the show on the runway in a sheer, corseted gown coated with tinted rubber that would have looked quite at home in a Tim Burton picture. 

What's more? Maison Margiela collaborated with Christian Louboutin on shoe designs fusing the iconography of the two houses. All six of the shoe designs, conceived by John Galliano and Christian Louboutin, feature the shoe designer’s emblematic red sole. Speaking about the collaboration Louboutin said, “John and I met about 40 years ago when he first moved to Paris. Working with someone you love, and respect was the nice part of the collaboration. Moreover, Maison Margiela has such precise and strong codes that you can refer to, which are very well preserved.”One standout creation from the collaboration is the Pumps, crafted with the Tabi split toe, embodying the body-modifying language of Maison Margiela's collection. With magnified platforms and prosthesis-augmented heel caps reminiscent of hooves, these shoes are a testament to the excellence of Maison Margiela Atelier, further accentuated by the sculptural design of the counter, amplifying proportions with artistic flair.


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