Fashion's garden of delights

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

From freshly cut flowers to the tree of life, designers at Paris's couture shows were inspired by bucolic romanticism, says Susannah Frankel

Givenchy

Riccardo Tisci was inspired by Gypsies and the 1960s, he said. His static presentation of 10 intricately worked looks is by now one of the high points of the schedule, not least because it is possible to view the workmanship of the ateliers up close and at leisure.

Intricately tooled leather, languid skirts weighed down by tiny chains hand-sewn into their edges, opulent crystal embroideries and more made for darkly romantic and spectacular viewing. And should madame be interested in one-step dressing, she need look no further than long, lean, all-in-ones with their own haute couture boots attached.

Chanel

A Chanel garden party at the Grand Palais was peopled by quite the most beautifully dressed models in the world. Nobody knows how to showcase the skills of the haute couture ateliers better than Karl Lagerfeld and there was a romance and even emotional power to these hand-worked garments that took the breath away. Far from uptight, the silhouette was, for the most part, relaxed, or dégagé. Mlle Chanel herself would have approved. To sum up: these were throw-on pieces, if only for the world's wealthiest and most sartorially discerning women to wear and then pass down to their daughters and granddaughters.

Christian Dior

Three hundred thousand freshly cut flowers is excessive even by haute couture standards but that was what met guests to spectacularly beautiful effect at the hôtel particulier in the chic 16th arrondissement of Paris for Raf Simons' debut for Christian Dior. The clothes were like blooms themselves – skirts resembled upturned lilies and tulips; New Look-line dresses were embellished with petals of silk; and colour ran the spectrum from Victorian garden roses to vivid blue delphiniums. More masculine – and a gauntlet thrown down to Hedi Slimane, perhaps – was a perfectly cut tuxedo and black cigarette-legged trousers, best worn with jewelled bell tops.

Jean Paul Gaultier

This was a vintage couture season for Jean Paul Gaultier. By the close of the show the audience were cheering at the audacity of the vision and indeed the clothes sent out by the couturier. If an intimate salon environment and the importance of seeing the workmanship of the petites mains up close was the overriding story, this was a grand gesture, old-school style. Models wore long, lean, deconstructed tuxedos, beaded flapper dresses, laced leather and frisky sheer organza… And that was just the boys.

Valentino

Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri's show for Valentino balanced a respect for the traditions of haute couture with an understated elegance that was more contemporary by nature. A deceptively simple midnight blue velvet gown, a navy cape that only its wearer would ever know was double layered (chiffon and cashmere) and "tree of life" prints and embroideries featuring the plumpest and prettiest birds were all executed with the refinement that is by now the hallmark of this designer pairing. Like Valentino in his heyday, they know how to showcase exquisite workmanship, while always ensuring clothes remain light.

Maison Martin Margiela

Maison Martin Margiela's Artisanal collection is small and studiously imperfectly formed. This house loves the authenticity of age, and its flaws are left intact. An Edwardian silhouette dominated here but was given a tender twist: doorknobs from that period replaced buttons; leather baseball gloves were flattened and transformed into an S-bend jacket. Models' faces were masked – a signature of this very innovative collective – but this time, coloured crystal was applied to the surface. Imaginative, innovative and made entirely by hand, of course.

Giambattista Valli

Exuberant flower prints and ruffles everywhere from neckline to hem almost threatened to engulf the slender models wearing them at Giambattista Valli's haute couture collection. Restricting his colour palette almost entirely to shades of red and green, with the odd splash of vivid iris, only added to the drama of this, a fashion fantasy inspired by the most high-impact of gardens. Models stepped out with butterflies where otherwise their lips might be, a strangely surreal and slightly macabre sight.

Atelier Versace

Strips of patent leather were studded with solid rose gold for the Atelier Versace collection as modelled by Ms Versace herself as she stepped out to take her bows. This was the designer's first haute couture catwalk show for almost a decade and it was big on the high-octane glamour the Italian label is famous for, from blazing colour – bright rose, violet and citrine – to patchworked rubber, silk and lace held together with oversized stitches threaded with glittering beads and crystal metal mesh. Prints – a Versace signature – referenced tarot cards and the work of Picasso. It was all a matter of "deconstruction and reconstruction", Ms Versace said.

Armani Privé

Eschewing his 1980s shoulder line in favour of a softer silhouette and, often, an empire line, Giorgio Armani showed three sections in the old-school manner, moving from day to evening to night-time, signalled by a backdrop on to which was projected a sunrise, a sunset and, finally, a starry sky. Soft, black wide-legged silk velvet trousers were worn with blouson jackets and little flat pumps. Narrow evening dresses in more velvet or embroidered with crystal beads were high on shimmer and shine but always polite. Sophia Loren sat in the front row, as did many a client. They looked good dressed in the grand old man of Italian fashion's designs.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'