Best of: Haute Couture Week Spring/Summer 2017

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Haute Couture Week has always been my most favorite week of the season. During the last week of January, smack dab between men and women’s fashion week, this biannual event of luxury and impeccable craftsmanship celebrates the height of design. For me, haute couture continues to represent the essence of the fashion industry; with its unadulterated showcase of beauty and elegance, there’s honestly no fashion week that comes even close in comparison. And this season was like no other.

On the Spring/Summer 2017 couture runway in Paris, there were several favorite moments: Schiaparelli explored opulent simplicity on day one, Maria Grazia Chiuri made her couture debut for the house of Dior, Viktor&Rolf reigned, again, as the kings of upcycled couture and Maison Margiela sent out deconstruction and the rekindled creativity of John Galliano, as well as two impeccably strong collections from Guo Pei and Chanel.

Here are the best collections from Haute Couture Week Spring/Summer 2017.

1. Schiaparelli

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On the first day of Haute Couture Week, design director Bertrand Guyon sent out a spring 2017 couture collection into the sunlit salons of Schiaparelli's former apartment and atelier at Place Vendôme—an inspired lineup that merged the “opulence and simplicity that define Schiaparelli.” Filled with classically eclectic Elsa-isms, like recurring padlocks and golden sunbursts motifs, this collection was simply Schiaparelli, even if it wasn't to a consistent theme. The intarsia two black-wool faces on a jacket and jumpsuit combo was a clever invocation of this great legend—and the perfect start to couture week.

2. Christian Dior

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Maria Grazia Chiuri took to the grounds of Musée Rodin in Paris for her first haute couture collection as artistic director to the house of Dior, filling the space with a labyrinth of moss and untrimmed hedges around a singular tree decked in lights and crystals. The scene brought to life equal parts of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Pan's Labyrinth—a fitting combo for Christian Dior couture—but it was the ethereal evening dresses that stole the show. From black gothic gowns with facemasks created by Stephen Jones, to dresses in powdery hues of mauve, blue and pink, and a perfectly dramatic Domino coat with a black velvet hood, this was a magical collection from start to finish, and an enchanting milestone collection for Chiuri's first couture outing.

3. Viktor & Rolf

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This season marked designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren's sophomore collection of “conscious couture,” where they upcycled vintage cocktail dresses—some dating back to the Forties—into a series of deconstructed dresses and gowns. The result was a reconstructed lineup with countless favorites, like the extra-voluptuous ball gowns toward the end of the collection, decked with surreal patches over dense layers of white or candy-hued tulle. As far as couture goes, Viktor & Rolf are the kings of upcycling.

4. Maison Margiela

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John Galliano's latest “artisanal” collection for Maison Margiela celebrated the true return of his creative genius. With a collection filled with deconstructed pieces and ultra-creative silhouettes, and one particularly gorgeous white coat fronted with a face made from layered black tulle, it was clear: Galliano was back and stronger than ever. And, like his Fall/Winter 2016 outing, his makeup collab with mastermind Pat McGrath had me head over heels for the abstract beauty looks—this time with glossy cheekbones, 3D wiring, thick dustings of pigments in crimson and cerulean, and let's not forget the vinyl lips. (The rainbow-barfing Snapchat filter that adorned a translucent coat was also an easy addition to the long list of favorites for this collection.)

5. Guo Pei

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Since the models could only geisha-step their way around the circular runway at Guo Pei's Spring 2017 couture show at the Conciergerie in Paris, the guests had a long time to take in each creation; and I loved every minute—this was a collection worthy of the title “haute couture.” Though it sometimes crossed the line into costume, this collection fused “medieval monarchy” with “papal majesty” for a series of golden and highly decorated gowns. Every look was a testament to Guo Pei's signature (and often fantastical) craftsmanship, especially when it came to a jewel encrusted silver dome inspired by the papal tiara worn by popes of the Roman Catholic Church as early as the 8th century. But nothing (and I mean nothing) was as fabulous as 85-year-old model Carmen Dell'Orefice walking out onto the runway, as the “Red Queen,” flanked by her two metallic guardsmen—what a finale!

6. Chanel

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The Grand Palais in Paris was transformed into a vision of elegance for Chanel’s latest haute couture outing—a “house of mirrors” inspired by Coco Chanel’s famous Art Deco mirrored staircase that lead to her ateliers at 31 Rue Cambon. Across mirror tiles, Karl Lagerfeld sent out models decked in power suits and sparkling gowns (the later often found decorated with silver sequins and ostrich and marabou feathers). Sure, the thick metallic belts and pearl ankle bracelets were instant (and more accessible) takeaways from the collection, but the bride finale was my absolute favorite: A fresh face Lily-Rose Depp (daughter of daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis) closed the show in layers of blush-pink ruffles—a true vision of elegance in lieu of the more traditional white bridal gown.

Brent Taalur Ramsey is an American writer living in Paris.

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