Of all the Fashion Weeks slated throughout the year, the Haute Couture shows, while beyond gorgeous, aren't exactly where you'd expect to encounter many surprises. Yet the fall '16 couture runways, which just wrapped up in Paris and Milan, 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, incredibly detail-oriented craft, but it's fitting for the latest wave of haute couture.
Given all the changes in how we consume fashion and the cost- and labor-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 runway, 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 spring '17 with the help of some familiar mall 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 zaniest and straight-up incredible looks from fall '16 couture.