Works Like A Dream

The Dreamiest Collections From Haute Couture AW20

Haute couturiers are fighting Covid-19 head-on with what they are best known for: craftsmanship and creativity. Here are the winners of AW20.

The Dreamiest Collections From Haute Couture AW20
Image: Ralph & Russo

01 | Chanel

For AW20, Virginie Viard whisks us away from the Aubazine abbey that informed the austerity of her previous collection and drops us straight into the Le Palace club for a night of debauchery.

“I like working like this, going in the opposite direction of what I did last time,” says the creative director. “I wanted complexity, sophistication.” And instead of Mademoiselle Chanel, she looked to her predecessor and notorious party animal Karl Lagerfeld for inspiration.

Conceived for the punk princess, Viard’s 30-look line-up impressed with an unapologetically youthful, quirky twist. Like a silver silk taffeta frock with Byzantine-style embellishments, which left us wondering if the model had tacked on a Chanel brooch before twirling out the door.

There was also a dancefloor-ready poufy confection, with black and white dots overlaid on fragile black lace and wrapped over lacquered fuchsia lace. Viard took utmost care not to harp on the grittiness of punk rock fashion; instead she leaned heavily on Chanel’s esteemed artisanship to play up the glamour factor. A silver tweed fitted coat was softened by multicoloured handmade fabric flowers, while a tweed column dress was perked up with gemstones.

With partying becoming hazy memories for many, Viard’s ode to freedom and fearlessness feels like a fantasy everyone needs right now.

02 | Viktor & Rolf

Change was on the minds of Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, the founders and designer duo behind Viktor & Rolf.

For AW20, the collection was split into three categories, each consisting of slip dress, robe, and coat — to reflect the different “mindsets during these extraordinary times of change”, according to the show notes.

The first reflected sombreness and melancholy: on a navy satin slip, cartoonish clouds in black and silver lace evoke sadness and worry as we continue to battle the virus, while a floor-sweeping black faux-leather coat dress with conical spikes was a reminder to keep one’s safe distance.

Next came the state of confusion, which was represented by manic mismatches of oversized bows, open-ended tubular rolls, and angry and crying emojis.

Finally, as represented by hearts being the main motif in the last trio, we find comfort in the message that love will overcome the madness.

03 | Dior

“I didn’t want it to be dolls or pretty or childlike. This is a real collection,” insists Maria Grazia Chiuri of her AW20 haute couture collection. “Often in couture, we think more about shape but the architectural work is actually in the scale.”

Her throwback to the miniature garments that French couturiers produced for customers during post-World War II to promote the fashion industry became key to Dior’s parade of ’40s-inspired slim column shapes and iconic full-skirted New Look silhouettes.

One outstanding example: an impeccably tailored ballgown tessellated with gold jacquard triangles, finished with a miniature belt that has a tiny but gleaming Dior logo.

Director Matteo Garrone (Tale of Tales) enriched the vision with his short film where mystical creatures don full-sized versions of Chiuri’s miniatures. Size matters indeed.

04 | Valentino

What Pierpaolo Piccioli had to cut back on in scale of presentation for this season, he more than made up for with his imaginative genius.

As he shares: “I didn’t want to feel the limitations. Couture is made for emotions, dreams.”

The presentation comprised 16 looks in white or silver — a huge departure from Valentino’s usual vibrant palette — to embody his approach: “No gimmicks, no packaging, no storytelling. Just creativity and humans.”

As curtains opened, we were greeted by a breathtaking vision akin to angels descending from the heavens, with maidens perched above ladders or suspended on trapeze swings, all in ethereal gowns with floor-sweeping trains.

One donned a silver sequinned jumpsuit paired with a feather-tufted robe — yes, that’s also what Lady Gaga wore to the MTV Video Music Awards in September — while another sat pretty in a pleated number with feathered quills that framed her face.

Piccioli’s other out-of-this-world concoctions also included a taffeta off-the-shoulder bustier gown that ended in a bubble hem, and an organza masterpiece that resembled layers of white smoke.

05 | Ralph & Russo

Driven by Covid-19 to embrace technology, fashion brands have reported mixed results but one that’s fared exceedingly well is Ralph & Russo. “We’ve had to adapt a lot, but a lot of interesting things also came out of this time in terms of problem-solving,” says Tamara Ralph, who co-founded the English label with Michael Russo.

One interesting thing they came up with was an avatar to go along with the sumptuous creations. Developed together with a South Korean AI artist, the avatar Hauli — her name in Swahili means “strength and power” — is, as Ralph described, “the ultimate modern woman”.

Imagined as a round-the-world adventure, this collection was led by a sky-blue silk-satin gown with embroidered straps interwoven together to create a bodice (for that stopover in Petra, Jordan).

Other pieces we love: a pink strapless gown with fringed beadwork (Taj Mahal, India), and a feathered confection with architectural ruffles and deep-cut neckline (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). As Ralph confides: “We really wanted to remind people to look beyond the cloud of the pandemic, and to dream.”

And dream we did.

This story first appeared in the October 2020 issue of A Magazine.

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