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Paris Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2014

Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose?

by Gladys Perint Palmer

In three days, during the January haute couture shows in Paris, you can see everything from Lady Gaga morphing into Donatella Versace, to granny’s tiara, depending, of course, if granny is a royal.

There were ball gowns galore; more and more frocks from fewer and fewer couturiers. Just days before the shows, I received a flurry of emails regretfully cancelling this or that runway show.

Perhaps the reason is that few designers are showing daywear, focusing only on the red carpet. A true couture client, not a semi-celebrity from Los Angeles, has nothing to wear for breakfast, lunch, or tea…..

The buzz words are brands and codes (one grand dame misunderstood this for “brush and comb”).

The word “brand” reminds me of farmers branding cattle. Quite apt, there were too many logos. “Code” (as in a past designer’s style DNA) is more Morse than nostalgia.

There are the new young designers, trawling through archives to resuscitate old dead designers—who were not all that original in the first place.

There are a few couturiers who never disappoint. Azzedine Alaïa heads the list—and, guess what? He did not propose a runway show because he was the star of Paris at the Palais Galliera and Musée Matisse where his brand-old designs are brand new. The exhibition closed on January 26th.

Azzedine shows a collection only when he is in the mood. He might—or might not—have a show in March 2014. He might decide to invite only clients. And, the day after a show for clients only, he might tell his loyal press attaché, Olivier Collinet, “Tomorrow we’ll do a show for the press.”

Azzedine fits every garment himself and never works with stylists.

Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel never looks back. This season he has liberated women with embroidered, tulle-wrapped couture sneakers by Raymond Massaro, the third generation cobbler whose grandfather started the business in 1894.

Now we can all run for the bus.

Not Karl. He wore elegant crocodile boots with his Hedi Slimane frock-coat. In case you are wondering, Hedi Slimane designs the women’s collection at Saint Laurent Paris, previously known as Yves Saint Laurent.

Raf Simons at Christian Dior has also dispensed with shoes that film stars cannot walk in and must carry (Julia Roberts, Emma Thompson).

What a difference a year makes. In January 2013, during a spectacular blizzard, Valérie Trierweiler sat on Bérnard Arnault’s right at Dior. This January, Val trashed the Elysée Palace, then got the heave-ho from the President of the Republic…. and went to Mumbai. Is Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, the new Coventry?

The Dior collection provides some lovely frocks for Jennifer Lawrence, who may or may not be the next ‘face’ of Dior—a contract worth between one and 20 million dollars.

In a Raf Simons short dress and flat shoes, she probably won’t fall over when she collects her next award, nor will she garner snide comments (as she did at the Golden Globes).

For grand haute couture, there is Valentino. Designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Poccioli were inspired by grand opera and by nature.

A maroon tulle tutu with a glittering snake girding the bodice may have been a reference to the temptation of Adam and Eve. I was certainly tempted….

Butterflies fluttered and landed on two delightful collections, so appropriate for spring…at Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexis Mabille.

Stéphane Rolland, another international red carpet favorite, showed an aerodynamic and beautiful collection.

Questions: How do you get to the awards ceremony? How do you sit down at the post-Oscar dinner? What is the most important accessory?

Answers: Walk. Stay on your feet. Only attend buffets. Tell your stylist to let off steam.


Gladys Perint Palmer’s guests, Rosita, Angela, and Margherita Missoni will attend the Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion Graduation Fashion Show on May 8, at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. (Gladys’s book Adam & Eves is now available in paperback at Amazon and


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