Fashioning The Future

The Most Notable Moments From Couture’s First Digital Fashion Week

From robes to lounge at home to dresses that transport you into another world, here are some of the highlights from the FW20 Haute Couture season

The Most Notable Moments From Couture’s First Digital Fashion Week
Ralph & Russo FW20 Haute CoutureImage: Ralph & Russo

This season, adaptability is in trend.

After the coronavirus forced fashion week to halt physical shows, the fashion industry banded together to create the first-ever digital experience. Digital shows have always been part of the fabric of fashion week, albeit serving as a supporting actor to the main draw of big-production shows that would seat upwards of 200 guests. It was never anything more than having three cameras following the models down the runway, zooming in on sandals and zippers.

Yet, in the new normal where distance is preferred over hugs and high fives, the advent of digital-first thinking became the priority. After all, there are limitless opportunities that computers and programming can offer, and these new technologies have never been felt more keenly than in last week’s haute couture shows.

After the announcement that couture week would be shown digitally, the question that everyone had was how something as human and as detailed as couture could translate into a digital spectrum. Where the digital world offers 2D visuals, couture is about a multi-dimensional experience that includes the feel of a fabric and the emotions of the show – factors that may not translate on a smartphone screen.

Fortunately, fashion houses got creative. Consider Balmain’s boat ride down the Seine – a celebration of the joys of being outside of your house that we often take for granted pre-Covid; or Dior’s fantastical journey into a magical world where nymphs and mermaids welcome you to live in their company. To recap the week, here are some of our favourite moments from the Fall/Winter 2020 Haute Couture week.

01 | Dior brought us into a fairy tale world

Easily the highlight of the week, Dior’s show was a celebration of magic and storytelling – two ideas central to the art form of couture.

In an accompanying film directed by Matteo Garrone, fairies and forest nymphs danced around in Dior dresses, beckoning you to ditch the shadows of the real world and live in this fantastical realm instead.

On top of that, a collection of 37 miniature designs were made to scale by the house’s ateliers. Drawing upon surrealist artists and icons, Maria Grazia Chiuri showed a collection of dreamy feather dresses, leather-spliced coats and beautifully-embroidered surfaces.

Given how much buzz this showcase received across social media platforms, it looks like we’re not the only ones looking for a way to escape into this magical land permanently.

02 | Viktor&Rolf brought emotion back into fashion

These are confusing times that we live in, and Viktor&Rolf admits to this through a trio themed capsules.

Titled “Change”, the show is presented in the style of the couture shows in the ’50s (complete with narration by singer Mika), and begins with a series of navy blue dresses that aim to capture the sense of gloom and sadness familiar to most. Empire-line dresses in hand-produced satin bore grey lace clouds, and one particular spiked-coat makes for the perfect way to maintain a safe distance from others.

The second capsule of baby pink designs that address the chaotic confusion of our times. Here, conflicting emojis are rendered in embroidered lace patches, while manic asymmetric bows drape across a robe. Finally, a series of heart-festooned designs remind everyone to spread love, not hate.

03 | Chanel makes punk fashionable

The punks are back, thanks to Chanel. “I was thinking about a punk princess coming out of ‘Le Palace’ at dawn,” reveals creative director Virginie Viard.

Where SS20 was about austerity, FW20 was about letting one’s hair down (or, in the case of several models, putting it up into a faux-hawk) and embracing fun.

Across 30 looks, Viard revisits house icons such as the tweed jacket and the quintessential LBD, but done with a party-friendly twist. Shiny stones are worked into embellished trims on a neat jacket, while silver lace dresses and sweeping navy gowns promise a showstopping entrance.

04 | Balmain’s couture day out

These days, being able to leave one’s home is a much-anticipated joy for many, and Olivier Rousteing recognises this. For his couture showcase, he ditched the runway on land for a runway on water.

Turning the Seine into his new runway, a river cruise ferried models down the length of the river to show the city of Paris (and the entire world) his new designs. The two-hour festivity was also live-streamed on TikTok, allowing even more to get a front-row view of the clothing.

And the clothes were unmistakeably Balmain, as Rousteing favourites such as oversized chains and intricate pearl embroideries from past collection resurfaced with couture workmanship. On top of that, archive pieces from past house directors such as Oscar de la Renta also made grand reappearances.

05 | Ralph & Russo embraced a new kind of model

Given that the digital world offers no constraints in the possibilities it presents, Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo fully embraced this in the way they showed their collection.

With designs that run the gamut of the entire colour spectrum, Ralph & Russo looked towards a new kind of model: the AI model. Named Hauli – a traditional Swahili name that fittingly symbolises power and strength – the collection traversed several iconic monuments. On the Great Wall of China, a blooming pink gown featured a sleek mermaid cut with puffy shoulders covered in 3D floral embroidery. Cut over to the Taj Mahal, where Huali is now in a heavily-beaded column gown, or a pale blue gown that Huali wears while making landfall in Petra.

Physically, we may be staying at home, but with Ralph & Russo, we’re going around the world.

06 | Bouchra Jarrar returns to designing couture

Having taken a four-year break from the world of fashion, Bouchra Jarrar returned this year with her second collection this season. Her Jarrar-isms were all present: the clean tailored lines her customer has come to rely on her for, the effortless traversing between day and night dresses (best seen in a black smoking blazer worn over groovy sequinned pants) and her love for the classic appeal of black and white.

“I don’t want to be part of the system—we produce too much. Quality over quantity”, the designer says. “I’m completely focused on timeless silhouettes.”

And she lived up to her promise. Coats are cut boxier, allowing you to move around with ease, while Jarrar’s signature tailored trousers take on a more languid look with softer fabric pooling around your ankles. For evening, a boyfriend-fit shirt is layered over frothy black tulle, or sleek white pants get paired with a feathered bustier for that insouciant appeal. Plus, with a lookbook shot entirely indoors, these will become our new goals for stay-home clothing.

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