fashion – haute couture

(image from
Today I finally had a chance to watch the documentary movie Valentino – The Last Emperor on the BBC Four website. (It was shown as part of the channel’s Storyville series, which showcases documentaries around the world.) Valentino is one of my favorite fashion designers, and I find documentary to be absolutely fascinating, to say the least.

If you missed the original broadcast on BBC Four earlier this month, you can still catch it on the BBC Four website in the next 24 days. (But I assume this is only available for viewers in the UK.)

You can find more information on the documentary on and IMDb.

Related posts:

Valentino Haute Couture Collection for Spring/Summer 2007

Zac Posen Ready-to-Wear Collection for Spring/Summer 2008

Fashion City: Nottingham


Flowy, and feminine were the first words that came to mind…

Valentino has been one of my favorite designers since I started to be interested in fashion in the 80’s. He has been such an icon and I love his designs still.

This collection is almost the opposite to Dior’s that I equally love. While Galliano’s creations are bold and flamboyant, Valentino’s are softer and calmer. But surprisingly, to me, they almost have the same visual impact. The two collections are both extremely coherent with their respective themes (and therefore so memorable) and that explains my fondness for both.

When the color palette is mainly white and palest shades of beige and pink, the shape, texture and pattern are immediately under the spotlight. The harmonious combination of fur, silk, and chiffon adds depth and dimension. It is almost as if the simplicity of the color scheme is to showcase this seamless harmony.

The shapes of the dresses are simple and clean, and the details are so exquisite. (I really enjoyed looking at the detail photos and marveling at all the ruffles, folds, and embroidery.) The whole effect is a sheer sense of elegance, further enhanced by the piled-up hair and retro-style makeup.

To me, this collection is a master class in understated and sophisticated glamour.


When I was very young, our local news sometimes showed clips of fashion shows when it was rolling the end credits. Some featured bizarre and impractical garments and my father always frowned and asked “Who would wear that?”

A bit later, I became aware that there seemed to be two types of fashion shows. One featured pieces we could see in shops, while one showcased luxurious fabrics and elaborate craftsmanship and consolidated the image of a fashion house. The latter one is, of course, haute couture.

Strictly speaking, the term haute couture is protected by law in France and has a legal definition. (See more here, for a legal definition for a couture house and for a list of official couture houses, regulated by Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris.)

I love my technicalities, but I will stop here.

When I saw photos of John Galliano’s work for the latest Christian Dior’s haute couture collection, I was really amazed. The oriental theme continued throughout the collection. There is a vibrant mix of colors, from soft blue, pink, lilac to bold yellow, fuchsia, and turquoise, to deep plum and black, with orange and green in between.

Some of the garments have many kimono elements in them, but it is the other touches that complete the concept: the fans, the bonsai branches, the lanterns, and all the origami details (I saw the exact same origami flowers that I used to make).

The wide tie-up belts and the big volume of the dresses make the models very doll-like. It reminds me of the doll dresses I used to make with some of my own stuff.

I have seen couture collections based on an oriental theme, but this one really stands out for the visual impact. It is undoubtedly flamboyant, but I also think the flamboyance is actually very controlled here, so it is not just about being big and over-the-top. It is at the same time very well-contained so we are also drawn to the wonderful detail and the sheer beauty of shape and balance.

This is by far one of the best couture collections I have seen in quite a long time, and I believe it will remain unbeatable for a while.

Later I’d like to talk about the sheer elegance of Valentino’s couture collection.

Next post: over-hyped cosmetics items.