Haute Couture’s Homage to Athleticism, Iconic Inspirations and Reinvention

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Photo: Thom Browne

The Haute Couture Fall 2024 season has come and gone, leaving us with memories of some of the most showstopping, intricate and unconventional looks in the fashion world as of late. This season was especially significant, with the highly anticipated Paris Summer Olympic Games quickly approaching; some couture houses drew inspiration from the dynamism of sporting events and athletic prowess. Maria Grazia Chiuri’s rendition of ancient Greek garments associated with the classical roots of the games and Thom Browne’s theatrical interpretation of sportswear through deconstructed yet exuberant garments to honour the atelier. While Chanel embraced their house codes’ timelessness and enduring strength, Daniel Roseberry’s Schiaparelli and Demna’s Balenciaga significantly focused on architectural and sculptural details to convey a message. Ahead, LUXUO presents the highlights of Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week, from Thom Browne’s ode to master craftsmanship to Balenciaga’s rejection of couture norms.


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Look 1. Photo: Dior

The theme of athleticism and sports influences were evident at this season’s haute couture week. This was particularly evident due to the upcoming Paris Summer Olympic Games, especially Dior as a French maison under LVMH. Maria Grazia Chiuri drew inspiration from the ancient roots of the Olympic games, whose origins first go back to honouring the ancient Greek God, Zeus. Chiuri incorporated the Olympic theme by modernising the distinct characteristics of the ancient Greek uniforms as a nod to modernity and freedom.

Models graced the runway with toga-like garments, gladiator sandals and “peplos” — a garment made of a single piece of fabric draped across the body and folded at the waistline, a technique inspired by Christian Dior himself, as seen in Look 1 and 20. Her intention to interpret sportswear through a couture lens can be seen through her use of jersey fabrics instead of conventional couture materials such as satin, which are typically robust or heavy. The use of jersey material adds to the freedom of movement, the antithesis of restrictive clothing, allowing the body to adopt fluid forms for better movement. The feminist creative director has long spoken against the restrictive silhouettes of couture fashion, choosing instead to prioritise notions of lightness and the comfort of the wearer. Perhaps Chiuri’s disdain for couture’s theatrics and drama speaks to the changed attitude of women in sports, of which in the past were made to describe the unnecessary nature of donning form-fitting corsets while playing sports. Thus, her emphasis on the freedom of movement takes on a symbolic and physical form to empower and free women from societal restraints through the art of couture.

Read more: The Codification of Athleisure is No Longer Relevant


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Look 9. Photo: The CUT

With Demna’s creative direction at Balenciaga, audience expect the unexpected, and that is precisely what was delivered this couture week. While the collection was criticised for not adhering to the standard of what the industry believes as haute couture, Demna’s subversive and unconventional aesthetic was one that garnered much buzz. Tried and true to Demna’s typical creative codes, models graced the runway in oversized T-shirts, sports jerseys, jeans and flannels. While one may ask if it qualifies as couture at all, everyday garments were manipulated, transforming into sculptural looks, with streetwear and goth influences done through a couture lens.

Demna’s edgy flair — while extremely evident — does incorporate hallmarks of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s oeuvre, which were modernised in Demna’s distinctive style with looks featuring cocooning silhouettes constructed from denim, leather and nylon. Additionally, Demna’s thoughts behind his choice of fabrics reflected his desire to normalise everyday fabrics in haute couture and that other materials should be included in the couture vocabulary, as he explained. The strategic choice of fabrics was also intended to prompt the fashion world to reconsider how we ascribe value to our clothing and to ask why one material is more precious than another. Demna’s juxtaposing silhouette and material choices not only break couture norms but also sparks debate and discussion of what constitutes as couture. Couture embodies the art of fashion, taking fabrics and transforming them in addition to the level of craftsmanship and skill it takes to execute sculptural garments like these. Do the materials and unconventional styles dictate a collection’s place in couture?


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Look 1. Photo: Schiaparelli

Schiaparelli couture shows are shows that truly encapsulate fashion as an art form. American designer and Schiaparelli creative director Daniel Roseberry, cited the 1950s silhouettes as his inspiration for his latest collection. The collection titled “The Phoenix” took place in Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, kindled only with a series of dimly lit chandeliers. As expected, the models emerged with sculptural and architectural garments, made in various textures and exaggerated silhouettes which were ingeniously emphasised with strategic lighting.

“The Phoenix”, which saw Roseberry drew inspiration from, a coq-feathered stole house founder Elsa Schiaparelli wore to the opening of the Ambassadeurs restaurant in Paris in 1941. With that in mind, the idea of rebirth is presented in the collection with a less costume-centric approach, focusing on pure artistry and craftsmanship to show the brand’s elasticity. This is evident from the get-go, alluding to rebirth with phoenix imagery, as seen in Look 1, opening with a velvet cape adorned with trompe l’oeil feathered embroidery in three-dimensional chrome.

With this, the designer expressed his desire to shrug off his “meme” fashion reputation by referencing the archetypes of midcentury Haute Couture, showcasing expert techniques like intricate millefeuille layering, placed in circles creating full volume on the arabesque hems of an hourglass dress as seen in Look 10. The designer also set his ambition to empower women through his artistic vision, intending for each piece to be seen as a unique stand-alone garment designed to evoke emotions and embrace the body. Thus, by placing significant focus on the sculptural and architectural aspects of the garment, he constantly reinventing his creative codes, he essentially becomes a rising phoenix himself.

Read more: The Evolution of Fashion Designers to Creative Directors

Thom Browne

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Look 1. Photo: Thom Browne

In celebration of the brand’s 20-year anniversary, American designer Thom Browne presented his couture show in Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs. The designer showed off his creative prowess, master artistry and craftsmanship by surprising the fashion world by deviating from the brand’s usual classic and simple style to striking and overtly theatrical garments. While the 48 works appeared in muted colours, the imaginative vision came to life in the extravagant silhouettes, layering and intricate embellishments.

Browne and his team of expert artisans heavily focused on the tailoring canvas of the collection, using six weights of muslin, some stacked into millefeuille layers to create volume, corseted with match buttons or canvases for embellishments. The designer interpreted sports influences in playing with the contrasting themes of reconstruction and deconstruction. Dubbed by the designer himself, “couture is the Olympics of fashion”, classic all-American sports garments were taken up a notch, being reconstructed through a couture lens, creating tailored sports coats, pleated tennis skirts and shorts made with muslin and an added couture flair. Most notably, Hourglass silhouettes and a bustier dress graced the runway, displaying half a bright red beaded muscular system as seen in Look 42. The show closed with a trio of fully embroidered bronze, silver and gold jackets, participating in a medal ceremony to allow the details to shine.

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Look 42. Photo: Thom Browne

The imagery of human anatomy along, sporting influences with the ultimate display of craftsmanship hints at the Browne’s intention of showcasing the “beauty of the hand rather than the machine”. The lack of colour draws focus the elevated skill and the unwavering level of artistry at the atelier, from the intricacy of the embroidery to the extravagant layering of the muslin.

Read more: The Symbiotic Relationship Of Celebrity’s Children And Legacy Brands


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Look 1. Photo: Chanel

The 2024 Fall Couture show marked Chanel’s first show since the departure of former creative director Virginie Viard. While the Grand Palais has long been the home of Chanel couture shows from the iconic Karl Lagerfeld era — with it being recently refurbished for the upcoming Olympics — Chanel ensued the help of French director Christophe Honoré to lend his artistic flair to the Paris Opera.

The collection was collectively headed by the skilled in-house team Chanel referred to as the “Fashion Creation Studio”, creating a collection of the house’s classic tweed garments, billowing taffeta capes and exaggerated collars as a nod to opera stars and prima ballerinas. Looks 10 and 14 picture above, are clear indications that the collection essentially reverted back to classics, modernising them with colour and texture changes to adhere to house standards. Bows, capes and tweed were recurring motifs throughout the collection, embellished with fringe, jewels and frilled detailing to add that haute couture flair. While yes, the collection displayed opulence and adhered to the theatrics of couture to harmonise with the grandeur of the opera, the pieces that walked the runway are clear indications of the enduring, unwavering strength of the house codes. Despite the absence of a creative director, the experts at the Chanel atelier have genuinely demonstrated the pride in rich heritage and timelessness of a strongly defined house code.

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