While the term “haute couture” tends to be used by many designers who simply create exclusive custom-fitted garments, it is in fact a term that is protected by law and is defined by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris based in Paris, and the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture is the regulating commission that determines which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses.

In order for a fashion house to earn the haute couture label, they have to follow specific rules.

These include having at least 20 full-time technical people, in at least one atelier and presenting a collection of at least 50 original designs to the public every fashion season.

While there are many luxury fashion brands, only 14 designers have earned the prestigious haute couture label.

Chanel, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Giorgio Armani, Valentino and Versace are some of the most famous fashion houses on that list.

This past week we’ve seen designers showcase their most exquisite pieces at the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 Paris Haute Couture Week.

From Avant-garde to classic design, the meticulous craftsmanship and intricate fabrics seen during the shows have once again left all fashion enthusiasts in awe of the work of these leading haute couture designers.

The most talked about show was undoubtedly Balenciaga’s star-studded affair.

Georgian fashion designer Demna Gvasalia called on his famous friends to model his radical designs.

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While a few pieces in the collection left us mere mortals scratching our heads, the presence of big stars like reality TV star and unofficial ambassador of the brand Kim Kardashian, award-winning actress Nicole Kidman, singer Dua Lipa and the queen of the runway Naomi Campbell set social media on fire.

While these celebrities were undoubtedly crowd-pleasers, they didn’t overshadow the masterpieces that were distinctly and otherworldly Demna.

The first part of the show saw a series of faceless models wearing skintight, body encasing, all black pieces made of neoprene. Each model held a speaker shaped like a handbag playing the background sound of the show.

Balenciaga’s neoprene collection. Picture: Instagram

The sculpted scuba-like garments were engineered with a new kind of neoprene, made in collaboration with a Japanese manufacturer using, as he noted, a “limestone” technique “which is more sustainable”.

For the rest of the show, the black reflective face shields came down to show models with expressionless faces wearing streetwear items like hoodies, parkas and denim using upcycled materials.

During the star-studded finale, we saw Kidman wrapped in silver while Campbell wore a black voluminous gown and Lipa was draped in bright yellow.

Singer Dua Lipa. Picture: Instagram

He closed the show with a bridal gown so big that the model battled to work her way through what then suddenly appeared to be a way-too-narrow path.

After the show, he told “Vogue”: “This year I decided that I needed to put more of myself into it, and kind of find a new future, you know?”

“This is why the line-up started with very otherworldly, almost futuristic neoprene looks, which was my idea of interpreting gazar in 2022.”

For those in search of a more traditional take on haute couture, Giorgio Armani gave us a highly polished collection dripping in sequins, rhinestone and shimmering glitter.

The minimalist setting allowed for the pieces to take centre stage.

The collection, titled “Petillant”, meaning sparkling, did exactly that. Being the king of beaded jackets, Armani showed a variety thereof. From midnight blue and silver beaded slinky blazers to embroidered floral cropped jackets.

Armani. Picture: Instagram

Of course, he gave us a variety of glamorous dresses. From long and slender to voluminous, silky and flowy to strapless and of course, there were many covered in sequins.

With pink being the new black we saw the colour popping up in various shades. From a puffy silk dress to a shimmering Barbie pink pants suit.

Armani. Picture: Instagram

“Sophisticated, elongated jackets are adorned with embroidery; trousers embrace curvilinear shapes to then tighten at the ankle; long strapless dresses are gleaming and almost weightless. Optical motifs on day suits are broken up by splashes of bright colour that ignite the palette of whites, blacks and blues with hints of intense blues and pinks. The light refracted by the embroidery takes over in a persistent magical movement that sends a message of pure feminine energy” is how they summed up the collection in an Instagram post.

The intricate needlework in the Dior collection paid homage to the essence of haute couture.

Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri stepped away from the usual glittering sequins and focused on excellent craftsmanship.

The gently romantic style and subdued colour palette allowed the fabric and intricate embroidery to stand out.

Dior. Picture: Instagram

“It’s really a project that has inside this idea that art and artisan are at the same level,” Chiuri told Reuters.

We saw patchwork opera coats, trim jackets and long dresses with billowing sleeves.

The pieces served as blank canvases of sorts in soft neutral tones for the stylized lace patchworks and 3D beaded floral embroideries.

Dior. Picture: Instagram

“The Tree of Life” was the underlying theme of the collection. A universal symbol which occurs across so many cultures and religions.

“It speaks about the circle of life,” Chiuri told “Vogue”.

Chiuri described the notion as carrying a mystical quality that people can turn to “in difficult times”.

“I think all these dresses have some aspect in common. Very often they are in embroidery, very often they are ornamented with flowers. There really is a connection with life,” she said.

For the Chanel collection, creative director Virginie Viard focused on extraordinary textiles and embellishments with a low-key rendition of haute couture.

The show opened with singer Pharrell Williams playing a drum set, with grinding electronic music in the background.

However, the soundtrack switched to soothing vocals as a wavy-haired model in a lime green skirt and jacket started the line-up.

Chanel. Picture: Instagram

Low heels and floppy hats added to the more casual feel of the collection and shimmery embellishments kept to a minimal.

Classic signature tweed, which no Channel collection can be complete without, was seen on more relaxed fits.

Even the final bridal look showed a casual yet traditional relaxed-looking bride in an all-white with a simple white bow placed on her head with a satin ribbon trailing down the back.

Chanel. Picture: Instagram

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