Chanel and Armani Prive were among the latest maisons to unveil their collections on day two of Haute Couture Week in Paris.
The couture, which was showcased at runway displays on Tuesday, spoke of the skill of the atelier as much as the vision of designers.
Offering a masterclass in the true meaning of couture, the day gave a glimpse of the attention to detail that was truly breathtaking.
Here are the highlights from day two:
At Chanel, Virginie Viard revealed a gently romantic collection in soft tones of pinks and greys, filled with astounding detail. While tricky to grasp virtually, the great beauty of couture comes into its own at close proximity, and here, Viard called on the skill of her atelier to transform sequins, feathers and embroidery into surfaces that echoed Impressionist art.
The urgent brushwork of van Gogh, for example, was translated into darkly gleaming sequins that swirled and eddied like his The Starry Night sky, while the watery marks of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies arrived as hand-painted flower petals, scattered across an empire-line dress.
A dress in the palest blue had a tiered skirt of barely-there feathers, each one coloured and applied by hand, while its halterneck top was made of fragile pompoms of downy fluff, surrounded by lines of silvery sequins.
Elsewhere, a floor-length skirt was teamed with a boxy jacket that at first glance looked to be covered in loose stitches, but turned out to be a flower pattern made of feathers, so delicate it took 2,000 hours to make. If the nobility of couture needed to be summed up in one item, this jacket might just be it.
Over at Armani Prive, meanwhile, the couture side of Giorgio’s fashion empire, the designer, 86, sent out an impossibly chic collection.
Staged in front of a real-life audience, many looks were based around a metallic material so fluid it seemed to be almost liquid, creating a high iridescent sheen that was captivating to watch. In steely grey, it was cut into an elegant gown, with a light ruff of beaded gauze around the shoulders. In Armani's sure hand, though, this was kept from being overly pretty with a blunt-cut hem, sliced through at the ankle.
In apricot pink, the same material was carved into a column dress topped with a beaded bodice, while in dark rose, it also appeared as a fitted dress overlaid with organza, beaded to resemble the dashes of an artist's pencil.
There was also a series of looks made of sheer tulle skirts worn with cigarette trousers underneath, teamed with Armani's perfectly tailored, bracelet-sleeve jackets. Unfussy and stripped of adornment, many looks were beautifully simple, making those with beading feel even more precious. With florals a favourite pattern of Armani, here they arrived as light washes of colour, seemingly hand-painted on to organza in great sweeping strokes.
Stephane Rolland, meanwhile, played with opposites for his couture collection. With exaggerated silhouettes, in sunshine yellow, fiery red, black and aged gold, Rolland tipped the flowing fabric against large-scale beading in unexpected materials.
A voluminous gown in sunflower yellow had oversized sleeves and beading of Bakelite and crystal, as a tunic dress in antique gold had the entire front decorated with beads of marble, amber and citrin.
One look seemed to have stepped straight out of a fairy tale, as if Little Red Riding Hood had suddenly taken to wearing couture to meet her grandmother. Here, Rolland mixed the drama of red satin yardage – with a hood that ended somewhere around the waist – with a stiff bodice, completely covered in marble, red coral and crystal.
A strapless gown in inky black silk faille, meanwhile, had a "spine" of ruffles that stretched from shoulder to floor, and balanced the tight bodice covered in a mosaic of marble and Bakelite.