July may be the height of summer, with a focus on vacation plans, but in the fashion world July means Paris, specifically the AW 2017/2018 haute couture runway shows. With more than 35 shows across four days, this year’s Haute Couture week was memorable to fashion insiders for several reasons. First, the governing organization recently rebranded itself from the entirely-too-lengthy-to-remember Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode to the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, abbreviated to FHCM.
Second: The first day of the shows, Sunday, July 2, featured shows from several non-association companies, all of which had petitioned to show in Paris—Proenza Schouler and Rodarte from the U.S. and Peter Dundas from London—all of which did not present couture. In the case of Proenza Schouler, it combined resort and spring 2018 ready-to-wear; for Rodarte, spring ready-to-wear; for Dundas, 2018 resort. But, as Vanessa Friedman wrote in a NYTimes.com review, these three shows “…didn’t involve the same level of handwork as couture, or employ the same number of artisans. But at their best, these outsider collections had a clear connection to the idea of couture, an aspiration to that level of creation that was not pretentious (thank goodness), but palpable.”
It’s interesting that part of the reason given by the FHCM for lowering the barriers to entry and allowing non-couture presentations was that the organization places “above all priorities creation and innovation.” I feel there’s a lesson to be learned in that for our industry as well. But for now, let’s get to the pretty!
Tiering it Up
I’m only going to focus on two trends in this report because this first is so pervasive and has so many variations that there are dozens of examples. The concept of layering ruffles or design or structural elements is not new, but this season there seems to be an amazing array of options. And because this is a look that can so directly translate to draperies, panels, and top treatments, it immediately caught my eye.
First, the basic tier structure—ruffles or gathered pleats layered over in each in rows. From left to right: Rodarte, Georges Hobeika, A.F. Vandevorst, and Maison Margiela.
Another option is to combine this basic approach by also layering in color. From left to right: Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, Christian Dior, and Ralph Russo.
As you see in the Ralph Russo purple ombré gown, volume is also a way to create tiers, such as these, from left to right: Guo Pei, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Julien Fornie.
Another way to create tiers is through repetitive banding or the layering of repetitive design elements. From left to right: Chanel, Christian Dior, Georges Hobeika, and Schiaparelli.
This effect can be achieved no matter the scale of the elements or the spacing between them. From left to right: Chanel, Zuhair Murad, and Ralph Russo.
And finally, four more examples from Ralph Russo, just because…
And, maybe a little birdie told you the other key trend I decided to focus on for this report. If not, these next two images give you a bird’s-eye view of a design element that, until this season, has been scarcer than hen’s teeth. I’m not trying to lead you on a wild goose chase, but feathers were everywhere this season. From Las Vegas showgirl-style ostrich feather trims to delicate, barely there touches, to floral and lace-like effects made with feathers. In the right room, window treatments and cushions with this embellishment could give you goose bumps!
Feather fringe, from subtle to…not. From left to right: Guo Pei, Chanel, Chanel, Ulyana Sergeenko, and Proenza Schouler.
And below, left to right: Jean Paul Gaultier, Yumi Katsura, and Rodarte.