The Spring 2012 Haute Couture shows have just wrapped in all their sartorial splendour in Paris, and with the fall of the last bridal veil comes the necessary dissection of each collection with a level of precision and intricate craftwork rivalled only by the couturier seamstresses themselves. Just kidding, those French bag-ladies have nothing on me.

As is often the case with the couture collections, there comes in equal parts both a measure of nostalgia befitting of the time-honoured artistry of haute couture (see Valentino, Dior) in balance with the more forward-thinking vision and immediately recognisable identity of designers such as Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy. It’s something of a contradiction: an art form recognised as undisputedly outdated, available only to some ridiculous 0.5% of the infamous 1%, yet highly influenced by the signifiers of popular culture (see Jean Paul Gaultier). Haute couture is all about craftsmanship, with literally thousands of hours invested into the spiralling of organza or the embroidering of crocodile skin, but only as long as the clothes can be photographed on or around the conglomeration of red carpet starlets who will, when it all filters down, help sell the lifeblood of these design houses: sunglasses, wallets and perfume. Smells good, right?

Jean Paul Gaultier
Gaultier went back to black with Amy Winehouse proving to be the definitive influence on the designer’s Spring 2012 collection. In a spirit of excess, celebration and mourning, JPG channelled Winehouse’s signature style through hypercoloured beehive wigs, thick cat-eye eyeliner, polo shirts, pencil skirts, leather varsity jackets and trench coat gowns alongside a procession of black-veiled couture brides/mourners and Gaultier’s signature Breton stripes and pin-stripe tailoring. Andrej Pejic once again took his place as a Gautier girl alongside fellow Australians Tallulah Morton and Ajak Deng.

Karl Lagerfeld’s presence was felt around the world this week with a succession of worldwide pop-ups to herald the launch of his Karl collaboration with e-commerce magnate Net-A-Porter. While Karl went global, Chanel went intergalactic with the Grand Palais undergoing yet another transformation into a hybrid aeroplane/space shuttle. Lagerfeld showed sixty outfits in one hundred and fifty shades of blue with a couture punk ethos inspired by his latest muse, Alice Dellal.The Kaiser emerged at the end, as one would expect, from the cockpit. Antipodes Rose Smith and Caitlin Lomax took to the aisles as mile-haute stewardesses.

A similar punk vibe carried through to Givenchy, where Riccardo Tisci’s offering of ten looks brought together signifiers of his fascination with American culture (stars and stripes) as well as the minotaur-inspired nasal septum piercings seen last week in his Fall 2012 Menswear offering. Tisci, who can apparently do no wrong, also found inspiration in 1920s film, particularly Fritz Lang’s seminal 1927 film Metropolis. The resulting collection wavered between black, white and brown, with crocodile featuring prominently alongside workman’s tank tops rendered in silk and cashmere. Ridiculous.

Christian Dior
One year on from John Galliano’s departure from Dior, and the subsequent panning of his right-hand man Bill Gaytten’s previous couture offering, things are looking up for the House that Dior built. The focus here was on construction and craftsmanship (duh) with sheer fabrics allowing a black and white x-ray glimpse into the construction of garments embroidered again with crocodile, ostrich and sequins aplenty. The soundtrack by Lana Del Ray highlighted both elements of nostalgia in the resurrection of classic Dior shapes such as the bar jacket, as well as the high level of (image) construction so central to the collection. Ajak Deng also walked, looked pretty darn good.

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