• Jean Paul Gaultier
  • Ulyana Sergeenko
  • Chanel
  • Giorgio Armani Prive

Sheer genius, barbie pink and mixed messages

fashion February 01, 2018 01:00


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As Paris haute couture week ends, we look at the five things we learned from the elite fashion extravaganza


Genius is a word that gets thrown around in fashion like confetti at a wedding, but many who witnessed John Galliano’s two shows for Margiela over the past 12 days believed that in his case the feathered hat fits.

The British designer may never live down the notorious drunken anti-Semitic rant that cost him his job at Dior in 2011. 

Yet fashion would be far less fantastical without him.

His haute couture collection using transformative fabrics which look completely different to the naked eye than through the lens of smartphone, was not just inspired use of cutting-edge tech, but deft commentary on seeing at the world through the lens of Instagram.


Even geniuses make mistakes. Just ask Karl Lagerfeld who is no doubt stroking his chin over whether he will persist with his new wispy white beard. Reaction to the Kaiser’s first major change in image in two decades was generally negative – and almost drowned out his very girly Chanel show. Vogue’s legendary critic Suzy Menkes did her best to soften the blow by referring to the growth as “an exciting facial accessory”.

There was nothing shabby about his uber-girly collection, however, which pushed pretty till it squeaked.

Yet amid all the frills and feathers, the bride – the figure that traditionally closes Paris haute couture shows – wore trousers.

Lagerfeld put Dutch model Luna Bijl in a white tuxedo with a long white feathered trailing cape.

The designer’s nine-year-old godson, Hudson Kroenig, scattered rose petals at her feet.

As well as closing the show, rising star Bijl, 19, also led out the run of pink and green beaded tweed suits that opened it.

They were matched with similarly beaded mid-calf boots with transparent wedge heels, with some models wearing edged leather gloves in a very Lagerfeld finishing touch.

If the set of a French formal garden complete with fountain was decidedly less overwhelming than Lagerfeld’s usual Grand Palais spectaculars, the flower theme was clear enough.

As well as Sevillian black mesh flower fascinators, bouquets of tiny embroidered flowers lit up a large part of the collection that glinted with crystals and acres of fine embroidery. 


One bubble-gum pink flower-fringed bustier dress with matching pink crystal-encrusted boots skirted Barbiedom, but the veteran designer just about got away with it.


Dior under Maria Grazia Chiuri loves nothing better than a good slogan. She began her reign at the fabled label with her “We should all be feminists” T-shirt and by plastering “Christian Dior J’adore” on just about everything, from bras to sandal straps.

This week she wrote lines from Andre Breton’s “Surrealist Manifesto” across her models’ collar bones as part of a homage to Italian artist and proto-feminist Leonor Fini.

Which was unfortunate, as critics quickly pointed out, because Breton was a notorious misogynist who Fini abhorred for writing that “the problem of woman is the most marvellous and disturbing problem in all the world”.


The haute couture shows, which are unique to the French capital, are the creme de la creme of fashion with thousands of hours going into the handmade dresses that can only be afforded by the richest women on the planet. 

And Chiuri pulled out all the stops to display the artistry of her ateliers in a show of more than 70 lavish creations mostly in black and white, the colours she insisted |that “the surrealists said we dreamed in”.

Chequerboard patterns proliferated as did see-through hooped “cage” corsets, another borrowing from surrealist symbolism, she said.

But her cages – the set was also hung with them – were a symbol of women freeing themselves, Chiuri said afterwards. “Our cages (on the set) are absolutely open, and there is nothing inside,” she laughed. 

Many models also wore masks, a nod to the masked surrealist ball Chiuri organised in Fini’s honour late Monday.

While A-line floor-length dresses dominated, the collection was far from totally two-tone. One organza ball gown embroidered with pale gold sequins had New York Times critic Vanessa Friedman tweeting, “Fit for a fairy princess”.

But Chiuri insisted her show carried a strong empowerment message.


Never write a note using the N-word and send it to someone who puts their entire life on Instagram. The Russian designer Ulyana Sergeenko learned that the hard way this week when she sent flowers to her friend the Moscow socialite Miroslava Duma when she arrived in Paris for the shows. Both women insisted it was meant as a term of endearment between friends, but the fashion world was not in a forgiving mood.


While catwalks are more and more gender fluid with co-ed shows and androgynous and trans models, they could not have been more binary when it came to colour this week.

Black and white dominated from John Paul Gaultier’s two-tone tribute to Pierre Cardin to Dior’s surrealist checkerboards and Clare Waight Keller’s much-praised debut at Givenchy. 


That couture fixture the femme fatale cut a black and silver swathe through the Azzaro, Alexandre Vaultier and Galia Lahav collections, with shoulders exaggerated 1980s-style to emphasise killer glamour.

Chanel and Valentino swam against the austere tide with a sweetshop assortment of sugary pinks and greens, while Viktor & Rolf also went for a bolder palette, giving their quirky creations an extra sheen by making the complete collection in satin duchesse.