Best of: Paris Haute Couture Week Fall/Winter 2016

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Every season, Haute Couture Week marks the pinnacle of fashion design, as an exclusive week where labels are personally invited by the Chambre de la Syndicale to showcase their latest creations. The product of countless hours of labor, conducted by a team of highly trained and talented craftsmen, these gowns are simply the crème de la crème, the true essence of elegance. All assembled, embellished and embroidered by hand, the couture gown is a unique collaboration between the trends of modern fashion and the timeless crafts of a couturier. This season, as the Fall/Winter 2016 runway was overall transformed by an increasing desire to present more “ready-to-wear” inspired couture confections, Schiaparelli, Maison Margiela, Viktor & Rolf, Valentino and Chanel stood out amongst the rest, all while showcasing unique interpretations of the couturier’s sensibility in a modern age.

1. Schiaparelli

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The beloved Elsa Schiaparelli has been resurrected this season, as her iconic legacy and unmatched talent for blending surrealism and avant-garde appeared in full force on the Fall/Winter 2016 couture runway. The still much-anticipated revival of her eponymous label may not be new to the couture calendar anymore, but this season was quintessential Elsa. Creative director Bertrand Guyon found inspiration in her summer 1938 circus collection for a range of fantastical creations boasting extreme architectural shoulders and a range of animal motifs and ringleader-inspired options. Never before has Elsa Schiaparelli's true sense of eclectic elegance been more accurately portrayed.

2. Maison Margiela

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John Galliano returns to the runway in his fourth season as creative director of Maison Margiela. He continues to incorporate French revolutionary influences (such as soldier-inspired overcoats and tricorne hats), but what we love most about this season is his true-to-form bold makeup options. However, while the abstract shapes painted in makeup of bright hues may have risked overshadowing a faint hearted couturier's attempts, this season was nothing more than a showcase of why the Galliano and Margiela coupling was a match made in heaven. For example, the oversized coat with a belted corset, a range of empire waistlines and voluminous drapes found a cool contrast in the thigh-high Wellington boot waders.

3. Viktor & Rolf

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Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren's Fall/Winter 2016 couture collection explored the extravagance of vagabonds – “those that belong nowhere, wandering from place to place with their thrown-together, tattered and seemingly mismatched look,” according to the show notes – all while using fabrics sourced from past collections. This highly original salvaging method resulted in a line of couture upcyling, where new or re-used garments were further updated with layers of tulle, weaved ribbons and an mélange of vintage buttons for a tremendous thrown-together vibe. This collection shows no restraint with using scraps and leftovers, and we couldn't be more in love.

4. Valentino

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Days before Valentino's co-creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri was announced to become Dior's next creative director, she and Pierpaolo Piccioli presented a F/W 2016 couture collection illustrating the extravagance of Elizabethan elegance. Inspired by the works of William Shakespeare, the designer duo took over the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild in Paris with a collection filled with Shakespearean-era interpretations, complete with 17th-century inspired ruffled collars and opulent gowns, and keeping in trend with Margiela's earlier mention of contrasts Valentino played it cool with slim-fit trousers and boots (this time riding) for a bit of countryside contrasts.

5. Chanel

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Viktor & Rolf may have pulled their inspirations (and fabrics) from past collections, but Chanel their seasonal source in-house, inside their ateliers at Rue Cambon. The F/W 2016 couture runway show celebrated the work of the countless artisans who are often left behind the scenes, opting instead to place them front and center as a sort of backdrop while their creations were sent down a runway created to mimic the ateliers in which they were made. The garments were structural and graphic with tweed suiting, adding depth to a range of cocktail dresses and evening wear.

Brent Taalur Ramsey is an American fashion journalist based in Paris. Follow his latest runway adventures on Instagram.

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