Paris’ Carefully Crafted Couture

Published January 25, 2012

Today’s Haute Couture comes in all shapes and forms, the one common thread being exceptional attention to detail in a limited edition. From young talents like Bouchra Jarrar whose sleek suits put couture back in real life day time, to Versace who returned to Paris after a break of nearly eight years to show its glittering red carpet columns, this spring session is a mix from wearables for the impossibly pampered to pure, priceless fantasies.

Forget those polite gilt chairs, Versace’s display at the Beaux Arts left the audience standing in front of a mega gilt staircase to view a series of glittering crystal and lace columns designed for televised transmission. Cone bra bustiers, hips with 3-D scales like the fins of some exotic fish and gold edged shorts recall the cartoon futurism of Thierry Mugler in his heyday in sparkle which veered from white to siren yellow and acid green.

Aficionados of sleek, feminine tailoring are beating a path to the door of Bouchra Jarrar. In a few short seasons she has put her name on the map with geometric splicing without the usual ton of jewels and pearls. Jarrar is in fact one of the clearest indicators that French couture has a future. Her small business is thriving and she has just been made a chevalier of the French National Order of Merit. In her hands a fox tail and thick tricolor rib become a backless vest to wear with pants, while new chiffon prints and bias satins reveal her sweeping side.

Alexis Mabille has parlayed eccentric bow ties into whimsical couture and now counts star clients including France’s first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy among his clients. Hourglass sheaths in saturated color satin inspired by a photo of Lisa Fonssagrives on a beach are all the drama Mabille fans need for exceptional occasions this spring.

Giorgio Armani Privé’s audience at the Grand Palais was chock full of clients and reports are the couture sales are up. Armani is an obsessive who’s collections zero in on a single inspiration which he explores inside and out. For spring it’s snakes in jungle green, or rather metamorphosis exemplified by the skin-changing reptile. This was an intricate, scaley collection from iridescent croc jackets to three-dimensional embroidery and mesh designed lo evoke a growing green world and reptilian creatures. Liquid silk skirts pinched at the side looked like palms and by the end of the show it was a solid jewelled jungle.

Riccardo Tisci has turned the house of Givenchy into the most dynamic idea factory for luxurious clothes in Paris right now. He is at that stage where it all seems like fun and games and Givenchy couture is no exception. The ten-piece collection he presented in a sumptuous hotel particulier on Paris’s Place Vandôme are outrageously packed with handwork, but also quite young and to prove the point he had his models pose in a old Paris gym. Tisci took off with an idea of the 1930s Art Deco inspired by Fritz Lang’s classic “Metropolis.” For one dress, Tisci had his team take apart two crocodile skins scale by scale which were then numbered and reassembled on nude tulle. Dresses which appear to be falling off the body are paired with tank tops in cashmere, and one skirt, entirely lined in beads, is closed with a giant zipper—two ways he blends impossible fantasy with a touch of real young life.