Paris Haute Couture Week has wrapped for another season, having dished up some of the most beautiful looks seen in years.
While the clothes are, of course, far beyond all but the deepest pockets, the runways produced many ideas that us mere mortals can take inspiration from.
Here, we round up some of the key trends that emerged from the four-day event.
Colour, colour, colour
Unveiled in Venice rather than Paris, the Valentino show was an unabashed explosion of colour. Almost as an antidote to the grimness of the pandemic, creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli sent out dramatic caped trousers suits, trapeze sillouettes, micro puff ball dresses and a parade of floating ball gowns, in an astonishing and uplifting palette shifting through raspberry, lilac, chartreuse, aubergine, pea green, violet, burnt chocolate and orchid pink.
Topped with hats by Philip Treacy, of ostrich feathers that undulated like jellyfish with every step, in shades of ruby red, smokey grey and fuchsia, many looks were finished in long opera gloves in burnt copper, mustard or arctic blue.
At Pyer Moss – a newcomer to the world of couture and the first person of colour to be invited to participate – designer Kerby Jean-Raymond offered a collection dedicated to his upbringing in Brooklyn, New York. This included blasts of colour such as a table-turned-dress in red, yellow and blue, a 'fire escape' catsuit in red and orange, and an elegant evening dress, slashed to the hip, in a yellow the colour of sunshine.
Couture for men
This is nothing new for Dolce & Gabbana, which has been creating Alta Sartoria for years, but until now, other houses have been slow to follow.
This season, however, presumably in reply to a shift in thinking brought about by the pandemic, men were suddenly everywhere on the runway.
At Azzaro, men wore oversized, shimmery suits in pinstripe silver, or were clad in shiny leather coats and sequinned trousers, while Giambattista Valli delivered a kandoura and sleek, double-breasted suits teamed with capes. At Balenciaga, men wore single-button, double-breasted suits with built-up shoulders.
The 'new' fur
Despite a historical link with riches and glamour, this season fur had something of a makeover.
At Viktor & Rolf, regal coats came trimmed instead with great cuffs of raffia or shredded plastic, while at Balenciaga, an exaggerated shouldered jacket was made from long silken threads inside of pelt.
At Chanel, a flower-strewn jacket was made entirely of hand-applied feathers, while even Fendi – whose double F motif stands for 'fun furs' – chose to delve through its stock and create fur looks from leftovers, in a statement-making shift of direction.
Again, perhaps in reply to the dark days we have lived through, light seemed of particular importance this season.
Armani Prive used a cloth so iridescent it looked like liquid crystal, while Azzaro opened its show with a women’s smoking suit so dense with sequins, it sparkled like diamonds.
At Fendi, a golden dress was made of metal fragments stitched together to create chainmail, while Stephane Rolland covered bodices in unusual beads of Carrera marble, amber and even Bakelite to create a dazzling new surface.
At Maison Margiela, John Galliano took the idea to the absolute zenith, by crafting a dress from pieces of shattered mirror. Each shard was carefully edged in metal, and then hand-crocheted into a loose dress that shifted the light with every move. Even Dubai label Rami Al Ali, while not creating haute couture, delivered a dress in pale pleated gold, fit for Queen Cleopatra.
Denim is not exactly the first fabric that comes to mind when contemplating haute couture, yet here it was in many iterations.
Balenciaga delivered jeans that were crafted from fabric handwoven on antique Japanese looms, while Jean Paul Gaultier created a military jacket and handkerchief-hem skirt patched from vintage jeans.
Schiaparelli, meanwhile, gathered about 15 pairs of vintage denim jeans and recut them into one astonishing jacket.
Recycle to upcycle
With couture conjured from only the most noble fabrics, an important new development was the introduction of recycled materials into this season's shows.
At Maison Margiela, John Galliano pillaged thrift stores for blue and white handkerchiefs, bandanas and even aprons, that were taken apart and remade into an exquisite caped gown.
At Julie de Libran, one dress was made of vintage Victorian fabric inherited from her grandmother, painstakingly restored and cut into a slip dress.
Viktor & Rolf, meanwhile, presented looks that were patchworked from scraps, while Schiaparelli offered a modern-day matador's outfit, now made from pieces of gold lamé, satin and taffeta, embroidered in gold.
Seen at Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, Stephane Rolland and Chanel, the latest beauty look is a slick of heavy eyeliner underneath the eye. At Dior, it was in deep midnight blues flicked out to a wing, and with the lightest of lines on the top lid.
Over at Schiaparelli, it became a jet-black, almost vampy cat’s eye, while Stephane Rolland opted for a more moody, smoked eye, with thin liner on both eyelids.
At Chanel, eyes were decorated in two colours for the show, with the upper lid a discreet slick of black, while under the eye a strong line of darkest blue flicked out to the side. Interestingly, the colours did not meet at the side, but created a double flick effect.