Didn’t receive your ticket to last week’s haute fashion shows in Paris from Uncle Karl? Perhaps you haven’t got the price of a car to spend on a dress, either. Never fear, our friends at Running in Heels have done the legwork for you, summing up the best of Paris couture and choosing the top department store finds inspired by the shows.
Yes, there were monochromatic ensembles and, of course, a generous serving of tweed. However, Chanel’s latest couture collection had a girlier, prettier feel than we have come to expect from the purveyors of chic Parisian elegance. Perhaps it was the light palette of powder blues and nude pinks, or maybe Karl’s choice to skip the heels and have models sport flat pumps, but there was a delicate prettiness to the show that felt refreshing and whetted appetites for the coming spring season. Pieces in feather-light chiffons, illuminated with intricate beading, gave a fragility and ethereal beauty to the collection, which was inspired by artist Marie Laurencin, who created stage designs for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The show was punctuated with flashes of jet black, on sequined leggings, sashes and beaded motifs, ensuring that the collection never veered into saccharine-sweet prettiness and still represented Chanel’s brand of sleek sophistication.
The essential item for building any Chanel-inspired look has to be brand’s signature piece: a tweed jacket. Juicy Couture’s embellished wool-blend jacket is a great copycat design, without the hefty price tag. Wear with well-cut jeans and ASOS’s pointed suede ballerina pumps to channel smart, off-duty chic. Maxi-lengths are set to be a big trend next season, and this brushed silk maxi skirt from Haute Hippie is unfeasibly elegant—we suggest pairing it with Karen Millen’s tailored sequin T-shirt for a dazzlingly pretty evening look. The light, floaty style of the show is suggested in this bolero from high street giants H&M, and A/Wear’s contrast ruffle dress is reminiscent of Chanel’s nude/black color palette. Finish off the look with a smattering of costume jewelry glitz; rhinestone earrings by Mikey and a sparkly clip from Accessorize should do the trick.
Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier’s fashion circus is officially back in town! After a couple of disappointing seasons, JPG was undoubtedly back on form, showing a punk-inspired collection playing with masculine/feminine influences. The result? A show dripping with smart yet tough sex appeal; imagine the work/play wardrobes of a wealthy sophisticate with attitude and you’re there. The collection was predominantly black, with bright splashes of color and feather-adorned mohawks adding a little of the designer’s quirky sense of humor. Take away the punk accoutrements and the outfits entitled “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “London Calling,” though, and it was a supremely chic set of pieces showcasing Gaultier’s skill as a master tailor. Sans feathers and ripped tulle, the collection was a lesson in the appeal of timeless classics: tuxedo trousers, suiting and jet-embellished eveningwear.
Jean Paul Gaultier’s couture collection was built on a basis of beautifully cut wardrobe staples in every fashionista’s favorite color, so if you don’t already own a pair of leg-lengthening, super-flattering black trousers, invest in some now! L.K.Bennett’s tuxedo trousers can be dressed up or down—add a glitzy embellished jacket for evening glamour, such as this sequined tuxedo jacket by Halston Heritage. For an outfit echoing the glamour of Gaultier’s catwalk show, look no further than Topshop’s voluminous black pleated wide-leg trousers; the slightly sheer fabric has a wonderfully understated sexiness to it. Alternatively, go all out with undeniably sexy leather pieces: we love this leather skirt from Matches’ own label, Freda, and these black long leather gloves by Topshop are an audacious pick that will certainly get you noticed for all the right reasons. Offset the badass black with bright or monochromatic feather-inspired accessories: Paul Smith’s zebra stripe scarf is a piece that you’re guaranteed to wear and wear again. Mood Indigo’s feather headband and Accessorize’s feather earrings are really fun picks too.
John Galliano’s collection for Christian Dior was in homage to legendary fashion illustrator René Gruau, the man who created iconic images for Dior in the first decades of the brand’s existence. The golden age of couture was recaptured on the catwalk in painterly fashion by Galliano, with washes of rich, deep color, using embroidery and fabrics to replicate Gruau’s languorous, opulent style. Dramatic expansive layers of silk, tulle and organza were accentuated with beading and feathers, and onlookers were truly mesmerized as the designer waved his magic wand once again and created an indulgent collection that would have had the house’s founder himself enraptured. With wide, sweeping ballgowns that swooshed down the catwalk and tiny nipped-in waists, there was an obvious nod to Dior’s famous New Look: a decadently feminine silhouette. These were contrasted with softly tailored jackets and slim-fit pencil skirts demurely hemmed below the knee, all worn with Stephen Jones’s dramatic millinery and a glamorous bright red lip. It was a truly glorious fashion moment.
Bring Galliano’s fashion daydreams to life in your wardrobe with deep jewel tones: make an impact at work and pair this topaz-toned shirt from Reiss with L.K.Bennett’s fitted fuchsia skirt. Another dramatic choice would be this emerald fitted dress from Lela Rose, which has that supersexy hourglass shape to it. Or choose rich color combinations: wear Coast’s gold silk shirt with a slim-fit black pencil skirt from Reiss and add a wide belt to define your waist for a feminine 1950s silhouette—this soft leather bow from Topshop is perfect. For a romantically pretty look, this H&M tulle dress will have you feeling like one of Christian Dior’s couture princesses. A must-have of the golden age of couture is defined red lips; we recommend this vibrant i-pout scarlet lipstick from New CID Cosmetics for the eye-catching starlet look.
If Valentino’s catwalk collection were anything to go by, nude’s hold on fashion shows no signs of abating. The show was awash with soft shades of biscuit, sand and blush, alongside tones of white and pale dove gray—with flashes of the designer’s signature scarlet, of course. It was the most understated, yet perhaps the most sophisticated, of the haute couture collections. Codesigner Pier Paolo Piccioli said: “If fashion is about today, then today it’s time to go back to elegance.” It was elegance with a very modern flavor, and pieces had a lightness and delicacy despite detailing including beading, froufrou, pleating, plissé and ruffles. The collection had an innocent yet seductive appeal, with sheer gowns shown in demure lengths, and just enough skin on show to ensure a sensual look. Piccioli and partner Maria Grazia Chiuri have proved that they don’t need to shout to make themselves heard.
All too often we turn to a staple palette of stark black when choosing eveningwear, yet opting for lighter neutral shades can create a look with softness as well as sophistication. Investing in nude-toned gowns makes sense too—they’re the perfect foundation on which to build, adding in accessories and jewelry to suit each occasion. For a dramatic silhouette, go for French Connection’s corsage-adorned maxi dress, or if you’re looking for something for a really special evening, this sequin-embellished tulle dress from Red Valentino is an absolute showstopper. The same palette will work beautifully for daytime too; create a demure look with Topshop’s chiffon sleeve blazer paired with this pleated taffeta skirt from Jil Sander. These simple tones don’t have to be too staid, though; try wearing with sheer fabrics such as this ruffle blouse by Maxmara. Recreate Valentino’s look by adding a contrasting color—we love this silk cuffed sleeve top from DKNY, and Monsoon’s suede corsage shoes will add a little extra oomph to any outfit.
Editor’s note: On your next trip to Paris, stay in haute style at Christian Lacroix’s Hotel Bellechasse, steps from the Seine and the Musée d’Orsay.