Taking the high fashion world by storm, these nine relatively new haute couture designers are proving that you don't need to be a seasoned couturier to create brilliant fashion. Like a breath of fresh air, the designers showed who they are, and who they may become, this year in Paris' haute couture fashion shows. Whether they're official members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, Guest Members, or Corresponding (foreign) Members, one thing remains: Haute Couture is their art.
Nobody in the haute couture realm can do avant-garde quite like Spanish designer Josep Font. In his usual style, Font created an envelope-pushing collection of ravishing think pieces for his fourth haute couture show in Paris. Barely even able to walk normally down the runway, the models did more of an awkward shuffle as they displayed on themselves extreme sculptural pieces of art. The models blindly walked the catwalk in a thick mountain of mohair shag, funnel-shaped coats and infinite yards of chiffon. No stranger to extravagant head pieces, Font’s A/W 2009 ensembles were completed with pointy plastic novelty head pieces which border-lined Christmas tree toppers.
Belgian fashion designer Maison Martin Margiela unleashed a fearless haute couture collection that only he could pull off. Known for his upside-down take on fashion, the pieces for A/W were designed cleverly from random objects and recycled materials such as ballpoint pen caps, bungee cords, and false eyelashes. As a former designer for Jean Paul Gaultier and the legendary Antwerp Six, Margiela typically ignores fashion trends and sets his own rules. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this show was the faceless model, a look that he first debuted at the Spring 2009 show. The “living mannequin” forces the spotlight to be exclusively on the fashion – a feature that I think adds a raw fashion sensibility.
In his second couture display in Paris this July, relatively newcomer Alexandre Vauthier, the one time designer for Thierry Mugler and Jean-Paul Gaultier, showed a thoughtful, architecturally inspired, haute couture collection. Incorporating what is becoming his signature design - sculpted pagoda shoulders – Alexandre impressed with “power dressing” designs and geometric silhouettes (popularized by stars like Lady Gaga). Bearing the mark of his onetime couturier master Thierry Mugler, Alexandre excelled this year in his use of straight lines to emphasize and empower a woman’s curvy silhouette.
Stéphane Rolland delivered an exquisite, ultra-dramatic and futuristic haute couture A/W 2009 collection. No stranger to gutsy couture designs, Stéphane produced a blitz of architecturally influenced confections and decorative embellishments. Comprised of a mostly muted color palette, the collection aroused anything but silence; each piece was intricately detailed with clean, bright, and ultra-modern flourishes. Rolland produced a notably refined and simplistic collection while managing to incorporate the of-the-moment couture trend of exaggerated shoulders. What worked so well for this collection was the combination of these geometric silhouettes while polishing the looks with petit bulbs and toned down volume in other areas.
Eric Tibusch ’s slightly unusual haute couture collection this year paid tribute to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, and his untimely death. In his homage, the collection consisted of elaborate body suits worn over leggings, a number of leather jackets (one with zippers crisscrossed throughout - think MJ’s “Bad” days). "I wanted to give homage to him and say 'thank you for the eighties, thank you for the inspiration, and you will continue to live with us,' " Tibusch said before his show in Paris, which nearly coincided with Jackson’s funeral. Favorites from the show were the mosaic-mirrored bodysuit, and a leather jacket with built in hot pants made from plucked monkey fur (took an estimated 450 hours to craft!). But don’t fret too much; this was second hand monkey fur, Tibusch reassured.
Christophe Josse presented a very wearable haute couture collection in Paris; each piece that came down the runway would fit in perfectly in any woman’s closet. With that said, the collection played it safe, a little too safe! The ensembles looked reminiscent of past ready to wear collections, with a few extra flourishes and more detailed embroidery. Regardless, the separates and dresses were flawlessly executed; from the floor length pleated chiffon gowns to the ruffled sleeved lace minis. Hands down, the most jaw-dropping piece of the entire collection was the dazzling final white dress, an organic creation covered in delectable floral embellishments.
Never have legs looked so “haute”! Invited for the first time to show their couture collection in Paris, designers Alexandre Morgado and Matthieu Bureau created a small but charming collection of short, leggy dresses. The fun and flirty embellishments added a youthful energy to haute couture for the fall - I can’t wait to see more from these two!
At the Zuhair Murad 2009 couture show, it was hard not to notice the theme for the collection, with an enchanting backdrop and snowflakes falling from above the ice blue lights. With an ice-skaters grace, the models glided down the runway decked out in crystals and beautiful flowy chiffon pieces. Luxuriously combining rich furs and chiffon dresses, Murad’s creations had an exquisitely regal sensibility. The crystal beadwork was one of the most impressing aspects of this collection, with varying colors of black, blue and gold, rather than the typical clear Swarovski. The mirrored belts and fabulous camel-colored boas - made with delicate thin feathers – are just a few of the “favorites” taken away form this show, a look that’s sure to be reproduced.
After a decade of working for fashion houses like Dior, Lebanese-French designer Dany Atrache made the decision to turn his dream of fashion design into full reality, unravelling into his own couture line in 2000. Perhaps his most intriguing quality as a designer is his use of unordinary textiles and unconventional color palettes. In February 2009, Atrache debuted his “East meets West” style at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in NYC, showcasing his Spring/Summer 2009 collection. The designs were “hippie-chic” influenced, with daringly bold colors and graphic prints, and truly remarkable embroidery - as to be expected from this talented designer. Dany Atrache’s Haute Couture Fashion House is well established in Beirut, and his clients primarily span Lebanon, the Gulf, Paris, and the US.