Motley Fashion Editor Grace Claro gives you the lowdown on the Spring Summer 2021 Haute Couture Collections in Paris

The 2021 Spring Summer collections which debuted on the catwalks at last week’s runway shows at Paris Couture Week, brought with them a welcome freshness and frivolity. Never before have I been as grateful to witness the rippling silks, flouncing skirts, and effortless glide of the  models as they swoosh past the cameras on their runway circuit. This year I sat back, phone in hand and watched the shows as they streamed live on Instagram. I noticed a lot of perspex and socially distanced models, which seemed to jar the fantasy, but the designers managed to deliver a tour-de-force of colour, playfulness and a certain bombasticity synonymous with haute couture. While it was a stunning array, there were some who missed the mark, resulting in some pedestrian pièces de résistance.


Iris Van Herpen

Iris Van Herpen’s ‘Roots of Rebirth’ collection launched on January 25th. The collection is a steady continuation of her trademark technology meets biology oeuvre. 3D printing and exoskeletal structures were again a feature and there was new fluidity and elemental composition in her work.  Inspired by natural forms, Look 4, a white and embroidered bodice with flowing sage green silk resembles an aerial view of a river delta. The fabric flows like water from an estuary. Transparent 3D printed exoskeletal nail art worn on the models’ fingers were intended to look like root shoots which are actively growing and seeking new soil to regenerate. This is much like us as human beings, constantly in search of grounding and extending our roots with the hope of growth and development. 



Kim Jones’ debut as Artistic Director at FENDI brought us vintage pastels, yet more sage greens, unisex gowns, house coats and library shelves giving a delicate yet sumptuous 1920s glamour. The wistful library vibes were said to have been inspired by Virginia Woolf. I don’t know if Virginia would have appreciated a very demure Demi Moore reposing in a strange perspex partition with a dusty library shelf. Neither would she have appreciated the wildly overgrown heath grasses and meadow flowers which spring forth from this enchanted library, but hey, it’s all for the ~aesthetic~ right? To be honest I was more taken by the set design than the collection this time around. 



I’m sure Shiaparelli has gained notoriety in recent weeks following the reception of Lady Gaga’s stunning inauguration dress. Navy and red are always a classic combination for me and the gold dove brooch set off the whole look. Schiaparelli’s 2021 Spring Summer collection is equally stunning, and varied at that.  Large crepe structures play with form with overt drama. A bright fuchsia dress suspended from a headpiece was a standout piece in the new collection

Playing with texture. And how could we not obsess over the fake six-pack leather corset which Kim Kardashian sported in hulk green back in December. Hats off to Daniel Roseberry on this one. 



I absolutely adored this collection from Dior, it is one of my favourites from the last few years. The lookbook gave me baroque portrait vibes, the hazy veneer of the photography has the time-worn oeuvre of historical artworks. Embroidered capes honour past fashions over the centuries rather than creating a pastiche. The craftsmanship and consideration of the fabric is evident. The empire waistline emulated by the Bridgerton craze is prominent in the collection. I have to agree with New York Times’ very own Vanessa Friedman in saying that couture did it better, with sumptuously woven pomegranate patterns reminiscent of 15th century Florentine fabrics. Call me a traditionalist, a Renaissance fanatic even, but I am a sucker for some historically inspired fashion. 



Gold was also a big feature in Valentino’s collection for Spring Summer 2021. This one did not hit the mark for me. The model’s faces were covered in gold leaf which reminded me of Joseph Beuys 1965 performance ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare’ and perhaps this dampened my interpretation of the pieces. With neon greens and fuschia, I found the whole assemblage off putting. With the backdrop of the Palazzo Colonna in Rome, the street style sleeveless padded hoodies of quilted gold fabric, the cut off shorts and the sprinkling of tinsel and large shiny beading suspended from the models- it all seemed incongruous to me. Unless that was the intention and I am not receptive of its genius. I beg to differ. 



In the Chanel couture show we saw various iterations of the classic woven suit and sharp 1960s tailoring. There didn’t seem to be anything fresh this time however I did enjoy the bunched tulle floor-length skirts which brought a playful yet not incongruent volume to the collection. My favourite look from the show was the loose fit silk button shirt which was worn untucked over a black mesh tulle floor length skirt. You can’t go wrong with that effortless Chanel chic.


Giambattista Vali

Giambattista Vali was back with more volume and vibrancy than ever. Tiers of mesh ruffles cascade from the shoulders and dramatic headpieces much like your average race day fascinator. 


There were also some new faces this year. Newcomers Area promoted size inclusive looks with a sequined serpentine bodycon dress being one of the standout pieces for me. For Rahul Mishra detail is a key component in his designs, which are a glorious composition of traditional Indian and contemporary Western styles. And Charles de Vilmorin brought bold colour, and lots of it with his hand-painted garments embodying the carnivalesque. 


And so with the shows coming to an end, haute couture lives on for yet another year in all its opulent glory. Overall, I enjoyed all the collections, they served to remind me why I love fashion and they satiated my penchant for excessive apparel. I have clearly stated my biased opinions on who my favourites were, but who stole the show for you?

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