Couture’s Big Guns: Givenchy, Chanel, Armani




Riccardo Tisci’s presentations for Givenchy at the Hôtel d’Evreux on the place Vendôme are one of the best things to happen to haute couture in a long time. Specific appointments are arranged for everyone, which means that visitors get the chance to see these incredible clothes up close and have a chat with the few other people sharing the time slot. It’s a tête-a-tête with the ethereal dresses, each one thousands of hours of handwork in the making, cut for perfect bodies and suspended mid-air. The only thing missing was Tisci himself.

The constant in this collection is nude silk tulle that covers the body with a thin film, which Tisci embellishes using a mix of classic couture techniques and his own innovations. Beaded fringe seems to form an animal spot pattern for one bodice, and still more beads build up on another dress to form a swirling 3-D rococo pattern. All this looks lighter than air in various shades of white on white. And, of course, Tisci traces the spine with a long gold zipper. Put your jewel box away, because with these pieces, Tisci has incorporated the baubles. Waists are circled with a fine silver band necklace and pearl cuffs are covered in the finest silk—each pearl wrapped individually—like ghostly bracelets. But the best was the angel dress with a feather yoke. Tisci had pin-curled some of the feathers for a new kind of bird of paradise.




When Giorgio Armani comes to Paris, he doesn’t do it by halves. Yesterday’s Armani Privé show had all the trappings of a grand couture rendezvous, with dozens of photographers posed outside the Palais de Chaillot on the Place du Trocadero to snap starlets like The Devil’s Double vixen Ludivine Sagnier—in an LBD, of course!

Armani dedicated this show to Japan, but it looked also like an homage to the long, cool blonde beauty of Princess Charlene of Monaco, whom he dressed for her wedding last Saturday.

Armani’s take on Japan focused on a geisha’s mikado silk florals, fat obi bows, and a cocoon back treatment, which recalled traditional kimono tailoring and Balenciaga in his heyday. The delicate florals were spliced into graphic black silhouettes as if to reveal a soft, womanly interior. Armani continued to juxtapose, with sexy black patent corset belts over soft obi bows with a Nobuyoshi Araki erotic quality. To achieve the geisha’s hobbled walk, he tied one straight skirt around the knees with silk ribbons. And his red carpet tour de force was all in the beading in columns covered with tangerine koi fish scales, or layers of Swarovski crystal fringe.

When you want to be monumental, Paris’s Grand Palais is the only place. That’s obviously what Karl Lagerfeld thinks, because he keeps taking Chanel back there. On the heels of Anish Kapoor’s Leviathan for the Grand Palais’ Monumenta 2011, a gigantic blob structure that was so big visitors felt it might swallow them whole, Karl and Chanel transformed the belle époque show space into a white neon replica of the Place Vendôme at the witching hour. For those who ever wondered if Chanel really is the grandest Parisian couture house, a demonstration like this dispels all doubt. And what a terrific backdrop for this mad and moody collection.

The dark mood Lagerfeld kicked off at Chanel’s fall ready-to-wear show last March, featuring sooty tweed tailoring on ghostly girls soldiering through toxic mist, has carried through to couture. It’s all covered up at Chanel, with elongated peplum-waist jackets over knee-grazing skirts met by above-the-knee boots, with eyes banded by a chantilly lace scarf. Even hands were masked with Lagerfeld’s black leather fingerless gloves, and heads were topped with one of Mademoiselle’s ladylike tweed round brims pushed back. When color emerged, it was in shocking acid pink. Add a Poiret-style hobble skirt sprinkled with ostrich plumes, and you’re all set to make merry while there’s still time.