Of all the international Fashion Weeks held throughout the year, the haute couture shows, while incredibly impressive, aren't exactly where you'd expect to encounter many surprises. Yet the autumn '16 couture catwalks, which just wrapped up in Paris and Rome, delivered some unexpected twists. Yes, the breathtaking fashion was there, but there was a sense of, well, disruption. We know, we know: that word feels tired and almost devoid of meaning for the fashion crowd, given the ongoing upheaval of the traditional show schedule, not to mention the myriad ways brands are toying with the show format. It's not a descriptor that often comes up when we're talking about this hand-worked, unbelievably detail-oriented craft, but it's fitting for the latest showcase of haute couture.
Given all the changes in how we consume fashion and the cost and labour-intensive nature of this particular métier, the whole meaning of couture is being called into question. And, while we can always expect some collective cooing at the sheer detail of the clothes making their way down the catwalk, this year's collections were more out-there than usual.
Plus, Vetements, the streetwear label and, basically, the most talked-about fashion label these days, was present, showing its SS17 collection with the help of some familiar brands in the same timespan (but certainly not on the same official calendar, or with the same accreditation) as the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture-vetted houses.
There was also plenty of drama compared to the spring '16 shows, both in terms of silhouette (from sculptural sleeves to duvet-like cascading gowns) and embellishment (think sturdy, plastic wrap-esque bodices and Swarovski crystal-coated silicone). This season, collections were described as "topsy-turvy," "opulent," and even "wearable," on top of the standard reaction, which is something along the lines of "oooh, prettyyyyy." Ahead, we highlight some of the most remarkable and mesmerising looks from autumn '16 couture.