Labor-intensive craftsmanship is a hallmark of the Paris Haute Couture collections, be it through deceptively simple constructions or the use of decadent surface embellishment. The fall 2023 season saw myriad looks with shimmering paillettes and fringes in addition to metallic foils, beading and appliqués, proving that out-and-out glamour is still in and luxury needn’t always be so hush-hush.
For Valentino’s runway show en plein air at the Château de Chantilly, Pierpaolo Piccioli dressed Kaia Gerber in the most democratic of fashion staples — jeans — but as WWD’s Joelle Diderich observed, even these received a couture makeover, embroidered with tiny pearls in 80 shades of blue. The opening look gave way to even more dazzling moments, like Mariacarla Boscono’s cobalt evening gown topped with a sweeping cape in a cascade of silver sequins, seen here.
At Fendi, Kim Jones’ earth-colored draped gowns reminiscent of Roman statuary were followed by a few in jewel tones of emerald and garnet inspired by Delfina Delettrez Fendi’s latest collection of high jewelry, dubbed Fendi Triptych. “As the show plodded along,” wrote WWD international editor Miles Socha, “the clothes gradually accrued more impressive surface textures,” culminating in the final look — an embroidered pink jacket shrugged off the shoulder with a matching wrap skirt, which took 1,200 hours of work.
Elsewhere, Julien Dossena, for his turn as Jean Paul Gaultier’s guest designer, fused the metal work he’s become known for as creative director of Paco Rabanne with Jean Paul Gaultier’s archival silhouettes from the ’90s, while former Ralph & Russo designer Tamara Ralph explored strength in femininity for her first solo couture exercise, offsetting body-conscious eveningwear with armor-like detailing encrusted with crystals.
Many designers cited fashion as a form of self-defense as part of their inspiration, but perhaps the most obvious nod came from Demna, who closed out his Balenciaga show with a Joan of Arc ballgown in silver metal. “Making clothes is my armor,” the designer said of his raison d’etre.