Male Box: J’Adore Couture

February 21, 2012 • Magazine, Male Box

My readers know what a rapid fashion Francophile I am when it comes to fashion, but you may be asking yourself why. As all my fellow fashion editors are reeling from the recent offerings at New York Fashion Week, why am I still waxing rhapsodic about the Paris couture from last month? In the “new obsessed” world of fashion, why do I seem to care more about spring couture than fall ready-to-wear? The answer is simple. Diffusion!

In the old days – I mean 100 years before my time – Paris dictated fashion to the world. A year later American fashion would follow. In recent times, American RTW designers’ February shows for fall might show influences of HC designers’ January shows for March delivery. With the advent of fast fashion and twitter and instagram, diffusion from couture to mass production is much faster than ever before. Of course, only elements of couture design are incorporated by mass manufacturers, but if you know what you’re looking for you can jump on a directional trend as quickly as any haute couture customer.

Bill Gaytten’s second collection for Christian Dior was even more hotly anticipated than his first following the scandalous “departure” of his predecessor. For this, he explored the archives to analyze the DNA of the brand while it was still under the direction of Monsieur Dior himself. What emerged on the catwalk this season is a deconstructivist treatise on the essence of  Dior. Before you go thinking that he brought grunge to couture, let me tell you that he used cutaways and sheer fabric to reveal the masterful workmanship that underlies couture. We even see the point d’esprit lace that appeared on several New York  runways by the end of fashion week. See what I mean about diffusion? You don’t have to pay Parisian couture prices to have this by March or even American prices to have it by August. You can go find it right now!

Riccardo Tisci has masterfully helmed Givenchy since Alexander McQueen’s departure. This season he presented 10 pieces of haute couture that combined required more hours of artisan handiwork than an entire 38 piece ready to wear collection. One crocodile inspired evening gown required over 300 hours to hand treat and apply individual “scales”. The truly “directional”  story at this house is the “new” bare and the artful draping that reveals it.

The design duo at Valentino showed a much larger haute couture collection, reflecting perhaps the emergence of a new  generation of customers coming of age or perhaps a renewed interest in the brand since the recent auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s vintage couture collection. Regardless of the reason, three distinct trends emerged from the more than 40 looks. For  comparison, the average American RTW runway show has 36 looks. Long sleeves for evening are a must for the Valentino woman. Whether they are opaque or sheer and applied with lace is a matter of her personal preference. Sheer high collars over strapless dresses are another key to Valentino’s signature demure but sexy style. Finally, the old spring standby of floral is given a breath of freshness with old world embroideries and hand techniques.

Giorgio Armani is among the few Italian designers invited to show during the Paris couture. Signore Valentino paved the way in the 1960s that has since been well trod by the likes of Armani and even Donatella Versace. Futuristic shapes, artful draping, and knife edge pleating were the key elements to take away from the Armani Prive collection.  Armani is known in America as a staple of the red carpet. We will surely see some of his evening gowns at the Oscars next month.

No round up of the haute couture season would be complete with Chanel. The key trend here is blue – 150 shades of blue to be exact!  Blue appeared in all its permutations from retro to futuristic. Portrait collars will be another staple of the well dressed woman this season. With all the emphasis on statement necklaces (instead of rings) in recent seasons, it’s about time that  fashion caught up and created the right frames. My personal favorite is the return of the bateau neck. This oval stand up collar reveals the most flattering parts of a woman’s neck and collarbones without being too revealing. Finally, full short sleeves from cap to bell shaped add just the right amount of femininity to spring fashion.

If you are wondering where all the color is, the answer is Alexis Mabille. While all the other designers kept to pretty spare palettes to better highlight their expertise in design and construction, Mabille put every color in the rainbow – and then some – into one collection. Each of the twenty one head-to-toe monochrome looks explored various signature elements of haute couture from draping to tailoring to volume.

This spring, the best dressed women in the world will be sporting these looks. Why not pick an element – like the first flower of spring – and get the jump on your fellow fashionistas wherever you are? Six months from now you can “compliment” them on their newest looks which you’ll already be discarding as you adapt the fall couture from the shows in July.

– Joseph Ungoco

Photos: Spring 2012 Couture,

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