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October 1, 2012updated Feb 11, 2013

Women’s Runway Report: Back to the Future

By Chris Boyle

Christian DiorChanelVersaceParis, France – Reported by Jessica Michault for Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine

The pendulum for purchasing haute couture has swung away from Europe and towards Asia. It is from the Orient that a growing number of style-savvy clients have flocked to Paris to take in the shows and tick off which one-of-a-kind looks they want to call their own.

As luck would have it many of these newcomer couture buyers were witness to some of the most unforgettable haute couture creations in recent memory, the pinnacle of which was the debut of the Belgian designer Raf Simons at Christian Dior.

For many the arrival of Simons at Dior marks a new era in fashion. The show was the final chapter in what was a year-and-a-half-long drama that started when John Galliano was fired from the house in disgrace after hurling racist slurs at a couple in a Parisian bar. What followed was a long and very public search for Galliano’s replacement. But with just three months to create not only his first collection as the creative director of Dior, but also his first ever haute couture show, Simons sent out a tour de force collection that will go down in the annals of fashion history.

Even before Simons sent out his first look he had already amazed his audience by covering a series of rooms—from floor to ceiling—in over a million fresh flowers. Each room had its own bloom, from pink roses and white orchids to yellow mimosa and blue delphiniums. A modern minimalist, Simons is a 180-degree change in fashion direction from the embellished romantic style of Galliano. But for his first collection, the designer made the perfect move by paying homage to Mr. Dior and his iconic 1947 “New Look” collection. And more specifically, its most famous ensemble—the Bar.

The sculptural show fused the hourglass shapes of the 1950s with a reserved and streamlined sensibility that looked thoroughly modern. In this haute couture collection Simons proved, with his delicately embroidered mini ball dresses worn over cigarette pants, gowns crafted from bands of pale pink and blue feathers, strips of organza or a pointillism effect of chiffon tabs, and curvy brightly colored coats, that architectural construction would be a key element to his future designs.

But the Dior show was not the only impressive collection on display during haute couture week. Karl Lagerfeld created a Chanel collection called “New Vintage,” which explored the idea of how to reinterpret the past codes, shapes and styles of the house and make them look modern. In a palette of grays and pinks the designer showed a collection of covetable tweed coats and lovely long and lean eveningwear. But the real muse of the Chanel show was none other than Lagerfeld’s new kitten, Choupette. The bride’s dress was inspired by the designer’s feline companion (who has her own Twitter feed—@ChoupettesDiary—with almost 12,000 followers), and the new Chanel handbag has also been baptized Choupette.

Another fashion moment at the shows was Donatella Versace’s first Atelier Versace haute couture runway show in 15 years. She returned to the Ritz, where the designer’s late brother Gianni Versace once showed his mythical creations. She sent out a show that was pure Versace. All the codes of the house were in the collection: The hip-high slits on gowns, pastel chain mail, body con construction and skin on display. But there was nothing nostalgic about this show. Versace was able to update the DNA of her brand via the patchwork motif she used on dresses and “venetian blind” outfits crafted from leather strips. The looks were undeniably sexy but explored the concept in an original way.

What these collections prove is that the future of fashion lies in remembering its past. But as any haute couture buyer knows, it takes a real artist to transform a brand’s history into its future.

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