Haute Couture Fall 2023 WeekDate: 07/21/2023
What did this season’s Haute Couture Week in Paris have in store? Read on to find out!
This week in fashion, get ready as I share with you the ‘haute’ details of my very first Haute Couture Fashion Week in none other than the city of chic, Paris! My head is still with excitement buzzing over how incredible it was to attend, and witness the latest fashions coming for the Fall/Winter 2023 season–I’m just sad that with such an intense schedule, I was forced to pick only my top favorite designers to see. Plus I wanted to sneak in a special jewelry store-opening event from a dear friend, Ella Peters with Jovadi Jewelry.
You might already know whose shows I ended up watching live from my Instagram, but if not, here’s a quick list of who I saw between July 2nd and 6th:
That’s why today I’m putting a bit of a spotlight onto Cartier’s history, style, jewelry and prestige in the fashion industry. Their story is truly an interesting one, and I feel excited to share it with you so that you, too, can wear your Cartier items with a new-found pride.
- Jovadi Jewelry Store Opening on 32nd Avenue
- Chanel at the River Seine
- Alexis Mabille at Christie’s Auction House
- Elie Saab at Musée des Arts Décoratifs
- Jean Paul Gaultier at the Rue Saint Martin
- Zuhair Murad at Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Just looking at that list, I am filled with joy at how much I was able to accomplish in so little time. It continues to shock me what my body has become capable of through treatments for chronic Lyme. In fact, one of the reasons I am so excited to share is because I know there are other sufferers (and non-sufferers!) out there who would have loved to go to Paris, but couldn’t. I therefore consider it a joy and privilege to bring these experiences to them, and to you!
So without further ado, allow me to share with you the highlights of my recent whirlwind journey across the sea to Paris–where fashions from the renaissance age seem to be making a grand resurgence!
What is different about Haute Couture in fashion?
I just wrote an article about this on my blog, but the term ‘haute couture’, as you may have guessed, is a French term that literally means ‘in the spirit of’ or ‘high’ sewing or dressmaking’.
Haute couture is thus the creation of exclusive, custom-fitted clothing using high-quality, expensive, and unusual fabrics, as opposed to regular ‘ready to wear’ clothing. It is the genre of fashion that fully allows designers the chance to showcase their skill, and it is reserved for deeply capable sewers who are willing to put a large amount of time and effort into their creations. Obviously, being an older term, it is also marked by the use of hand-sewing techniques that give credence to the detail that each design invokes.
The reason I mention this is so you can really dive into my experience with an eye for the detailed embroidery and design I got to witness first-hand. I was lucky to have front-row seats almost every time, which meant I was able to get up close and personal with each piece’s finer details. This element of each show is what drew me across the ocean to witness, after all. I’ll be honest: there really is nothing like seeing the world’s highest tier of fashion craftsmanship from just a few feet away!
But first, let’s stop to look at some seriously stunning diamonds from a true diamond named Ella!
Jovadi Jewelry Store: Paris Grand Opening
It brings me a lot of joy to be able to support my friends, and when it comes to Ella Peters and Jovadi Jewelry, the sentiment is extra strong! Not only have I been a big fan of her jewelry brand for years, it was simply amazing to be there for the soiree to celebrate her new store opening, and watch her soak up her success: Congratulations Ella!
Now, although the dress I wore (from Zuhair Murad) is far from plain, wearing this free-flowing colorful number with its soft blended paint pattern, made me feel very cozy, comfortable, and laid-back during the event thanks to the simple design at the bodice. Not to mention, I wanted to start out the week with a subtler look before I really broke out the big guns during later fashion shows.
Smiling ear to ear, it was so much fun to watch so many wonderful people come together to witness Ella’s success. Not to mention, I could not stop obsessing over the huge flower wall feature from the event in all my favorite colors! I also found my home among a small, fun crew of guests who shared a similar love of diamond butterfly rings, and who were just as adoring of Ella’s work as I am. Truly, every piece was something I wanted for my collection, particularly these incredible diamond drop earrings and banded silver cuff:
Being present at the event to support Ella’s enterprising spirit, and to cheer on Jovadi’s ribbon cutting, was certainly a once in a lifetime moment, and its milestones like these that truly make you proud of the incredible people you’re lucky to be in connection with. I hope she knows just how special it was to share those moments in celebration!
Too soon though, it was time to head off to make myself at home in Paris, resting before the full days of fashion ahead.
Chanel Show at the River Seine
I’ve always loved Chanel because of the way their designs influence a sense of timelessness with every stitch–and the latest reveal along the River Seine in Paris was no different. Walking through the familiar cobblestone boardwalk to get to our seats, it was as if attendees were transported back in time to the world of 1950s Paris. From color-coordinated books and pamphlets to pink-painted cobblestone blocks along the runway, the scene was entirely set to reflect a rose-colored moment of serenity on any given Paris afternoon along the river–boat hats, Eiffel tower, and all.
I wish you could have been there as old French music began to play on the loudspeakers, and soon the first familiar silhouettes appeared on the pink cobblestones in flat-brims, florals, gossamer, and glittering tweed, all reflecting the recognizable image of Chanel from decades past. I don’t think any person could have possibly walked away from the show without having fallen in love with at least one item–no matter your style. It wouldn’t matter whether you have a boho aesthetic, enjoy sharp business cuts, or strive for a more feminine profile, I’m positive you would have found something in the collection that pulled you in. They even got me hooked on the nautical button style you sometimes see on the old-fashioned pea coats and pleated skirts used for school uniforms! Cute!
Now, I was close up to the show so it was easy for me to see the fine detail in the work–which was even more impressive considering the cobblestone backdrop and outdoor lighting could have offered a lot of potential distractions. Yet the complexity of the view is what seemed to set the tone of the collection itself–which for me was the feeling of sitting along the boardwalk in the early morning, watching the passers-by under a soft summer sun. The Eiffel tower in the background was just the icing on the cake, and provided a playful, iconic environment for the whole affair!
“Playing with opposites and contrasts, with nonchalance and elegance, is
like standing on a line between strength and delicacy”
– Virginie Viard, on the collection
Aside from the incredible classics in this collection, I loved the little nods to ‘girly’ fashion throughout each piece, like outrageously large bows-as-buckles on the model’s shoes, and baskets of wildflowers on their arms. And of course none of us in the audience could contain ourselves when one of the models walked through with a beautiful black dog by her side (word on the street is, the dog was actually hers!). In fact, this gorgeous cherry-red pea coat became my favorite look of the day:
As for me? I felt the event (and the setting) called for a similar vintage silhouette, and so I chose a white bell-sleeved blouse and black billowing skirt with a modern, madonna-era flair thanks to the gothic-noir crinoline and matching mini underneath–the purse, of course, was from Chanel:
Afterward, I stayed for a moment to soak up the incredible scene that Chanel has painted for us in Paris. There are so few chances we get to enjoy being ‘out of time’ and this was one of them. It was truly bittersweet to leave, but I knew that rest was in order (and an outfit change) before my next fashion show at Christie’s Auction House.
Alexis Mabille Creations at Christie’s Auction House
I’m so excited that I got the chance to see Alexis Mabille’s work live, especially since he is one of the newer names in Haute Couture–and one whose work I am looking forward to adding to my collection, as he is completely new to me too! I didn’t know, for instance, that Alexis Mabille showed at 2008’s Haute Couture Fashion Week for the first time, about ten years after graduating from the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. He’s also known for his style of allowing the material and the color to speak for what the collection will yield, instead of working the other way around. It is this sort of reversal of technique that I think made this particular collection so special, especially against the backdrop of one of the oldest auction houses in all of continental Europe, Christie’s Auction House.
(You can watch a video live, here).
In honor of just being there, I had to get my hands on my own Mabille dress, and bought this incredible sunshine yellow number during my trip:
Would you look at that inlaid lace? And the cross-lace on the collar? And the way the back drapes beneath the built-in shawl? These are marks of a truly delicate genius in fashion–and just part of the reason I love Mabille’s designs so much.
Looking at it now, it honestly makes me so glad I’m not the kind of person who shies away from color; how else would I get to mix and match such gorgeous, bold tones? There was certainly no way I would be choosing a neutral bag to complete the look, which is why I ended up choosing one of my quilted Chanel bags, this one in burnt orange. To say I stood out in the audience would be an understatement–and I enjoyed the flamboyant, bold energy the look gave me among so many incredible looks in the crowd.
But onto the main event!
Having already been given a taste for casual elegance with the Chanel show from before, I felt a similar atmosphere appear in the room as we all watched the first models for Mabille walk down the runway–though of course, the styles and shapes of this line are completely unique from what Chanel delivered just prior.
For instance, Mabille’s designs toy with simple diamond cuts and diagonal lines that, if done incorrectly, or with low-quality materials, would not shine in the way it did under Mabille’s close hand. Using silk and other flowing fabrics in simple, clean colors, each piece emanated its own ‘bloom’ effect, whether through lengthy, sultry skirts and thin, fluid silhouettes, or casual knots imbued with the finest artistry. The show – and the featured designs – also had a more daring, sensual edge to them without verging on overly sexy, giving an overall mood of ‘having fun at the after-party in bare feet’. This is the sort of effortless glamor Mabille marks in most of his designs, playfully accentuated with empty aperitif glasses dangling nonchalantly in each model’s hand as they walked down the runway.
I mean, just look at how fun yet casual these two incredible crimson numbers are from the collection–they also happen to be my two favorite looks of the evening, though there were many to choose from.
My final thoughts on the show were that it was incredibly diverse in terms of design, while maintaining a ton of simplicity and minimalism. There were all kinds of elements, from sport, to business, to casual; from day time, to night time, and beyond; yet all are tied together by a uniformity that marks a collection as truly cohesive. Plus, it’s just one more reason I want to keep my eye on this designer, who seems to refuse the idea of sticking himself in one conceptual box (just as I do with my looks).
Filled almost to capacity with a buzzing love for life and fashion design, and socializing with old connections where possible, I soon found myself drawn forward to the next show on the list, at the Louvre, no less!
Elie Saab Delights at Musée des Arts Décoratifs
After so many incredible shows, it seemed for me like there was no way anyone else could top the incredible quality of the designs I’d already seen–until I managed to snag a seat at Elie Saab’s show at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs!
You wouldn’t believe how it felt to suddenly be in the middle of a haute couture midsummer night’s dream, surrounded by a cast of beautiful, ethereal beings in cloaks, capes, hoods, and shawls of artisanal quality. Inlaid with subtle, nature-themed embroidery and embellishments reminiscent of the italian renaissance era (like sequinned Tudor roses and creeping leafy vines), I felt absolutely transported out of time and into a transcendent sort of state as I watched dark velvet and jewels in jade, ruby, and sapphire glimmer under close, intimate lighting, showing off the intricate textures of each piece.
The runway was also designed to keep everyone in close quarters, which meant the audience got to see each piece especially up close and personal. I could have reached out and touched hands with those across the aisle if I wanted to! Yet this proximity merely added to the intimacy of the whole affair, as well as allowed us to create closer connections with the work itself.
Overall, the presentation and the collection together created a deeply dramatic sense of cult-theater, perhaps in part to the ancient architecture rising high above us. With history as our backdrop, and incredible works of art in the background, each model became like a work of art themselves, sharing a close reinterpretation of what we would wear to courtly affairs amid the grandest of ballrooms, hence the collection’s title: The Glamour of Yore.
In Saab’s words, then, the collection is an ‘indulgent escape from the ordinary’. I believe these words whole-heartedly, and more-so, I want to emphasize just how fantastical the entire collection is from start to finish–particularly the regal final ‘bride’ look in effortless pink satin and gold brocade. The way the cape holds its incredible shape without losing the model’s feminine form beneath too many layers is yet another mark of this designer’s sheer genius at the level of haute couture. In fact, the event gave me a whole new burst of energy, propelling me into the rest of the incredible fashion events to come!
Jean Paul Gautier Glam at Rue Saint Martin
Speaking of historical embellishments, that’s just what Jean Paul Gautier’s design house stepped up to show us, headed by designer Julien Dossena, who was at this show making his very first couture debut with the brand!
So what was this collection all about?
According to Vogue sources on the subject, this year’s haute couture collection was inspired by the history of fashion as it relates to JPG in particular, drawing on iconic designs from collections past to transform fashion history into fashion modernity.
A deeply respectful and even reverent homage to the greatest designs from JPG’s past, while breaking through to a new and exciting present–as Dossena says, ‘it’s great to have that modern resonance’ in fashion. Thankfully (for us and Dossena, I imagine) Jean Paul Gautier agrees that the collection aptly captured the designs he invented from seasons past. But did you know that Jean Paul refused to see any of the looks before the actual show? I guess that means he and I saw the collection for the first time, at the same time…which definitely added a bit of excitement to the show overall.
As with Elie Saab’s presentation, the audience sat shoulder to shoulder in a crowded set-up reminiscent of old audience scenes from the world-famous Globe Theatre. This may even be the reason why I saw in these designs a peculiar air of character–as if each piece told multitudes about its wearer’s true identity. As such, each look encapsulated a variety of fashionable expressions and styles throughout JPGs design history, from a pinstripe trouser suit, all the way to draped gold and silver chainmail.
As a witness to this work, I definitely gained a much greater appreciation for fashion artists and their creativity, as I think it would be hard to design a whole collection of mens and women’s haute couture looks without becoming a total copycat–but Dossena seems to have done so with a deep admiration for his muse. Instead of replicating what’s already been done, Dossena seems instead to have hinted at previous iconic designs with well-placed references to (say) the oversized fur hats seen in Fall 2019, or the layered necktie assemblage from his 2020 ‘farewell’ show, all while bringing something new to the table.
Being a longtime fan of JPG myself, this aspect of the show and collection elevated the excitement of the whole affair. It was fun to catch these subtle historical references in Dossena’s latest work, and to hear fellow fans whispering and tittering as they caught their own ‘easter egg’ references to past designs.
As if Dossena was merging two worlds (the past, and the now), I feel this collection finds its own flair as a line-up of vintage glamor looks transformed into futuristic, fashion-forward fabulousness. Having seen the other shows prior as well, I also felt I was becoming more aware of the specific themes becoming common to each show–but didn’t want to define anything until all was said and done.
Zuhair Murad Stuns at Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Whew! After a whirlwind of incredible shows I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to have time to make it to Zuhair’s show–but let me tell you how glad I am that I did! Not only did I get the chance to meet up again with Ella (here we are wearing two Murad numbers from our personal collections), but I was in for an eye-popping final show on my tiny Paris haute couture tour!
Seriously, you have to check out the video I took (posted here on Instagram) to see what I really mean when I say the show took my breath away. With themes of romantic futurism and an overarching sense of the old gothic thanks to his flawless usage of mesh and crinoline, Murad’s show brings together an incredible array of seemingly disparate parts into one cohesive collection that exudes a dark femininity that really calls to my inner feline self.
For example, throughout the collection we see florals, furs, mesh, and chain mail, each outfit more sensual than the last. Actually, that’s one thing I really love about this collection is its ability to remain sensual without going overboard into gaudy territory, which could have been a risk with the designer’s heavy focus on black in this collection (sources say this is his favorite color to work with–surprising for a designer known for bold color choices!).
“I’ve always wanted to do a collection made entirely with black. It’s a symbol of mystery,
of energy, a symbol of seduction, a symbol of power.”
From my view, the collection therefore tells the story of young beauty sacrificed at the altar, and of daring sexiness in the face of fundamentalism. I think it also shows a reverence for minimalism that is actually maximalism, tricking the eye with simple shapes that turn out to be much more detailed upon close inspection, thereby imbuing a subtle sense of anticipation and drama within each silhouette. Off-setting the heavy (and sometimes transparent) blacks with deep crimson and regal purple, the collection also echoed a deeply witchy flair, with iconic witch familiars (like spiders, bats, and birds) woven into the macrame mesh of the more daring looks on the runway. More than one dress was even entirely embellished in web-like streams that would have looked ‘halloween’ on a regular runway, but here, provided a kind of villainous elegance that was more sought-after than one might think.
Then, amid all the dramatic darks, this ‘fairytale’ show ended with a stunning pale bride all in white floating material, almost ghostly beautiful thanks to the relative simplicity of design. After so much detail and bold symbolism, these simple lines spoke much louder than they would have otherwise, to a truly stunning, almost angelic, effect. Of course, for me, the bride’s look also symbolized a little bit of grief, since that meant my wonderful week of incredible fashion in Paris was coming to a finale.
Out with the new, in with the old
Now, I’m sure I might feel differently had I managed to witness all the shows at this year’s Haute Couture Week in Paris, but if I were to give my summary thoughts on what’s to come down the pipe as these designs impact the world of ready-to-wear, everyday fashion, I would say this:
Where we have usually recycled the fashions of decades past every 20 years or so, this year we are reaching farther back into the past than ever before to create bold, yet familiar designs that call to our inner heathens. Mesh, and lace, and metal, all interwoven to recreate the looks we see in your average renaissance painting, are all going to be the hot new thing this fall. Last year, hoods and capes began to make an appearance on haute couture runways, and this year, they seem to be saying “we’re here to stay”.
Yet it is these little hints of midsummer festival and old medieval fair that give the overall impression of ‘fantasy’ when it comes to this year’s event. Actually, that’s really it: each of the collections spoke of a fantasy of fashion, where dragons and maidens and knights live out the fairy tales we know and love so well. These fashions speak to our imaginations about words that existed way before we did, and therefore foster all the fantasy and romanticism that comes with those characters and stories.
In the end, if there was one other word I would use to describe each of the collections I witnessed, it would be Lavish. There was an insinuation that care should be taken with oneself, and that the care should extend to adorning ourselves with the finest of cool fabrics like satin, silk, and velvet. And while the voices of each designer were clearly heard in their collections, none of the ones I saw were overdone. Instead, each artist maintained a balance between minimalism and drama, using the subtleties of the material and stitching to tell the biggest stories, as opposed to the silhouette of the piece.
So that’s that, dear readers! My take on the outstanding shows I got to see during this year’s Haute Couture Week in Paris. So I want to know: what was your favorite design or designer? Did you manage to get out there to any of the shows? What was your take on the themes each designer presented? I can’t wait to hear what you think (I’m listening through Instagram), especially since I loved every moment of the experience I got to have. I honestly can’t believe I got to travel to Paris again so soon after the last time!
Anyway, I’ll definitely need some rest before I do a big outing like that again, but the experience has left me absolutely thirsty for more exciting fashion experiences outside of home. I can only dream now of where my grand fashion adventures will take me next!
Thanks for reading, and as always,
All my love,
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