This Week In Paris: Very Haute Couture

This Week In Paris: Very Haute Couture

This week, the finest couture houses in Paris rolled out their collections for the city’s Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2009-2010 Fashion Week. The most decadent side of fashion stayed true to its roots this season, with New Look designs out of Dior and black and white styles chez Chanel. But a certain sobriety, fitting in these harsh economic times, also permeated the collections of even the most outrageous of French designers.

On Monday, Christian Dior returned to its roots with a spectacular collection by John Galliano. The designer paid tribute to the house’s legendary New Look, with full skirts, belts, brocades, and dramatically angled hats. Actress Marion Cotillard, who won an Oscar for her turn as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose and recently starred in an extended commercial for Dior, watched from the front row. Above, a stunning white tulle gown from Monday’s runway.

Christian Lacroix showed what may be his last high fashion collection on Tuesday. Lacroix, whose fashion house was placed under creditor protection more than a month ago, received help from friends and artisans who worked for free to create what some are saying is his best, and most wearable, work to date.

In somber shades of midnight blue and black, Lacroix’s winter 2010 collection was mainly characterized by dark discreet dresses, accented with the elegant detail of bows and ruffles. The designer also showcased daytime clothing, including military jackets and separates, all presented on models wearing classic Parisian headscarves or hats. All in all, the twenty-four looks presented were met with both cheers and tears from the fashion crowd, as most saw the show as a bittersweet ending to an empire which epitomizes the elegance of Parisian haute couture. “I can’t think this is the end,” Lacroix said after the show, “It’s the beginning of something, I hope.”

Karl Lagerfeld showed his Autumn/Winter 2009 collection for Chanel on Tuesday evening, on a runway covered with towering Chanel No. 5 perfume bottles. The collection was a relatively low-key one by Lagerfeld standards, and included everything from fine suits and classic coats to lush evening gowns.

The most noticeable motif of the Chanel collection was a distinctive flap, which appeared on almost every outfit on the runway. Cut clean and rectangular, the flap of fabric was attached to the back of each garment at the shoulders, waist or hips, sometimes in contrasting fabrics or colors. Eveningwear managed to remain relatively classic, as Lagerfeld displayed a range of party frocks and longer gowns that showcased the interplay between structure and femininity that he is so well known for, in classic Chanel black-and-whites.

In a season dubbed “limbo” by Women’s Wear Daily, Jean Paul Gaultier showed a beautifully elegant and chic collection on Wednesday, calling to mind a Hollywood film set from years past. Several critics have noted, however, that the looks did not posses the electric edge of a typical Gaultier show. Like his peers, the often extremist designer seems to be playing it safe until limbo turns back into heaven, or into fashion hell.

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