WORDS BY NATALIE YIASSOUMI
From Valentino’s towering platforms to the hand-embroidered boots at Kim Jones’ first Fendi Couture show, here’s a glimpse at the most dreamy, out-there shoes from Paris’ latest haute couture week.
Haute couture has always stood at the forefront of fantasy and creativity. Unless you are part of the one percent with six figures to spend on a custommade look, couture is more of a ticket to an alternate universe of sorts, where handcraft can be admired in its most elaborate, glorious form and designers’ creativity reaches zenith – as budgets and practical restraints fly out the window.
Never was the need to get creative more pertinent than this season, when continued struggles to contain the spread of COVID-19 have kept the world close to home – and their loungewear wardrobes.
But in the world of couture, designers looked into a future that’s more about unapologetic glamour and a hefty dose of eccentricity.
Nowhere was this eccentric, confident attitude channeled better than at Valentino, where impossibly high, futuristic platforms stole the show. They came in the form of gold Mary Jane styles or boot versions in metallic scrunched up leather that reflected the light of the grand Galliera Colonna in Rome, where the collection was filmed. The towering platforms were in stark contrast to the daywear-focused, modernist silhouettes of the clothing, making even more of an impact and bringing Alexander McQueen’s alien-like ‘Armadillo’ platforms to mind or Vivienne Westwood’s ‘Super Elevated Gillie’ shoes – the ones Naomi Campbell famously took a tumble in.
Creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli called the collection “an act for fashion,” alluding to a collective urge for fantasy and dress up, as an antidote to these dismal times.
Could this mark the return of the extra high heel?
Alexandre Vauthier thinks so: The Paris-based designer paired his couture collection of heavily embroidered and ruffled party wear with equally glitzy footwear – created with Guiseppe Zanotti, as part of a new long term partnership. The heroes in the range included over-the-knee leather and suede heeled boots featuring a playful crystal chain across the top or a sparkly pair embroidered with crystals from top to bottom. The latter were worn with matching skin-tight jumpsuits. Clearly, Vauthier is ready for the return of the roaring 20s, which are gearing up for a comeback post-pandemic.
Kim Jones also revelled in fantasy and all things glamour this week, as he made his debut as Fendi’s artistic director for women’s wear and couture. Jones, who is a mover and shaker in the men’s wear scene and currently the head of Dior men’s, showcased a collection all about ethereal silhouettes and old-school romance, best captured on a pair of hand-embroidered boots. The intricate patterns on the boots were a reference to the paintings of Charleston Houses, a property associated with the Bloomsbury Set – a group of writers including John Maynard Keynes and Virgina Woolf, to whom Jones often turns to for inspiration.
As much as there was a resurgence of glitz and glam and towering heels on some runways – those of male creative directors in particular – the ladies of couture weren’t quite ready to give up on the comfort of flats and kitten heels or the feeling of being grounded.
Virginie Viard at Chanel showed a series of easygoing black-and-white Mary Janes, featuring kitten heels and satin fabrications that had a youthful, school girl charm. As for Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior, she served up a couture version of the label’s popular D-trap cage combat boots. Here, they were updated with decorative patterns layered over the fishnet cutouts and added a tougher, more modern edge to the couture collection’s strong Renaissance feel.
During the week, a new name also emerged into the scene and an old favourite made a comeback.
Up-and-comer Charles de Vilmorin presented his first haute couture collection for spring 2021: A riot of colour and abstract patterns were hand painted onto exaggerated silhouettes and some equally eccentric over-the-knee boots. The night before, Alber Elbaz, formerly the creative director at Lanvin, returned to the fashion world after a 5 year hiatus. He brought his signature sense of humour, flair for bright, saturated colours and feminine bows back, alongside a refreshed energy and ideas about how women should dress, launching AZ Factory.
His focus was on functional, contemporary pieces that can fit into women’s current lives, no matter their age or size. This translated into stretchy, form-fitting dresses – the kind you can slip into in a minute, between your online yoga class and work Zoom call – and sneakers galore. They were given the Elbaz treatment by way of pointed toes, glossy panels and flashes of bright pink or neon yellow. The first drop is already mostly sold out when it launched on Net-a-Porter.
Will you be waiting for drop two or keeping a closer eye for the return of the towering platform?
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