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ICYMI: The big takeaways from SS20 Haute Couture

Reality, step aside – it’s time to indulge in some serious fantasy by way of the breathtaking haute couture collections

Exquisitely crafted gowns, opulent set designs, wearable art – at the haute couture shows, reality takes a back seat. The extravagant, one-of-a-kind collections act as a silencer to the gloom and doom of daily life. Sure, the dresses themselves may cost more than a down payment on a flat in Zone 2, but that’s really beside the point.

“To me couture is about dream and fantasy and the expression of individuality,” Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director of Valentino described. “It’s not about a political message you put on a T-shirt and it’s not about streetwear or sportswear; it’s about how you look at the world.” For those desperately seeking a dose of escapism, scroll down for our favourite dispatches from haute couture SS20 so far.


The one that’s probably taken over your Instagram-feed this morning: Jean Paul Gaultier’s spectacular final catwalk show, bowing out after a 50-year career in fashion. Aside from the kaleidoscopic apparel (featuring reinventions of the iconic designer’s classic looks over the years; from corsets, sailor stripes to riffs on Le Smoking, to name but a few), the show itself brought drama in droves. Staged inside Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet, audiences were treated to all the good stuff you want from a fashion show: a star-studded model casting (that reads like an A-Z of the runway – hello, Karlie Kloss, the Hadid sisters, Irina Shayk et al), Paris Jackson making her runway debut, cinema icon Beatrice Dalle smoking her way down the catwalk, a performance from Boy George. In the words of Rachel Green: That, my friend, is what they call closure.


For those who have a strong aversion towards pink, you’ll likely change your mind after seeing Valentino’s romantic couture show. The sugary shade was spotted everywhere: body-con silhouettes, chiffon blouses, architectural tops, XXL earrings, corsetry. Our favourite look of them all? An operatic pink swan dress. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the most beautiful shows of the season.


Fashion’s recent preoccupation with childlike dressing reigned supreme at Chanel’s show, held under the dome at the Grand Palais. Overtones of schoolgirl slash nun-like elegance (yes, it’s a thing now) were exhibited in the form of monochrome dresses, boxy jackets and signature tweed suits, paired with sensible loafers, thick white socks and oversized collars. “The idea of a boarding school, of schoolgirls, of the children’s clothes from long ago, pleased me,” designer Virginie Viard said of her spring summer uniform, modelled by the likes of Gigi Hadid, Adut Akech and Kaia Gerber.


Flamenco ruffles, flower-inspired silhouettes and a parade of sculptural tops and ballgowns: Clare Waight Keller’s spring haute couture collection for Givenchy was lavishly romantic. In fact, the entire collection was inspired by the passionate exchanges between Virginia Woolf and her lover Vita Sackville-West (their relationship is said to have inspired Woolf’s gender-queer novel Orlando. Which, by the way, happens to be a big inspiration for fashion’s biggest night out, the Met Gala in May). One of the biggest highlights was Kaia Gerber’s awe-inspiring bridal look; layered with lace flower detailing and styled with the most impressive, ‘look-at-me’ veil we’ve seen in a long time. (Or should we say, fashion igloo?). The ultimate fantasy bride.


“What If Women Ruled The World?” was the driving force question at Dior’s show, with the sentiment embroidered onto banners by the American feminist artist, Judy Chicago (which were hand-stitched in India). Through this collection, Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri wanted to “reconsider the roles and power relationships that determine, through the lens of gender, the way we live together today,” and drew inspiration from Athena, goddess of wisdom, courage and justice. So, what does the reimagined Grecian goddess look like? At a glance: swathed in warrior-like capes and liquid metal peplos-dresses, worn with gold headbands and tiaras to add even more regal romance to proceedings. Click here for an all-access backstage pass, to take a closer look at the Dior beauty magic (and tips on how to create the look yourself).


From dresses dripping in crystals and high-concept apparel (not to mention the next-level eyewear – really it seems a disservice to attribute them as merely ‘glasses’), Schiaparelli’s SS20 show was a total dreamscape. A standout look for us was a cobalt blue sculptural taffeta dress, adorned with jewellery that made its way onto a model’s bare skin. Striking, a bit odd and completely enchanting.


To be honest there’s not one look we did not fall in love with from Iris Van Herpen’s captivating collection, which blended colour and extreme contouring in the most delightful fashion. Wearable art would be the appropriate description here. Entitled ‘Sensory Seas’, otherworldly pieces were inspired by microscopic detailing, marine life and new age technology. Want to embrace fashion’s oceanic mood? Check out our ‘sea now, buy now’ jewellery edit here.

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