Franca Sozzani, late editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, was a firm believer that fashion should reflect the changing times. In the world of haute couture (the art of custom-made and bespoke clothing), this can be difficult to realise due to the tradition and history of the industry, yet it is something we are gradually coming to terms with and has been noticed more and more at Couture Fashion Week. Haute couture is perhaps the crème de la crème of the fashion world, reserved for the wealthiest clientele who can afford this unique luxury, but the changing times mean that exposure and demand have multiplied colossally, forcing designers to produce ever-increasing quantities of products. At times it feels like haute couture has lost its notion of the made-to-measure and the bespoke since it is now broadcast on such a global scale, but as Sozzani correctly thought, designers must keep up with change to appeal to all potential clients, and at Couture Fashion Week this is certainly what they did.

“As one of the most ‘traditional’ collections of the season, Armani dedicated it to the late Franca Sozzani, and so it seems only fitting that he provided this concoction of old and new which she treasured so dearly.”

The Chanel couture show is always something of a spectacle and this season was nothing less. Predictable but timeless, Karl Lagerfeld has a knack for mixing the old with the new, retaining the classic Chanel tweed and boucle but updating it with new, modernised shapes and materials, including sequins and thigh-high boots. More conservative jackets and skirts were modernised by bold eye makeup and exposure of the décolletage, demonstrating not only the necessity but the success of combining tradition with innovation.

A reinvigoration of classic styles was seen at Chanel.Instagram: chanelofficial

An entirely different show, albeit with some similarities, was that of Jean Paul Gaultier. Theatrical as ever, Gaultier displayed similar shapes to those at Chanel, including rounded arms and shoulders, and it seemed to me that there were sentiments of Galliano’s work at Dior which indulged in extravagance and opulence, two ideas which are fundamental to haute couture. There was some emphasis on outerwear, tailoring and defining the female form (popular across the board this season), in addition to metallics, knitwear and sequins. While not (on first impression) entirely cohesive, the collection flows in a way that only Gaultier’s work can, ending with supermodel Coco Rocha riding a bike down the runway. Naturally.

More retro pieces with a modern twist were found at Armani Prive.Instagram: armani

Armani Prive also demonstrated this affinity for tailoring. A taste, perhaps, of more classic couture, Armani displayed tradition which appealed to all. With elements of 1920s/30s/40s fashion, the collection boasted pastel pantsuits, tulle dresses and evening gowns in black with floral decoration, while injections of hot pink and cobalt blue provided the youthful energy which is required by couture’s new hoard of clientele. As one of the most ‘traditional’ collections of the season, Armani dedicated it to the late Franca Sozzani, and so it seems only fitting that he provided this concoction of old and new which she treasured so dearly.

John Galliano was also inspired by outerwear for his collection for Maison Margiela in a way similar to that seen at Viktor & Rolf. Deconstructed trench coats were carefully layered over knitwear and sequins while each model sported a pair of cowboy boots. This was also a perfect example of how hair and makeup can came into play to enhance and accentuate the effect of the clothes, with makeup artist Pat McGrath creating robotic, futuristic looks in golds, reds and blues.

At Valentino, there were simple silhouettes in striking colours.Instagram: maisonvalentino

On the other hand, at Valentino, things were far more minimal. Silhouettes were simple, yet colours were bold in the form of long-line coats, capes and modest yet striking gowns. Pierpaolo Piccoli gave undeniable evidence of his ability to maintain a powerful brand image after his partner Maria Grazia Chiuri’s departure: while retaining elements of the ‘old’ Valentino, Piccoli has revitalised the brand by adding noticeably more daywear to his couture collection, something which younger clientele may gravitate towards.

Grazia Chiuri, however, also seems to have established herself, now at Dior. After a slightly shaky start at the label, this couture collection (also celebrating the house’s 70th anniversary) shows a clearer identity for the new Dior woman. Inspired by world-travelling, the collection comprised masculine greys which hinted at practicality, yet cinched waists and loose skirts reminiscent of old Hollywood glamour delicately balanced this. Forgivably, there were notions of Grazia Chiuri’s days at Valentino, but it was clear that she had begun to find her feet. There was a number of quasi-medieval-style gowns in tulle and velvet which echoed past Valentino collections, yet there was a new energy which signalled change at Dior. Now, about that price tag…

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