Paris Haute Couture Week Spring Summer 2022 which took place from January 24, 2022 to January 27, 2022 indicated a return to pre-pandemic live audience shows. Haute couture calls for craftsmanship and luxury fashion brands pulled out the stops — from Chanel‘s Horse Girl to Dior‘s homage to hand craftsmanship and Valentino embracing full-figured models. Though the roster was packed with twenty-nine fashion houses, the fifteen live audience showings — including  Dior, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Valentino and Jean-Paul Gaultier — were not full due to travel restrictions. Of course, a few labels felt caught in the cross-fire between live shows and digitalisation; Julien Fournie and Giambattista Valli replaced their shows with digital presentations while Armani pulled out. Here, our favourite shows at Paris Haute Couture Week.

Chanel

”It’s a summer collection, so it’s very fresh, even with a lot of embroideries,” Chanel’s artistic director Virginie Viard told Vogue. ”I was inspired by the ’20s a little—the feathers, the fringe, the feminine side of the Constructivists, the girl inside!”

Inspired by 1920s Wold Fairs and artists like Sonia and Robert Delaunay, French contemporary artist Xavier Veilhan staged the set with spinning discs and sustainable plywood walkways in a palette of black, white and beige. ”I like the classic Chanel,” Veilhan told Vogue. ”And I like sport and it’s funny to think that the Chanel tailleur is something you can wear for playing golf, or riding a horse.” The live audience showing opened with Monaco’s Princess Grace Kelly’s granddaughter Charlotte Casiraghi, dressed in a black tweed sequinned jacket, riding an eight year old Spanish bay horse, Kuskus, that galloped around Grand Palais Éphémère.

Monaco’s Princess Grace Kelly’s granddaughter Charlotte Casiraghi rides a horse on the Chanel catwalk

Per Vogue, ‘Viard’s new take on the summer tweed Chanel suit features a skirt that doesn’t quite wrap around and reveals a lace or jagged feather dress underneath… the trouser legs are split at the side from mid-calf to upper thigh. That ’20s and ’30s Gatsby mood that Viard discussed in the preview was made manifest in filmy chiffon and organza dresses with uneven hems… and trailing scarf panels that drifted from the shoulder—a Coco Chanel device of the period. Slithering satin evening dresses seemed to be suspended from necklaces and were draped to reveal the back, and tiny beaded gilets could be slipped on to amplify the glamour quotient.’

Giambattista Valli

With the pandemic continuing to reign havoc in Paris, Giambattista Valli began getting calls from his clientele that they were skipping the season.  When members of his team began dropping out after testing positive for Covid, the couturier reworked his approach and chose digitalisation. Per Vogue, ‘the film he created in place of a show combined his pre-fall 2022 and spring 2022 haute couture collections on one runway, freely alternating between industrial and artisanal clothes-making… And while it’s no secret that his couture clients aren’t necessarily the same as his pre-collection customers.. it’s all about showing the synergy that exists within his house.’

”We have a new market. You can really see that in the collection. It’s a great exercise for us, because the teams are growing. We have new buyers who love the couture, but they see there is a connection between the two, he told Vogue. ‘We are small. We’re not Dior or Chanel. In a way, this is very positive, but we still have a conversation between all of us. There are no walls. Everything is open, even mentally.”

Christian Dior

Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Christian Dior couture collection was an investment in slow fashion and sustainability. The artistic director decked out the show space in the garden of Musée Rodin in hand embroidered tapestries created by artists Madhvi and Manu Parekh and handmade by a school of crafts in India which educates women on the art of specialised hand embroidery. Who would imagine it took three hundred and eighty artisans to hand embroider the installation, which was open to the public from January 25-30 as a transitory art exhibit?

Dior Haute Couture SS22. Image Credit: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

”The collection celebrates the atelier,” Maria Grazia Chiuri said during a preview. “I wanted to explain that the atelier is different to what it was in the past. It’s not just Avenue Montaigne. It’s something that exists around the world. We have different ateliers – in Paris, in India – and a dialogue between them. It’s about realising something together. It’s community work.”

To illustrate that hand embroidery is an integral part of the silhouette, a long cashmere cape was pieced together with hand embroidery instead of plain stitching and a hand embroidered silk crepe breastplate was part of the construction of a long silk dress. It was masterful the way Churi showcased elegant daywear through the prism of haute couture. A woollen pant suit and a woollen day dress with intricate hand embroidered details stood out for its simplicity.The formal silhouettes were a sculpted, statuesque line particularly the ivory silk crepe halter dress and the cowled backless dress in silver lamé muslin.

Valentino

Artistic Director Pierpaolo Piccioli walked the inclusivity talk by keeping the codes of couture, but changing the values to give the broad spectrum of models an opportunity, in place of the thin, classical beauty. ”When you do couture, you have the house model. And you apply the body of the house model to fifty or sixty models on the runway. I wanted to break these rules and embrace the idea of different proportions of body, different sizes, different ages. But it was impossible to do this with just one house model. So, I broke the rules and got ten house models in with differently proportioned bodies,” he told Vogue.

Dior Haute Couture SS22

This change in mindset was followed by new silhouettes. Per Vogue, ‘His signature monastic Roman lines and Hellenistic drapery morphed into shapes that registered more dynamic, more mid-century, more glamorous… The intertwined straps of an ebony velvet gown framed the shoulders of the model and pulled in her waist, the volume of its skirt balancing out the proportions. A chocolate stretch tulle dress covered in two kilos of Venetian glass beads hand-embroidered for three months hugged the body, allowing the beads to shape and support the model’s frame… Throughout, he demonstrated how couture can build a silhouette around the body, and either highlight a person”s shape or manipulate it through dressmaking.’

”I feel that if you don’t deliver the ideas of power and strength and fierceness with these kinds of shapes, you’re missing the message,” Piccioli told Vogue. ”This could deliver a strong message for young people who are struggling with something. If she”s beautiful, you can be beautiful… The body modifies with age. They’re still as beautiful but the shape is different. I wanted to capture the beauty of how the body modifies… Once we’d had enough of all the canons, we discovered that humanity is the only canon that”s valid: freedom; be yourself. That”s the real canon.”