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The Globe and Mail

Paris haute couture: Gaultier, Valentino and Saab dominate the runways

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While Elie Saab did not stray too far from his signature beading and embellishment this season, he applied it more strategically. Here, the beading follows an intricate ornamental pattern and, aided by sheer panels, produces a distinctive neckline.


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This beading is strategic to the point of provocative.


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Yet Saab can also do beautiful work without as much embellishment. White dresses have been a theme this season; his features detailing that resembles a portrait frame.


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Saab is a red carpet favourite and the Oscars are mere weeks away. This is exactly the type of dress that could end up on a nominee. The pockets are a nice touch.

Christophe Ena/AP

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Jean Paul Gaultier delights in themes, which he plays up with almost obsessive detail. His Indian leitmotif for spring focused on a particular bohemian street look rather than, say, period elegance. This was fitting for Gaultier, a dedicated cultural interpreter; it was also an anomalous approach within the week.


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Like Chanel with its tweed and pearls, Gaultier has developed several “codes” over his 36-year career. Two of them – trompe l’oeil denim and lingerie – return together in this printed dress.


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Many of the dresses played with familiar tropes of Indian style – patchwork, hot colours, layers of jewellery – but treated with the meticulous hand of a couture atelier.


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Indian bride had four adorable tots hidden under her huge hoop skirt; they streamed down the runway to the crowd’s amusement, ending the show on a high note after a collection that, despite its flavour, felt a bit camp.

Jacques Brinon/AP

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Designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, the Valentino haute couture collection was the third to explore a garden theme this season. They arrived at theirs from collecting pictures of old Italian gardens, labyrinth renderings and wrought iron birdcage designs, upon which this pattern is based.


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Their restrained approach to detail can be deceiving. The red curlicue “grill work” on this dress consists of 220 metres of material.


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Here’s another variation on the theme, this time featuring a cape in stunning likeness to a birdcage and with decorative birds on the dress beneath. When the model appeared, Valentino Garavani (in the audience as usual) began clapping. Five hundred hours of work went into making of this ensemble.


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Other dresses interpreted the garden theme more literally. This flower pattern repeats across the conservatively cut dress in delicate lace and crochet.


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With its handkerchief folds and tone-on-tone silver and gold embroidery and sheer tulle under-layer, this dress was among the many flawless creations in the collection. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it required 2,500 hours of embroidery according to the show notes. But it represents what’s possible with supreme taste and exceptional craftsmanship. Marvelous!


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