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Haute Couture SS21: Valentino, Iris van Herpen, Alexandre Vauthier, and Armani Privé

This week, designers are showing haute couture Spring/Summer 2021 collections virtually for patrons to view from around the world. Below, we’re sharing details from Valentino, Iris van Hempen, Alexandre Vauthier, and Armani Privé.

Valentino Courtesy of Valentino.

Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccolo made sure the public remembered why haute couture week was special in fashion’s arena—at times filled with static shows, presentations, and look books. His ode to couture was less about voluminous silhouettes and drapery and more about sophisticated and daring garments that reinvigorated imagination and its link to style. At the Galleria Colonna in Sala Grande, Rome, Piccolo staged a show for “Code Temporal” that, with hope and promised, answered questions that we’re asking right now. “How will the world dress post-pandemic?” The response was resoundingly visual—with sky-high heels, bright garments, and materials that are cut, woven, and folded into origami-esque florals. Models with glittered faces and tame hair regally waltzed in the glory of the Galleria in an array of looks appropriate for a post-pandemic soirée. Coats with exposed shoulders were paired with long gloves, sleeveless turtlenecks were complemented by wool capes and trousers, a cashmere double coat bedizened with perforated waves caught attention, and a faille wrap skirt swept over the polished floor. At the end, we were left remembering one sentence from the show’s notes that articulated the overall theme perfectly: “Verticality as a tension in which what is complex is resolved into vibrant simplicity.”

Iris van Herpen’s kinetic garments could surely photograph well, but there’s nothing quite like seeing them move mid-air on the runway. Lucky for her virtual audience, she staged a runway show to spotlight new constructions in “Roots of Rebirth”—a collection centered around the natural world, the “wood wide web,” debuted to sounds by Maarten Vos and Salvador Breed. Extraordinary translucent layers of fabric featured the designer’s specialty of 3-D work, spawning with laser-cut ventilations, hovering fins, liquescent gills, and hand-plated mahogany silk drapery. Inspired by the Earth’s ecosystem and in dialogue with the extraterrestrial world, all 21 looks were inspired by roots and spores, drawing references from meaning found within Earth’s undergrowth, the idea for regeneration, and even Merlin Sheldrake’s book Entangled Life.  One look in particular was made with the use of Ocean Plastic—a fabric made by Parley for the Oceans out of upcycled marine debris—and was printed and cut into thousands of trilateral tessellations. For the collection, the house also partnered with artist Casey Curran for two special shape-shifting crowns, made with 18 transparent monofilament threads that snake through 18 brass coils. Arranged to lift and fall with each quill on a serpentine motion, the movement is aimed to communicate the constant motion of our minds.  

Alexandre Vauthier’s commemoration to couture harked back to lifestyle from another era—nightlife in the 1980s. Filmed and photographed at Le Palace in Paris, the collection evokes chic Parisian dress with an added spice from raucous nights. Dresses, jumpsuits, and separates flash with sequins, flounces of ruffles, cut-outs, pointed shoulders, and other details from the 80s the designer resurrected. Against the tiled backdrop, garments pop, pushing us to consider how we’d like to see and be seen once in-person interactions resume. This collection also marked a first for the house, unveiling the house’s first footwear collection under Giuseppe Zanotti, who produced and is distributing the shoes, highlighted by heels and tall boots executed with both Zanotti’s precision and Vauthier’s vivacious designs.

Alexandre Vauthier. Courtesy of Alexandre Vauthier.

At the Palazzo Orsini—one of Milan’s most distinguished residences from the 17th century, and the Armani Group’s headquarters since September 1996—Armani Privé presented a prestigious collection that tells the tale of Giorgio Armani’s personal journey. A man that aimed to stray from trendy clothing and the perpetuation of such in style, the collection focused on freedom, allowing jackets, slip dresses, and trousers to skim the body in delicate looks of satin, organza, silk, and velvet. Dark, but lit just enough to see the trim of the room design by Luigi Canonica, we saw the gleam of micro-crystals, floral embroidery, and sequins sparkle from geometric necklines, capacious gowns, and structured sheaths.




The visionary designer Iris van Herpen realized a lifelong dream of infusing painting and sculpture into contemporary couture.


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