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High drama: a fresh energy

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With the return of established houses and spellbinding collections from new labels, a fresh energy swept through the haute couture spring/summer 2012 shows, marie claire took a front-row seat.

 

Description: High drama

Christian Dior

Description: Christian Dior

Christian Dior

An X-ray vision of the Parisian house’s iconic look was the focus of an intimate presentation at its Avenue Montaigne headquarters. Layers of tulle and folds of transparent silk revealed the complex construction of the collection, exposing the underpinnings of wasp-waisted dresses and flared, full skirts. Bill Gaytten, the designer who has held the position of acting creative director since the departure of John Galliano, echoed this effect in a dramatic series of ball gowns in degrade grey and fiery red, which closed the show.

Giambattista Valli

Description: Giambattista Valli

Giambattista Valli

This may only the Italian-born designer’s second made-to-measure season, but his elegant collection proved he’s no novice when it comes to couture. And ode to the art of the atelier, the show drew on the sculptural silhouettes and impossibly intricate detailing that are the markers of haute fashion. Peplum jackets were twisted into giant bows, while appliquéd blooms were scattered across coat dresses and clustered over lace cocktail skirts. The mostly monochrome palette gave way to a burst of ripe berry shades for a finale of sweeping chiffon gowns.

Jean Paul Gaultier

Description: Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier

From the moment the first model sauntered out with a black beehive, an exaggerated flick of eyeliner and a pencil skirt cinched with a lurid orange belt, it was clear that late singer Amy Winehouse would figure in the French designer’s collection. The looks that followed were a tribute to her irreverent style, which somehow managed to marry the jazz icon’s ragged flamboyance with the grandeur of couture. Pinstriped suits cut to fall suggestively off the shoulder and satin-trimmed corsets were paraded to a cappella renditions of the songstress’s music, which underscored her absence.

Chanel

Description: Chanel

Chanel

Designer Karl Lagerfeld took couture to the skies and beyond with a set designed to look like a futuristic space shuttle. Champagne was served from wheeled trolleys as guests took their places on numbered, airline-style seats. Painted entirely in blue (154 shades, to be exact), the collection’s drop-waisted silhouette lent the decadently embellished designs an air of ease. Iridescent paillettes added a glimmering edge to slim, straight dresses, and tweed jackets were threaded with glittering crystals. If only we could all travel Air Chanel…

Atelier Versace

The Italian fashion house has always sent flashbulbs popping, and the scene was no different at the label’s much anticipated return to haute couture. Standing front row was a line-up of Hollywood starlets, drawn by the siren call of designer Donatella Versace’s glamorous gowns. Stepping down a series of gilded steps, models pouted and posed in curve-contouring bodysuits and sparkling lace dresses, sculpted with gleaming gold corsets. The fiercely feminine designs had a futuristic appeal, highlighted by synthetic hues of acid green and shocking yellow.

Description: Atelier Versace

Atelier Versace

Valentine

Description: Valentine

Valentine

Opening with a smocked gown in whisper-thin organza that took more than 1,000 hours to create, Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria GraziaChiuri’s romantic collection drew inspiration from portraits of a young Marie Antoinette. Delecate floral prints trailed over taffeta coats were paired with billowing skirts, while floor-sweeping silk dresses were veiled with a filmy cloud of tulle and lace. Although the silhouette was demure, models had a casual grace, striding out in dainty flat slippers, their hair tied back loosely with pale pink ribbons.

Armani Privé

Description: Armani Privé

Armani Privé

Designer Giorgio Armani took the serpent and metamorphosis as his themes for a powerful collection that was shown in a spectrum of green. A line-up of precision-cut jackets were worn with mesh tops cut in the shape of scales, and sleek trousers or skirts folded to resemble cocoons. From the chrysalis of day wear emerged the evening looks – a show-stopping set of sinuous gowns that twisted around the models’ slender forms in shimmering sequins. Models wore their hair nonchalantly undone as a contemporary counterpoint to the all-out opulence.

Want to see more?

You can view further beautiful images from the couture shows on your smartphone or iPad right now. If you have an iPhone, iPad or Android phone, follow these simple steps to get started:

1. Download the free Digimarc Discover app from the iTunes App Store or Android Market.

2. Launch the app, click ‘look’ and point your camera over the photo at the top of this page.

3. Wait for your phone to beep and the additional images will appear.

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