Visual Narratives of Paris Haute Couture Fashion Show 2020

Visual Narratives of Paris Haute Couture Fashion Show 2020

Reading Time: 8 minutes

If there were no set rules, how would your creativity flow?

Would it still be a remnant of your past or would you allow yourself to travel the unchartered?

The recently concluded first ever digital Paris Haute Couture Fashion week bore the testimony to the fact that if a creator chooses to break the pattern, he or she most definitely can. Few talented creators walked out of their warp to showcase a striking visual narrative as they let their guards down about should’s and can’ts. And yet a few dished out the archaic style of fashion show replica on digital medium. If haute couture is the zenith of fashion designer’s creative pursuits then art should have been medium agnostic. 

This was the first time in history when designers got a chance to push the boundaries beyond the set norms and yet, only a handful could use it to their advantage. 

Between July 6 to 8, members of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM) presented their Fall/Winter 2020 collections via FHCM’s dedicated platform—the first time this exclusive event is made available to the public.

Paris Couture Fashion week 2020 Guo Pei collection savannah

From fashion films to mini-documentaries, these haute couture maisons sought to capture and showcase the inspirations, ideals and the craftsmanship that goes into the making of their pieces for the screen.

Christian Dior’s “Le Mythe Dior” was a surreal movie that evoked the desire of buying even among the most content nymphs and quasi Adam and Eve characters. Guo Pei, a renowned Chinese couturier, took inspiration from Savannah and brought the wild life to screen through the deft use of pinatex and felt. Le Grand Cirque was a foot tapping short movie in a staccato of black, white and red, peopled by Aganovich’s disturbing, yet poetic veiled models. Whereas Aelis chose art performance movie based on post-apocalyptic world to showcase their collection. 

Presenting select movies and live stream of Paris Haute Couture Week Fall/Winter 2020 that, we at Ciceroni believe, have created a lasting impression because of their stellar narrative. 

1. DIOR

Christian Dior haute couture digital show for Paris Couture week titled “Le Mythe Dior” is one magical movie that truly represents how fashion can create aspiration even among the satisfied nymphs and quasi Adam and Eve. 

Maria Grazia Chiuri enlisted her friend Matteo Garrone, the Italian filmmaker who directed last year’s Pinocchio, to create a short surrealist movie titled Le Mythe Dior. With no runway to design for, Chiuri’s concept for the season was Théâtre de la Mode. It indeed ‘WOW’ed” us with its fairy tale narration of collection. 

In 1945, amid the devastation of World War II and with materials in short supply, Paris designers created clothes for doll forms one-third the size of their human female counterparts. Miniature dresses and tailleurs by 60 French couturiers and their mannequins were displayed at the Louvre and the exhibition was such a marvel—the clothes and accessories were made with such exacting care, with functioning buttons and handbags filled with tiny wallets and powder compacts—it went on to tour the world, raising funds for French war survivors in the process.

Doll-size clothes are fairly irresistible even in Dior’s movie, as Garrone’s fantasia aims to demonstrate—even a statue can’t resist their allure. In Le Mythe Dior, couriers bring a trunk of shrunken clothes to the woods. In this fairy tale, the magic that transforms them into real garments is the couture atelier, and the nymph-like protagonists get to keep the dresses.

The first ever digital Fashion show democratised the idea of storytelling and allowed designers to showcase their collection in their unique way.

Highlight – Surreal short movie with a full story

2. AGANOVICH

Nana Aganovich and Brooke Taylor’s Parisian label Aganovich produced a stop motion film with their photographer friend Erik Madigan Heck to showcase their Fall/Winter 2020 collection. This movie is all sort of Fashion communications goals for the outliers and fringe creators who want to experiment. 

Their label is also a classic love story: Once the founder of a hippie commune in France, Brooke Taylor moved to London and met Nana Aganovich, an MA womenswear student at Central Saint Martins at the time. They immediately hit it off, fuelled by a mutual love for fashion, which culminated with the founding of Aganovich in 2011. They entered couture showcase in SS 19 and have been experimental in their approach in design; their website is a reflection of their ideas. 

Unable to produce a new collection, the design duo started out filming video interviews for their online showcase, but were unsatisfied with the result.  So they chose to reprise the idea of a stop-motion film with Erik. 

The dramatic result is “Le Grand Cirque Aganovich,” a short movie in a staccato of black, white and red, peopled by Aganovich’s disturbing, yet poetic veiled models.

Highlight – Stop motion Movie 

3. AELIS COUTURE

Italian Designer Sofia Crociani showcased her collection through performance art movie in association with Frankfurt based artist Jacopo Godani as she pushed the envelope of creative collaboration and showcase. In a fantastical art film dubbed “Angelness,” artists perform wearing full-skirted gowns, occasionally riding on another’s shoulders.

“A couture dress is a piece of art and can thus express a message of inner beauty. Digital haute couture is a contemporary and interesting idea that inspired me to work with a new vision, and to involve in this process my friend and Artist Jacopo Godani. Jacopo’s work consists of live art performances. The moving bodies of his creatures help him share and shape his reflection on sustainability and on the impact of humankind on the planet” shares Sophia with L’Officiel Arabia. 

AELIS COUTURE was launched 2 years ago by Sofia Crociani to offer a contemporary take on couture, with high-end, ethical, and sustainable collections. 

Highlight – Performance Art coupled with Fashion in a theatrical movie 

4. ANTONIO GRIMALDI

Italian designer Antonio Grimaldi chose a feature film to present his new A/W 2020/2021 collection for FHCM. Asia Argento, Italy’s award winning actress and director, wrote and direct ‘AElektra’,  a fashion movie with theatrical tones, in the key of noir yet at the same time glamorous and that traces the myth of Electra and the conflictual relationship between mother and daughter. Roles were played by Asia Argento as the mother with her daughter Anna Lou Castoldi while they subtly showcased Grimaldi’s exquisite couture grandeur. The movie was filmed in Rome at the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia and Hotel Locarno.

The collection focused on luxe gowns in black and white with faux fur detailing and loose drapes. The entire collection has mother daughter creations with focus on exquisite neck detailing and hemline cuts.

Highlight – A feature film with thematic story 

5. GUO PEI

Guo Pei is China’s most renowned couturier. For over 20 years, she has been dressing celebrities, distinguished ladies, royalty and political elite who turn to her for show-stopping, magnificent creations when they want to look beautiful and stand out from the crowd. For her 10th show at Paris Houte Couture week, GUO PEI explored the theme of Life as she envisioned images of vast Savannah grasslands where plants flourish & animals thrive with the arrival of the rainy season. The National Museum of Natural History in Paris is famous for its herd of taxidermy animals, lined up as if on migration, and it inspired Guo Pei’s collection for fall, dubbed Savannah.

The art transcended from mere inspiration from animal species to creating statement haute couture garments in pinatex and felt. Three-dimensional embroideries in felted wool brought the animals to vivid life. This collection is definitely an art collector’s delight. 

Guo Pei shot to international fame in 2015 when Rihanna wore the label’s now-famous Yellow Empress gown to the Met Gala; a breath-taking yellow cape that took two years to create and 50,000 hours’ worth of embroidery. 

Highlight – The artistic shoot of collection, visuals of Savannah along with narrative by Guo Pei 

6. IRIS VAN HERPEN

Iris van Herpen, the Dutch designer who fuses technology with exceptional craftsmanship, is no stranger to innovation and adaptation, and the pandemic hasn’t stopped her. In lieu of a live runway show for Paris couture, van Herpen debuted a video titled Transmotion, featuring a one-of-a-kind dress of the same name on Carice van Houten (a.k.a. Melisandre, the witchy dom on HBO’s Game of Thrones).

“The dress has little black seeds that connect to stems that connect to branches that grow into very fragile translucent leaves, and it all sprouts from the center of the body,” van Herpen told the New York Times. “It is about birth and growth and formation. I wanted to express the experience of these last months without being literal, and symbolize the new beginning of things.”

Van Herpen is often hailed as a pioneer in utilizing 3D printing as a garment construction technique, and as an innovator who is comfortable with using technology as one of the guiding principles in her work because of its sculptural nature and unfamiliar form. Actresses such as Björk, Cate Blanchett, Cara Delvingne, Katy Perry, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Naomi Campbell, Miley Cyrus, Eva Green and Daphne Guinness have endorsed Iris Van Herpen through the last 13 years. 

Highlight – Only one garment showcase through luxe cinematography 

7. CHANEL

Adopting a moving look book format captured by Mikael Jansson, Chanel presented a rock-inspired lineup which nods towards the late Karl Lagerfeld’s partying days in the ’80s. Juxtaposed against a clean background, the film lets the details and textures of the garments shine.

“I was thinking about eccentric girls,” says Virginie Viard of her fall haute couture collection for Chanel. In particular, Viard was remembering Karl Lagerfeld heading off to parties with his sometime muse, the madcap Princess Diane de Beauvau-Craon, who as a teenage debutante got herself an American crewcut to give some punk edge to the pretty but detested pink dress her mother had chosen for her coming-out ball.

Viard aptly describes the looks as “casual and grand” and this is well-behaved couture that whispers but never shouts.

Highlight – Always known to do it differently, Chanel brings in mad fun with Pinks & Black and white vignettes.

8. RAHUL MISHRA

The only Indian butterfly that reached the gardens of Paris couture Fashion week, Rahul Mishra, gave us Indians our moment of pride.

His collection “Butterfly People” attempts to answer a simple, yet very pertinent question— ‘what is the relevance of couture in such times?’ “The last few months have been a time when the entire atelier struggled together — ‘together’ being the more important word here. We were anxious, like the rest of the world, because everything seemed uncertain” shares Rahul on his website. 

In a conversation with IANS, he adds “I think Gandhi Ji’s talisman is important wherein he states that recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have ever seen and before you contemplate a step in any direction, think about how it will impact him; this is the mainstay of our brand. Which is why whenever I always work on the slowest process when creating anything– hand crafted garments which take thousands of hours to make thereby employing and empowering many artisans.”  The core idea behind the luxury label is to push for sustainable employment of the craft community. 

Talking about design, couture gowns portrayed a garden of hope. 3D appliqued butterflies, birds and flowers, skillfully etched on dainty tulle creates a dreamy foliage pattern. Caped gowns, flowing dresses, separates, tube gowns and pocketed empire line ensembles with threaded, sequined and appliqued forest invite you to embrace the abundance of nature.

Highlight – Him being only Indian at the reputed Paris Haute Couture Fashion week 

After looking at the film, one wonders however, what narrative appeals to the Indian diaspora after all?

Other designers worth checking for their visual narrative are Stephano Rolland (French designer), Maison Rabih Kayrouz ( Lebanese Designer), Maurizo Galante ( Italian designer) and Ulyana Sergeenko ( Russian designer) from among the select few who were chosen to showcase at this first ever digital fashion show. 

What remains to see is that while the world is embracing newer forms of visual communication, are Indian designers, brands and communicators ready to throw their conventional notions of story telling and try newer forms ?

Falguni Patel

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