Leading Lights: Standout A/W 2022 haute couture collections

Couturiers did not turn their backs on history in their pursuit of newness, but have sought its guiding hand with astute ingenuity. Influences from iconic personalities to traditional crafts permeate these stand-out collections, adding depth to renewed visual identities, while pushing the evolution of haute couture, as Jacquie Ang discovers.

Call it sinister or kinky, these second-skin pieces were crafted from Japanese limestone-based neoprene. Finished with 3D-printed padding and wetsuit-inspired zip closures, the technologically innovative fabric is Demna’s equivalent of gazar, the sculptural silk organza that Swiss textile manufacturer Abrahams conceived for Cristóbal Balenciaga’s voluminous gowns in 1958. “This year I decided that I needed to put more of myself into it, and kind of find a new future, you know? This is why the line-up started with very otherworldly, almost futuristic neoprene looks, which was my idea of interpreting gazar in 2022,” Demna explains of the provocative black head-to-toe opening looks in the 51st Couture Collection for Balenciaga. Even the accessories are talking points. The model is wearing a polyurethane-coated face shield engineered by Mercedes, and in her hand, a Bang & Olufsen Speaker Bag that doubles up as a purse.

As Valentino The Beginning alludes, Pierpaolo Piccioli starts anew from an imaginary conversation with maison founder Valentino Garavani, culminating in this collection that re-signifies the house codes and reveals Piccioli’s view of the times. He staged the presentation on the steps of Piazza di Spagna, next to where it all began – the atelier of the fashion house established by Garavani 62 years ago. So, it is fitting that the first look celebrates the hallmarks of the brand, festooned with larger-than-life roses in Valentino-synonymous red.

“In this collection, we are looking at fragments of different cities, namely Kyoto, Paris and Rome. The fragmentary nature of things is echoed throughout the collection, like snatches of memory or the impression of things past, present and future,” sums up Kim Jones of his repositioning of Rome in a global context. This couture ensemble of a T-shirt and pants is a modern East-meets-West combination with hand-embroidered acer palmatum leaves – from the Ode to Autumn fabric design circa 1700s Kyoto – presented amid a generous sprinkle of sparkling crystals.

Entitled Pétillant (French for sparkling), the dreamy collection delves into escapism as the still-sprightly Italian maestro finds fresh inspiration from the Roaring Twenties with charismatic Polish Art Deco painter, Tamara de Pempicka, as the muse. Her sense of rebellious elegance illuminates the parade of looks, lending elongated jackets a fresh definition, with trousers cut in curvilinear shapes that hug the ankle.

“In this new collection, there are suits and long dresses like Mademoiselle Chanel imagined them in the 1930s: fitted to the body even though they have strong shoulders here… And lace too, inlaid, reworked, not embroidered, but repainted,” points out Chanel’s creative director Virginia Viard on this dress with peaked shoulders and pink florals hand-painted on guipure lace. Sitting atop the sequinned collar is a glittering necklace composed of comets and stars from the maison’s 1932 high jewellery collection, while feet are dressed in unexpected cowboy boots that link back to the Étrier de Paris equestrian centre where the show is staged.

Embodying the connection between cultures, myths and different forms of creation, the tree of life is at the heart of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s folkloric haute couture collection. In conveying the globalism of artisanship, she brings together highly specialised techniques of smocking, hand-weaving and lace-working. The fabric of this exquisite two-piece ensemble looks deceptively like lace, but is in fact an exceptional work of thread from Atelier Vermont that employs a wide range of embroidery techniques on cloth that is progressively cut away.

This story first appeared in the November 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore 


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