Drama, decadence and a whole load of attitude—Couture Fashion Week unleashes a welcome dose of escapism at the best of times, let alone in 2021.
From Kim Jones’s romantic Fendi debut (simultaneously his first-ever womenswear show) to Chanel’s wedding-party-themed runway gathering (complete with a white horse to transport the bride) and the long-awaited return of former Lanvin creative director, Alber Elbaz — the SS21 couture runways delivered the kind of dreamlike glamour that we could all use right now.
These are the five need-to-know fashion trends from Couture Fashion Week SS21.
1. Haute reality
“I wanted to work on new technology to develop some smart fabrics with factories [to make] beautiful, purposeful, and solution-driven fashion,” Alber Elbaz told Vogue as he unveiled his new eponymous label, AZ Factory. The essence of his new design proposition? “[It] is for everyone.” The fuss-free, grounded spirit of the charismatic return to fashion was echoed elsewhere. At Chanel, Virginie Viard teamed a casual, untucked silk shirt (the sort you might be wearing with pilates pants as you read this) with a full ballerina skirt and morning-after-the-night-before sunglasses, while Schiaparelli’s Daniel Roseberry made the elasticated-waist pant the epitome of modern elegance.
2. Electric prints
How does the world’s grandest fashion week strike a rebellious note? It ushers in the jeunesse energy of new talent. Enter recent fashion graduate Charles de Vilmorin, whose explosive hand-crafted designs pay homage to couture’s more outré ambitions. As Vogue Runway’s Nicole Phelps reports, De Vilmorin painstakingly painted his textiles by hand. His adage? “You don’t need a special occasion to wear something extra.”
3. The big pink
Is it even Couture Fashion Week if there isn’t a multitude of gigantic blush gowns? We think not. The SS21 couture gospel according to Giambattista Valli? “Go big and stay home,” as he told Vogue via a video call. Valli’s plumptuous pink dresses alluded to the intoxicating effect of a bouquet of fresh peonies. Schiaparelli too fell for fuchsia, unveiling the outrageously surreal ‘earring gown’ (modelled with aplomb by Maggie Maurer), while Armani Privé made a persuasive case for matching your handbag to layers of confectionery tulle.
4. Burnished gold
Is our collective obsession with glowing skin crossing over into fashion? Yes — if the couture runways at Valentino, Fendi and Dior are anything to go by, a radiant wardrobe is set to be just as much a part of your beauty arsenal as a 10-step skincare regime. At Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri enlisted director Matteo Garrone to once again capture the cinematic glow of her designs, which, this season, took inspiration from the mysticism and burnished feel of the historical Visconti-Sforza tarot cards. Over at Fendi, Kim Jones made the case for opulent ‘cheekbone highlighter’ hues that mirrored the all-natural luminosity of supermodel Christy Turlington, who made a surprise runway appearance as part of Jones’s friends-and-family show lineup, alongside Kate and Lila Grace Moss, Bella Hadid and Naomi Campbell.
5. 3D florals
If sunny floral motifs were at one time the stuff of fashion cliche (“Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking”), the resurgence of characterful blooms made a welcome appearance in the SS21 couture collections at Chanel, Giambattista Valli and Fendi. It would be impossible to ignore the respite (and design inspiration) that nature has offered during the various lockdowns that have become an all too familiar part of daily life. As fashion shows temporarily take place virtually, or minus their usual rapturous audiences, some industry rituals have remained. Notably, the giving of enormous floral bouquets, which, through the wondrous 3D designs grown out of Paris’s hallowed ateliers, were symbolically gifted to viewers all around the world this season.