Some Like It “Haute!”

Jean Paul Gaultier Spring 2023 Couture

The 30 couture showings packed into four days went from the sublime to the ridiculous. Unfortunately, there was too much of the former and not enough of the sublime. Viktor & Rolf’s parade of upside-down and sideways prom dresses? Come on! The joke’s on us.

It is hard not to notice that couture week has become a media and PR circus, much like ready-to-wear. Regarding the shows, there is a palpable push and pull between the traditional and nontraditional, the minimal and the maximal.

Since announcing that Alessandro Michele was leaving Gucci, maximalism has been on the decline, but maximalism was assuredly alive and well at the couture shows. In some cases, runways were so maxed out it was almost laughable.

Valentino Spring 2023 Couture

I am a big fan of Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, and there were some great clothes in the 90-piece collection if you take them apart, but they got buried in a garish line-up that almost hurt my eyes. I get Pierpaolo’s contention that one should be free to dress as one pleases, good taste be damned, but Piccioli seems to be trying too hard to be hip, young, and happening.

Rahul Mishra Spring 2023 Couture

Speaking of garish, Rahul Mishra, the first Indian designer to show at the Paris Haute Couture Week, presented his “Cosmos” collection. It was realized in two and three-dimensional embroidery complemented by elements made in hand-cast recycled brass that are then gold plated and encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Yikes!

Giambattista Valli Spring 2023 Couture

If you want to make a grand entrance and ensure everyone knows you have arrived, you can look to Giambattista Valli, whose inspiration this season is Beverly Hills. It is cream puff couture down to the sorbet-colored poufy gowns made of yards of billowing fabrics adorned with bows, flowers, and trains.

If worn by the right actress, a few gowns might make for an interesting choice at the upcoming Oscars but in general, it was a case of too much of a good thing (or a bad thing depending on your take).

Stéphane Rolland Spring 2023 Couture
Photo: Stéphane Rolland

If you are on a mission to have jaws drop, Stéphane Rolland is the guy for you. Rolland’s show included four gilded numbers. One in particular, the golden bride made of gold leaf and a special alloy that was lacquered and laminated with gold by interior designer Fabien Barbara, had many immediately thinking of the upcoming Academy Awards.

While Schiaparelli’s lion headdress divided the internet after setting it on fire, Rolland’s gold gown appeared the next day. It seemed to unify every online person around the idea that the look was divine. Some thought this creation would make for the perfect “revenge” dress for Viola Davis, who was snubbed by the Oscars this year.

Christian Dior Spring 2023 Couture

On the other side of the coin is Dior, which was so quiet, reserved and plain, it almost put me to sleep. Yes, it is chic but also a bit matronly and old-fashioned and didn’t especially look like haute couture.

Chanel was not exceptionally minimal or over the top. It was just not very good. There were so many head-scratchers I lost count.

Chanel Spring 2023 Couture

Virginie Viard’s accessorizing with top hats, and bow ties didn’t help matters. I am puzzled by all the positive Chanel reviews and often wonder if many of these fashion journalists are looking at the same things I am. I guess that’s what makes horse racing!

I hate to say it, but as much as I love Daniel Roseberry, and I get what he was trying to say, using Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” — specifically, “Inferno” as a metaphor for doubt as a creative force, this was not of my favorite Schiaparelli Couture collections.

Jean Paul Gaultier Spring 2023 Couture

Couture is or should be, fashion at its highest level — a celebration of pure artistry. We all agree that for those who love fashion, it doesn’t get any better than Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2023 Couture, brilliantly designed by Haider Ackermann. Haider’s task was to explore Gaultier’s quieter side, look at his past work and find similarities to his own. He did just that and more. It’s so sublime I cannot stop thinking about it.

“I think we’re living in a world that is shouting already. So the more and more we can restrain each other and be quiet and silent – I think that’s a big luxury that we have. Let the others scream. Let you do your work in silence. It suits me better”

Haider Ackermann

It’s a perfect blend of Ackermann’s refined approach to minimalism balanced by Gaultier’s provocative maximalism; controlled and restrained, yet also fantastical and highly impactful; not an easy feat.

Jean Paul Gaultier Spring 2023 Couture

I love that the collection is grown up, sophisticated, and soignee, with no hint of camp or irony. There’s an element of surprise, from the electric blue feathers billowing out of a perfectly cut black jacket and the bronzed feathers atop a pale blue bustier and perfectly cut blue trousers to the inventive use of colors, sometimes just a slice to brighten up black, sometimes in unexpected clashing combinations.

Jean Paul Gaultier Spring 2023 Couture

Ackermann is a master tailor and a wizard with a trouser. For those who don’t think a pair of black pants can be dramatic, you will change your mind after looking at this collection which represents modern glamour at its best! I can imagine the 5’10” Tilda Swinton (a friend and muse of Haider’s, seated in the front row) wearing almost everything in this line-up.

Similarly, many outfits perfectly suit Cate Blanchett, whose intelligent, personal style is almost unequaled, especially on the red carpet.

Jean Paul Gaultier Spring 2023 Couture

For the upcoming Oscars, Blanchett, nominated for Best Actress, would look great in any of Haider’s pants ensembles or perhaps that sculptural purple dress. She would also look amazing in the white coat worn with the black skyscraper heels, and green gloves; an unexpected and out-of-the-ordinary choice for sure.

“This season, I wanted to concentrate on the techniques and craft of couture, with the lightness, fluidity, and attitude of today.

Kim Jones, Creative Director, Fendi Couture
Fendi Spring 2023 Couture

Who says you need a heavy, voluminous, ornate ball gown to make an entrance? Certainly not Fendi’s Kim Jones. In his 5th season at the Roman house, Kim elegantly and superbly turns innerwear into couture eveningwear. Jones stated that he was specifically going for something floaty, light, and youthful because, as he put it, “couture always seems quite staid and heavy.” Jones succeeded, and then some!

Fendi Spring 2023 Couture

I am not generally a lover of whisper-soft pastels or lingerie dressing, but Kim took this to a new level thanks to his technical know-how and the masterful hands of the Fendi Atelier and craftspeople. Just sublime!

With superstar stylist Law Roach seated alongside Kerry Washington in the front row, it’s a sure bet we will see a few of these dresses at the Oscars. Best Actress Nominee Michelle Williams, who loves pale romantic dresses, would look great in the above draped blue dress.

Latest Comments:

  1. I discovered Dries 15 years ago as I was walking through Barbeys NY in LA. There was this amazing coat…

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

  1. Great reporting, once again, by Marilyn, not to mention her critiques. Perfectly spot-on and correct.

  2. Yes, Ackerman: “So the more and more we can restrain each other and be quiet and silent- I think that’s a big luxury that we have.”
    And a sublime tailoring as well.
    Thank you Marilyn for this report.

  3. Hello Marilyn,

    At last we have Haider Ackerman, providing clothes that are beautiful, becoming and wearable. Yes, believe it or not
    clothes that you can wear. My late husband, Bill Dugan, Halston;s right hand man always said “I believe you should be able to wear clothes.” It is quite a concept . And there is power in silence .

    from this Halsltonette.

    Nancy North

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