Couture grinds on: today there is the Margiela 'Artisinal' presentation, Gaultier, Ellie Saab and Valentino to finish. Tomorrow it stumbles on with 'haute joaillerie' presentations, a bit of pre-collection, and mainly magazines out shooting the couture warm off the backs of the mannequins. I sat next to Francesca Burns of British Vogue and Edward Enninful of W magazine, both of whom are capturing the couture as it happens for their respective publications before these dresses get embargoed and hermetically sealed in the vaults of les maisons.
I was surprised to read a few journalists' disparaging reviews of the Versace presentation - that was the presentation itself, rather than the clothes. True, the altar did, at times, look like an open box of Terry's All Gold and the models' crab-gait down the steps in towering stiletto platforms was stilted (no pun on 'stilt' I swear), but the clothes were fine. Lindsey Wixon's Mugler rip-off bustier body was a particular highlight for me - her hips out, mane-tossed pose suggested someone had really, really forced the importance of couture onto her (maybe throwing a few Dorian Leigh Parker flashcard poses in for good measure) but it was fun.
That's enough about seating plans and supermodel formation dances. What have I liked? Chanel, most certainly. There was something refreshing about a designer really engaging with the idea of futurism in fashion - especially in haute couture. The images above were shot backstage by Lady Amanda Harlech during the course of the two shows staged in an aeroplane mock-up in the Grand Palais. I've already said all there is for me to say, but I did love the narrow heels of the shoes - they reminded me of the fifties, when women in stilettos were banned from jets because their heels punctured through the floor.
Dior was safe and sound - a bit dull, truth be told. Galliano played those games with transparency and x-raying the Dior silhouette seasons ago. He also redid the Bar suit in crocodile (his was the skirt though) for his first ever Dior haute couture collection. Rather than Galliano Dior, or even Christian himself, it reminded me of the quiet grandeur of Gianfranco Ferre's overblown ballgowns and crisp white shirting for Dior in the early 1990s. That didn't set the world alight back then, and these old-new clothes didn't have enough impact to forge a salient brand image in a new, digitised century.
There are two ways to tackle that tricky problem: make your design gestures sweeping enough to register on a global stage (however pixellated your live stream may be), or allow the world to bury their heads in the intricacies of your craftsmanship. Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy seems to achieve the former through the latter - where Internet image or in the flesh, your mind is boggled by this work, by a crocodile hide painstakingly sliced apart and reassembled onto tulle or a slick, beaded column patterned by changes in direction of the stitches. The wonderful thing is how utterly relevant these clothes feel, despite the centuries of tradition stitched into them. It seems churlish to turn your nose up at there only being a dozen or so outfits when they're so perfectly realised and so perfectly suited to their setting: a small, discrete hôtel particulier on the Place Vendôme composed of small, circular salons that seem custom-made for the hushed showing of truly exceptional haute couture.
It's all about the stage, it seems.