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Haute Couture AW23 Paris round-up
Jean Paul Gaultier x Julien DossenaCourtesy of Jean Paul Gaultier

Cardi B, kinky latex, and Yves Klein: your one-stop hot couture round-up

Everything you missed from the AW23 Paris Haute Couture shows, featuring Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel, Gaultier, and more

No sooner had the SS24 menswear season come to a close last week, it was time for a fresh round of Haute Couture shows in Paris. But where men’s was bathed in sunlight and the mood felt light and optimistic, this time around the biannual event was backdropped by social unrest. As protestors gathered across the city to express grief and rage in response to the brutal murder of a 17-year-old Nahel M at the hands of the French police, a debate broke out on social media, with some calling for the shows to be cancelled, and others stating reasons as to why they should go ahead. The week eventually played out as planned. Here is a guide to what you missed.


Pieter Mulier kicked the season off in his usual pre-Couture Sunday night slot with a sunset show  staged on the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor bridge. Encouraging guests to bring along the chic leather camping stools that served as invitations to sit on, Mulier also sent out a poetic little WhatsApp message detailing the themes of the show on arrival: this season, the designer explained, was about the passage of time and timelessness, which was further hammered home by the boom of the ticking clock that soundtracked the whole thing.

As the sun sank towards the Seine, intermittently breaking through soft pale grey clouds, the show got started, and, even more so than usual, it was nothing short of breathtaking. On a stellar cast of supers old and new – including house faves Mariacarla Boscono and Irina Shayk, plus Amelia Gray, Adwoa Aboah, and Mona Tougaard, Mulier sent out new takes on classic Alaïa codes, fusing 40s silhouettes with flashes of 80s and 90s power suits, and throwing into the mix a touch of fetish-y flourishes, like gloves tucked seductively into waistbands and wipe-clean finishes. This translated to slinky, semi-see-through corsetry, diaphanous pencil skirts, high-waisted, wide-legged trousers, and a smattering of high-shine latex seen across roomy car coats, second-skin bandeaus, and mistress-y wiggle dresses with snatched waists in sleazy shades of dirty yellow, deep khaki, and fleshy nudes. 


Daniel Roseberry “absolutely loved” his SS24 Couture collection of exotic animal heads and faux furs, but backstage this season he explained the ruckus it resulted in left him knackered – so instead of going all out with a showstopping, conceptual moment this time around, he opted for something a little more human. Just a week after Marc Jacobs tapped a couple of notes into ChatGPT and got the rapidly developing AI tool to sum up his SS24 offering – a concise line of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them minis and rompers which filed out at a super speedy three-minute long NY show – Roseberry’s latest emphasised the skill and craftsmanship that computer tech is probably never going to be able to replicate.

Looking to some of the world’s greatest and most revered artists – like Salvador Dali, Lucien Freud, and Joan Miro – the Texan designer turned out big meringue-y skirts and bodices that looked like oil paint swirls on canvas, jewel-encrusted coats which called to mind the mosaic-y style of Gustav Klimt, and deep, Yves Klein blue looks punctuated with glinting golden banana leaves, all under the watchful eye of Cardi B. In an age when fast fashion reigns supreme, it was a bold, unabashed case for the medium as an art form.


Things got a bit culty at Dior this season, which kind of makes sense since Maria Grazia Chiuri’s fans flock to her work like devoted, enraptured subjects kitted out in “We Should All Be Feminist” tees and tulle skirts line the streets outside just about every Dior women’s show. Apparently leaning further into the notion of quiet, discreet luxury for SS24, the Italian designer started off with the idea of ‘simplicity’, and so looked to reimagine age-old garb like the column dresses and tunics of Ancient Greece and ecclesiastical capes worn in Rome.

In a toned-down palette of bright white, with a few soft neutrals thrown in to spice things up here and there, it was in the details that the offering really shone, with new iterations of Monsieur Christian’s classic Bar jacket zhuzhed up with beautiful intricate beading, understated, almost throw-on dresses finished with clean crocheted hems, and dazzling, floor-sweeping gowns dotted with mirrored fragments which glittered under the show lights as the models glided past. 


Designers have really been drawn to the banks of the Seine this season, with Pharrell staging his stellar first Vuitton show on the Pont Neuf bridge, his pal Nigo following suit down the road at Kenzo, and Pieter Mulier himself heading for the water at Alaïa. Virginie Viard was seemingly the latest to feel the pull of the current, as she staged an oh-so-Parisian outing at Chanel on Tuesday afternoon.

Transforming a series of the Seine’s iconic green souvenir kiosks into Chanel merch stands filled with books and postcards bearing some of the house’s unmistakable imagery – with typically greedy fashion guests encouraged to snap a couple up on the way to their seats – the show itself felt easy-breezy, light and free. Standard signatures like the classic Chanel tweed skirt suit were updated with splashes of iridescent sequins that glittered in the midday sun, bouncy ruffled tops were matched with similarly sparkly circle skirts, and long floral dresses were matched with CC-emblazoned headscarves and baskets of flowers, evoking the joie de vivre of the carefree French girl in 1970s Paris. 


Likening couture to ‘Moderna’, in terms of it being an antidote to the unstoppable surge of fast fashion churning across the world, Demna stuck to his recent promise to strip back the theatrics and really get stuck into actually just making clothes. Turns out, this was a pretty good idea, with the house’s 52nd Haute Couture collection – Demna’s third at the helm of the house – full of garments that showcased his sardonic wit and humour without diving headfirst into the gimmick territory of yesteryear.

On a legendary cast including Eva Herzigova, Natasha Poly, Edie Campbell, Alton Mason, and longtime Balenciaga muse Isabelle Huppert, out through the white-washed salon came severe tailoring with hunched shoulders, sculptural wiggle dresses in electric shades of scarlet and cobalt, and a succession of glittering evening gowns, this time rendered in sugary shades of saccharine pink. The highlights, however, came via a series of oversized coats that had been manipulated to look like they’d been blown backwards by a rogue gust, their accompanying scarves frozen about the wearer’s head, twee little hair bows also billowing about: after a difficult period, it seems that the winds, they are a-changing at Balenciaga. 


Pierpaolo Piccioli knows how to throw a fashion show. Since taking the helm at Valentino, the Italian designer has staged blockbuster presentations on Rome’s Spanish Steps and deep in the bowels of historic Parisian nightclubs, but this season’s Haute Couture outing – and it really was an outing – possibly took the biscuit. Heading out of the French capital and through the verdant countryside, Piccioli landed on the impressive Château de Chantilly or AW23, taking over the castle’s ample grounds with a stellar sunset show.

With the rain making way for the golden rays that illuminated the runway and bounced off the carved stone statues that dotted the banks of the lake it wound around, Piccioli sent out a joyful collection of his signature show-stopping evening gowns in a kaleidoscope of emerald greens, candyfloss pink, and rich cobalt blue, alongside more understated pieces: the opening look, worn by Kaia Gerber, for example, consisted of a simple white button-down shirt tucked into a pair of what initially looked like casual indigo Levi’s. On closer inspection, however, the denim was actually hundreds of thousands of tiny beads – seemingly Piccioli saw Matthieu Blazy’s trompe l’oeil denim-leather bits and thought “ Yeah, I can beat that!” The best of the rest came via the details, like pendulous chandelier earrings that looked like they’d pull your lobes right off (worth it) and swathes of embroidered, beaded, and sequined accents that begged for closer inspection. 


As the fifth guest designer to get his hands on the House of Gaultier, Julien Dossena took his collection firmly back into all-out homage territory after Haider Ackermann turned out a typically understated offering for SS24. Digging into the archives and landing on pieces from Jean Paul’s controversial Chic Rabbis (AW93), Barbes (AW84), and La Concierge est dans L’escalier (SS88), the Paco Rabanne designer turned out new iterations of Gaultier’s iconic wiggle dresses complete with bullet-like pointy cone bras, enormous faux fur trapper hats in rich black and cheetah, and corsetry reimagined in new fabrications, like patched-together bustiers crafted from men’s ties.

With each look taking on the name of an area of Paris, and Dossena leaning heavily into Gautier’s tendency to create characters within his collections, standouts came via two particular looks which saw models bound together, the person behind charged with carrying the train of their leader (simp, but make it fashion). In these two (or rather, four) looks, the clash of Rabanne – as it’s now known, after the label dropped the Paco last month – and Gautlier was at its most electric. Backstage, Dossena sweetly explained that he basically owes his career to Gaultier. As a little kid sitting in front of the TV, he was transfixed by an early Gaultier show, realising for the first time that creating clothes could actually be a job. “All the people that were around him, his friends and muses and musicians, and also the first idea of queer people I had in front of my eyes,” he said. “It seemed like a really amazing job. It seemed like so much fun. It seemed really free.” 


This season’s Fendi show was all about letting the diamonds do the talking, as Kim Jones enlisted his muse, and the house’s artistic director of jewellery, Delfina Delettrez Fendi to debut her first ever high jewellery collection on the Parisian catwalk. In contrast to last season, where looks were beaded and crystallised to within an inch of their lives, this meant simplicity, as Jones turned his model cast into statuesque goddesses via understated gowns in shades of nude, black, emerald, and more. Instead, all focus was on the accoutrements, which looked to Fendi’s emblematic double-F monogram and twisted it into modern jewellery that wound round the wearer’s neck, hung from their earlobes, or came pinned to halter-necklines and breasts.

Elsewhere, couture gestures – like the clutching of a collar, or a hand held delicately to the chest – allowed door-knocker diamond cocktail rings to literally shine. With the jewels eventually becoming one with the garments themselves, as Jones’ artisans stitched them into collars and dotted them across looks, it felt like the designer had really hit his stride with couture this season. 

Click through the gallery above to see more from the AW23 Haute Couture shows, and the one below for a look at the street style outside.