Ah, Paris in the spring. And rarely has it bloomed more brightly. With that in mind, the story behind Raf Simons’ beautiful haute couture collection for Dior is – roughly - as follows. For his debut at the house six months ago now he was thinking of a well-mannered and manicured garden, apparently – M Dior’s own, perhaps? This time around, though, nature was left to run somewhat more wildly. The topiary was green. The models walked through looking like the flowers that grew out of it. It was a simple but brilliantly executed concept.
They began life as buds – think relatively muted colours and a narrow silhouette – before opening in the sunshine. At this point, radiantly coloured blossom peeped out from beneath a draped silk blouse or cascaded down the back of a sweet, trapeze-line dress. Or the silhouette itself resembled an upturned tulip, lily, rose… The list goes on. If wanting to be a plant may not be the most practical way forward for womankind then please forgive this fashion follower because maybe just for now, and in my dreams.
And talking of dreams… Not content with a mere garden, Karl Lagerfeld gave the world a sandy-floored forest over at Chanel. He said it came to him while he slept and, oh, to be in possession of that kind of brain. For Chanel the waxen camellia is – and always has been – centre stage. It was famously Coco’s favourite flower but has no scent. An interesting fact: for the Les Exclusifs line of fragrances, Chanel master perfumer, Jacques Polge has created a single-note gardenia because it’s the closest flower in appearance to the camellia but has the characteristic and very heady aroma of white flowers. Back to M Lagerfeld and even the great man himself said he would never have the patience to embroider the beaded, sequined, jewelled and lacy flora that covered feather light gowns here. It takes thousands of hours for a single petite main to finish just one of these. “It’s horrible,” says Karl. “All those flowers. Zillions of hours. I don’t know how they have the patience.”
Giambattista Valli Couture
At Giambattista Valli, what looked like pretty pink flowers were in fact pretty pink feathers which is quite a feat of craftsmanship in itself. Zillions of quite horrible man hours were doubtless involved here too it seems only right and proper to point out. Without the seemingly endless skills of the seamstresses that staff the Paris ateliers, many of whom trained under the mid-Twentieth Century greats, none of this would happen.
Elie Saab Couture
In Elie Saab’s hands, faded garden flowers were merged with the rococo curlicues of the iron work on garden gates which was extraordinary both in itself but also because, at Valentino also, gate embroideries made an appearance and then came the flowers behind them. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli came up with everything from tiny sprigs created out of pearlescent beads – no two clusters were the same amazingly enough - to bold, brightly coloured two-dimensional blooms and it was beautiful. It was very beautiful indeed.
Maison Martin Margiela Couture
Finally, and on uncharacteristically upbeat form, even Maison Martin Margiela paid tribute to mother nature for the new season. In this instance, the flowers were hand-painted onto devore velvet. The fabric in question came from Lyon, I am reliably informed.