This year’s Paris Couture week featured a luxurious combination of jaw-dropping haute couture and equally daring fashion worn by celebrities and socialites. The designers did not disappoint in presenting whimsical, avant-garde garments. After sifting through the countless collections, I have found my top three favorites: Guo Pei, Jean Paul Gautier, and Iris Van Herpen.
Guo Pei, one of China’s best designers, is known for creating garments with a retro embrace of her own cultural heritage. Her Chinese-inspired garments often feature the imagery and colors of Chinese art and traditional fashion. Pei collection in the Paris Couture Week, however, broke this mold. Although there were still very distinct elements of Chinese culture, I found Pei’s collection to be visually representative of poetic drama. The bold use of red makeup, dark feathers, and bird props reminded me of the chilling words in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”. This beautiful representation of dark nature was masterfully contrasted by an extravagantly lavish green and yellow tulle dress. As this dress graced the model runway, it appeared as if the model was bathing in a field of spring flowers. Immediately, I visually connected this garment to a work of Gustave Klimt. The flourishing greenery on the outskirts of the dress reminded me of the sparkling details of flora that are often featured in Klimt’s paintings. Additionally, the bright yellow alluded to one of Klimt’s most famous pieces, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (1907).
Jean Paul Gautier’s collection was eclectic, to say the least. Each garment was teeming with bold personality. Colored fur, sequined mirrors, bejeweled headdresses, and cheetah print demanded fashion-goer’s attention. All of these elements interspersed with a dramatic use of ethereal light made the collection feel otherworldly yet retro. Despite the record high heat in Paris, Gautier’s models strut the catwalk in what I can only explain as high-fashion sleeping bags. Jean Paul also had a contemporary spin on the traditional use of fur. “Going forward, if I use fur, it will be only recycling,” he said. “I like fur, I’ve always liked it, but I think that since the world is already full of clothes and full of furs, there is no need to kill any more animals. Maybe with old furs, you can create new looks.” My personal favorite piece, however, was Gautier’s electric green dress which reminded me of a futuristic “I Dream of Genie” meets Princess Leia.
Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen stunned Paris Couture week with her collection entitled “Hypnosis”. The garments in this show are essentially pseudo-kinetic works of art that use the models’ flouncy momentum to visual create illusions of rippling vibrations, like those of sound waves or butterfly wings. On the set of the show, the models weave in and out of “Omniverse”, a kinetic sculpture by American artist, Anthony Howe. The two elements harmonize in such a way that, at various angles, it is difficult to distinguish what is the garment and what is the sculpture. “The collection is a hypnotic visualization of nature’s tapestry, the symbiotic cycles of our biosphere that interweave the air, land, and oceans,” van Herpen says. “It also reflects the ongoing dissection of the rhythms of life and resonates with the fragility within these interwoven worlds.”
These three designers, however, are only the tip of the avant-garde iceberg. Below are some more of the best fall 2019 couture looks from Paris.