/ 2 February 2023

Best moments from Haute Couture Spring 2023

00092 Schiaparelli Spring 2023 Couture Detail Gorunway
Schiaparelli spring 2023 couture detail gorunway. Photo: Supplied

Spring 2023 Couture week closes after 29 haute couture collections. Designers presented some spellbinding pieces, viral moments were made and Chanel pivoted from clown costumes to ringmaster core. 

There was also a noticeable shakeup in the front row of Haute Couture shows. Instead of seating the world’s wealthy elite (aka the only people who can truly afford to buy haute couture), brands are giving seats to celebrities 

Haute couture is the best of the best fashion. Some garments take more than 800 hours to produce in Paris ateliers, and can cost in excess of R1 million. 

Maria Grazia Chiuri’s designs for Dior fail to match up to the theme of the show, again. She can address the patriarchy, climate change and draw inspiration from civil rights activists as much as she likes, but the garments are uninspired and contradict the message she tries to convey.

Chiuri’s source of inspiration — the jazzy Josephine Baker in 1951 comes from a genuine place — but the clothes speak nothing to the life or legacy of the artist and civil rights activist. The closest non-reference to Baker’s life in the 1920s were bland black and grey clothes that look like they’re straight out of a black and white photo of the time.

Schiaparelli’s inferno menagerie

Schiaparelli roared into Spring 2023 Couture with the lion heard around the world. The show’s Dante’s Inferno theme is the essence of Schiaparelli — shocking. The show did just that for the fashion world, environmentalists and armchair pop culture critics. 

To dispel the rumour, the dress worn by Irina Shake on the runway and in the front row by Kylie Jenner are not the same dress. Yes, they both sported the same faux lion’s head on the bust, but what is shown on the haute couture runway is rarely what is purchased by haute couture clients.

Jenner’s dress is rushed velvet, whereas Daniel Roseberry’s look is free flowing. This is the true essence of haute couture: the client orders the garment on the runway, but remixes it to their body and style. 

The three looks that are Jungle Book overshadowed the other 29 looks. Like the emerald green plastron in black velvet, with vintage emerald green stones re-embroidered with beads, rhinestones, and hand moulded leather covered with 24-carat gold leaf is beautifully sculptural, yet precarious. 

Roseberry’s Schiaparelli Haute Couture does not entertain the decades-old debate of “is fashion art?” This collection makes a full crossover into the world of wearable art. 

Robert Wun’s Fear Couturee

Robert Wun’s first runway show closed Couture week (this is a big deal). It makes sense that the show fell in the couture calendar since the designer pivoted to a bespoke brand since the pandemic because all haute couture is bespoke. 

The couture newcomer tapped horror movies to make a beautiful collection titled “Fear”, but the designer was clearly fearless. Garments covered in red stains makes one ask, “is that blood or Bordeaux?” Broken heels, rain and burns are transformed into haute couture.

As a 2022 ADNAM Prize winner, Wun’s collection is money well spent. It can be hard to bring trauma, stress and horror to the runway in the shadows of Alexander McQueen, who set the benchmark for what it takes to make pain beautiful through technical tailoring.

“I wanted to do something that can put two extremes together to find a new balance. If couture is only beautiful and delicate and inspired by flowers, then everyone winds up doing the same thing,” Wun told Vogue.

The voluptuous pleats, razor sharp shards suiting inspired by Stephen King’s It and precarious petals shows why Wun made a strong season finale for Spring 2023.  

Ackermann won Couture

Haider Ackermann’s vision for Jean Paul Gaultier put the couture back in couture. The French designer’s collaboration with Gaultier’s metier — after Gaultier retired last year — is a love letter to haute couture.

The pale blue carpet and the models’ slow old-world walks brought back the couture’s quiet elegance of yesteryear. Outstanding drama and chic minimalism is refreshing because it’s rare in the world of fashion show extravaganzas. While Viktor and Rolf turned their garments sideways, Gaultier and Ackermann made couture simple again.

Gaultier’s immaculate tailoring paired with Ackermann’s desire to remind folk that haute couture is the epitome of construction, draping, silhouette, and detail is truly magnifique. In his pursuit to bring back purity of haute couture, Ackermann’s idealised version of reality is seen in the jogger set that is covered in thousands of individually stitched needles. An unnecessary adornment of a tracksuit, but because it’s haute couture, why not?

Ackermann brought back the emphasis on the work of the skilled artisans in the ateliers, some of whom have been there for decades. Ackermann’s sharp tailored black suit, and silken pleated bibs reminds us that designers don’t always need extravagant sets, loud music or a cult of personality.

While Ackermann won Couture week, an honourable mention should go to Gaurav Gupta and Zuhair Murad whose collections make one marvel at the details that go into each garment.

Murad’s signature party girl styles are bejewelled to the nines, giving a 1970s romantic glamour. Gupta also debuted his haute couture collection with super surreal paint-stroke-like garments that erupted on the runway in electric blue.