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Gown girl: The most eye-catching looks from the Paris couture shows

How do you begin to talk about something as seemingly frivolous as haute couture fashion against the tumult of today? In many ways, impossibly expensive gowns made for red carpets and the world’s elite never felt so irrelevant or so tone deaf.

One idea was put forward by the storied house of Chanel ahead of the start of Paris Couture Week: “Beauty within the imperfections of time,” was the thesis of a short film released by the brand. We’re certainly living through imperfect times, but perhaps it’s OK to take a moment to appreciate beauty despite the chaos of the world around us.

The bi-annual couture shows in Paris are a showcase of bold ideas from the best fashion designers working today, crafted by some of the world’s most skilled artisans. It’s art, in a way.

Here are some of the most eye-catching and artful moments seen during four days of shows for Spring-Summer 2024.

The house of Schiaparelli wants your full attention

A dress made from pre-2007 technical artefacts at Schiaparelli 's couture show held at the Petit Palais in Paris. - Giovanni Giannoni/WWD/Getty Images
A dress made from pre-2007 technical artefacts at Schiaparelli 's couture show held at the Petit Palais in Paris. - Giovanni Giannoni/WWD/Getty Images

Before the show began, celebrities including Jennifer Lopez and Zendaya wowed crowds and photographers waiting outside the venue, but it was inside where the magic really happened.

A model takes to the runway with Schiaparell's "robot baby". - Giovanni Giannoni/WWD/Getty Images
A model takes to the runway with Schiaparell's "robot baby". - Giovanni Giannoni/WWD/Getty Images

A robot baby and a robot dress made from “pre-2007 technological artifacts,” according to show notes, demanded a closer look while legendary make-up artist Pat McGrath painted models ears silver and decked them in jewels — an elaborate process which took three hours per person.

Practical pockets, but make it Chanel couture

A delicate sheer pocket seen at Chanel's haute couture show. - Estrop/Getty Images
A delicate sheer pocket seen at Chanel's haute couture show. - Estrop/Getty Images
The detailing was present on dresses and skirts. - Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
The detailing was present on dresses and skirts. - Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Chanel’s show was opened by a beaming Margaret Qualley in an all-white ensemble complete with ruff-style collar.

Also spotted: Pockets. A welcome addition to almost any dress or skirt, but what does that look like in the world of couture? Zooming in at Chanel, the most delicate interpretation was spotted.

Less was more at Alaïa

Ahead of the show, Alaïa’s creative director Pieter Mulier sent a note to guests with an explanation of what they were about to see in the new collection.

All the pieces in Alaïa's collection were created from merino wool. - Alaia
All the pieces in Alaïa's collection were created from merino wool. - Alaia

“This collection is about simplicity and purity, about less meaning more,” he wrote, detailing that all of the fabrics used were developed from merino wool. One piece, a stunningly simple yet sculptural white dress stood out. The perfect design for the chicest of brides?

Acid brights at Valentino

A riot of color and dimension was on display at Valentino. - Valentino
A riot of color and dimension was on display at Valentino. - Valentino

While there was razzamatazz on the front row courtesy of Stormi Webster, Kylie Jenner’s five-year-old daughter, who made her front row debut, Valentino’s couture collection incarnation was relatively understated. Pierpaolo Piccioli’s collection entitled “Le Salon” let acid hues, color clashing and sumptuous textures do the talking.

Defying gravity at Gaurav Gupta

Gaurav Gupta's collection played with both volume and intricacy. - Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images
Gaurav Gupta's collection played with both volume and intricacy. - Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

Sculptural necklines were the order of the day at Guarav Gupta, whose ethereal, architectural creations (beloved by Beyoncé) are made to stand out. Beaded, plissé-style hoods, lifted — almost winged — gravity-defying collars and zardozi-style delicate metallic embroidery took center stage.

Futuristic Fendi

Kim Jones explained his collection at Fendi Haute was inspired by the late Karl Lagerfeld's futurism. - Peter White/Getty Images
Kim Jones explained his collection at Fendi Haute was inspired by the late Karl Lagerfeld's futurism. - Peter White/Getty Images

“I was thinking about Karl Lagerfeld’s futurism with Fendi,” said Kim Jones, artistic director at the house in his show notes. “This collection is about structure and decoration, where the two become indivisible. I wanted an idea of precision and emotion at once.”

Fendi's mini Baguette bags made their debut, featuring elaborate detailing. - Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Fendi's mini Baguette bags made their debut, featuring elaborate detailing. - Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
"Decoration and structure are entwined within the collection," say the house. - Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
"Decoration and structure are entwined within the collection," say the house. - Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Talking of decoration, the house seized the moment to debut their “Gems Baguette” bags on the catwalk, featuring 18-carat white gold, platinum leaf and a diamond pave-encrusted buckle.

Raw elegance at Maison Margiela

John Galliano's couture collection for Maison Margiela was fantastical and theatrical, fittingly taking place under the first full moon of the year. - Gao Jing/Xinhua/Zuma Press
John Galliano's couture collection for Maison Margiela was fantastical and theatrical, fittingly taking place under the first full moon of the year. - Gao Jing/Xinhua/Zuma Press

Widely lauded as the show of the season, there were cinched waists, blooming bustles and dramatically exaggerated silhouettes on display from creative director John Galliano at Maison Margiela.

Gwendoline Christie closed John Galliano's show for Martin Margiela in a partially sheer corset-style dress. - Pixelformula/SIPA/AP
Gwendoline Christie closed John Galliano's show for Martin Margiela in a partially sheer corset-style dress. - Pixelformula/SIPA/AP

No-one can do raw, deconstruction with such elegance and theatricality so it was fitting that the show was closed by actor Gwendoline Christie sauntering down the runway clad in a partially sheer rubber gown.

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