As a veteran of 15 LFW seasons, feeling nervous before a catwalk show isn't something that I’ve experienced in a fair few years. But yesterday as I arrived in Paris that tingly sensation, somewhere between excitement and terror, was making itself well known – I was about to see my first ever couture show!
The first angst-inspiring issue was what the hell to wear to such an uber fashion event? When it comes to dressing for the ready to wear collections, I’ve kind of figured out a uniform that works, but would my mid-range staples and investment totes cut it on the couture stage? The answer was sadly, no. As I arrived at the Valentino couture show, I very quickly noticed the standard of dress was way beyond the ususal mix of black clad editors and quirky street style stars.
There was an exotic mixture of faces on the FROW with clients from Russia, the Middle East and China – all the buoyant new couture markets well represented. Glossy, gravity defying hair and a complete lack of wrinkles meant that it was nearly impossible to guess the median audience age. I had expected to see a posse of chic grande dames dripping in jewellery, but the notable presence of young customers including Vika Gazinkskaya and Ulyana Sergeenko goes some way to proving that the atelier is in rude health and that there’s a new generation of fashion clients revitalising couture’s coffers.
Valentino’s Hotel Salomon de Rothschild venue was small and very intimate – you really felt like you were sitting in someone’s suite, but the catwalk set up on this occasion wasn’t wildly different from a regular show.
Decidedly irregular however, were the spellbindingly magic clothes. Where a RTW show makes us want to shop, a couture show makes you stop and dream. To say it was an emotional experience to see such unbelievable skill is an understatement. From light as gossamer embroidery in twinkling iridescent threads to mind-bogglingly elaborate beadwork with thousands of hand-stitched flowers, each single one different to the last - there are simply no superlatives to do it justice.
Point d’Esprit, filigree piping, and full on tapestry were just a hint of the variety of techniques showcased – but it wasn’t just the embellishment that impressed me – it was the insanely precise cuts. All made to measure, the dresses looked like they were connected to each of the model’s bodies – and even heavy fabrics seemed like second skin.
Wearing one of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli’s incredible dresses has definitely taken on new meaning for me. Before it was a fantasy, now it’s a serious lifetime ambition.