Ralph & Russo, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rami Al Ali: The Best of Fall 2016 Haute Couture

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The Best of Haute Couture Fall 2016 Naysayers have been predicting couture is in decline, but the jam-packed calendar of the Paris Couture Week for Fall 2016 attests otherwise: beyond the couturiers on the ‘official’ calendar of the Federation de la Haute Couture there were over a dozen couturiers from around the world converging in Paris.

Like Champagne, haute couture is an appellation contrôle so to name your collection as such you must adhere to certain strict rules (including having an atelier in Paris with a set number of petite mains). But nowadays, couture week is also an opportunity for some to divert a little of the limelight to their couture ambitions.

Case in point, the first presentation of the week, on Sunday, was a mix of couture gowns by French couturier On Aura Tout Vu, Sebastian Gunawan (Indonesia), and Michael Cinco (Dubai) with deluxe ready-to-wear collections created by these designers for a new e-commerce platform, Couturissimo. That same day Alberta Ferretti debuted the brand’s demi-couture line, Alberta Ferretti Limited Edition, while the young Dutch designer Claes Iversen presented a fresh and very wearable collection including fitted jackets embellished with romantic flower prints or lace worn over pencil trousers (some using organza). A standout piece was an A-line coat in soft watery blue that incorporated the squared patterns that have become a signature element in his creations in richly embroidered crystals and pearls.

Amongst the most memorable collections (for all the right reasons):

-Tamara Ralph at Ralph & Russo returned to her cherished garden with a profusion of peonies, tulips, and roses incorporated in various techniques on her stunning creations, from hand-painted blooms reminiscent of an 19th-century tapestry to embroidered crystals, glass beads, and micro pearls, even appliqués of petal-shaped feathers and mink pompoms. To create an impression of wilderness, the ‘garden’ was peppered with laser-cut butterflies and metallic embroidered dragonflies. In terms of silhouettes, the designer stayed faithful to her favorite 1950s shapes, but also edged towards the ‘70s with a few deluxe bohemian looks in a more relaxed vibe. One bignouveauté was a profusion of hats (floppy wide-brimmed or more exaggerated pith helmet style), as the brand adds to its offering of very successful accessories of handbags and shoes.

-Jean Paul Gaultier turns to the calm of the forest offering a rich autumn palette of mordorés, copper and rust, dark green, and other woody colors (and various wood prints) to cocoon his women with fur, feather embroideries, leather and other lustrous fabrics. The designer’s iconic corset offered a more prismatic breast (rather than the previous conic style)

-Syrian designer Rami Al Ali has regularly shown in Paris in recent seasons, but offered his first actual runaway presentation in the elegant setting of the Hotel d’Evreux, Place Vendome. Inspired by mosaic art, the designer transformed the age-old technique into a 21st century pixelated approach that created very fresh and unusual embroideries to his elongated silhouette. The gently exploding geometric patterns enlace a shoulder or a hip, elegantly enhancing curves. The collection references 1950s glamour with cinched in waists and billowing skirts creating hourglass silhouettes. Tulle, satin, and chiffon were reworked with snippets of lace and crystal mesh as embellishments in shades of Bordeaux and ensign blue.

For a quick cheat sheet of other collections:

-Schiaparelli paid homage to the circus recalling the famous 1938 collection of its founder.

-Iris Van Herpen visualized sound waves.

-Russian house Yanina Couture found inspiration in peacock feathers to create a romantic collection that emblazoned the proud bird on nearly every gown, some in actual feathers and others finely embroidered with silk. At times, all the attention may have been focused on the front of gown leaving the back under-developed, but overall it was a lovely romantic collection, with the right hint of sauciness in see-through fabrics and strategically embroidered motifs.

-Elie Saab showed a collection inspired by New York perspectives while staying faithful to the luxurious embroidery details for which he has become renowned. Architectural structures were embroidered, beaded, and printed on generous forms whilst birds flew across the collection. The designer offered several mini-me gowns with exact child-sized versions of his princess gown modelled alongside the adults.

-Viktor and Rolf decided to revisit their old collections, deconstructing to reconstruct (a concept pioneered in couture by Margiela). The overall effect was très chic tramp; particularly successful were the jackets of woven fabrics that were matched with jeans or fluffy ball gown skirt.

-Like Ralph & Russo, Zuhair Murad was also all about the 1970s, sending down his runway glittering Boho creations with an abundance of flared loose-fitting bell sleeves, cascades of calypso flounces, and loose jumpsuits topped with wide-brimmed hats that gave a certain nonchalance.

-Valentino presented (possibly) its last Couture collection by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli as a duo (while Piccioli is staying at the helm, Chiuri is widely rumored to be moving to Dior). It was dramatic with hint of the Elizabethan period and a nod to William Shakespeare in opposing red and black, high poplin collars, black leather boots, but also romantic with hand painted fantastic animals, antique patchwork applications, and an embroidered love note that reads “if you love me I’m in your heart, if you hate me I’m in your mind.”

As first published on BlouinArtinfo.com