The Spring 2023 couture season was one to take note of, presenting a fleet of collections that deeply represented fusing couture craftsmanship of the past with modern-day execution.
Many designers found their collections influenced by pinnacle artistic voices that have transcended from the past into the present, interpreting their once-complicated lives and intricate works of art into designs that were rich with opulence, power and femininity.
There were trends that seemed to transcend throughout each of the designers' visions, appearing in moments of intricate hand-beading, molded silhouettes, stunning pastels and physically defying structure. It was avant-garde, at times mesmerizing, and undoubtedly an absolute fantasy of artistry that left all of us whirling and eager for what designs are to come in the future.
We start with Elie Saab, whose collection, “A Golden Dawn”, was immediately gasp-worthy upon the opening look - a sheer gold cape and mid-length dress swirling with gold embroidered paisley lace and gold crystals - shimmering with opulence and quickly having everyone on the edge of their seats.
This season, Elie Saab looked to capture a truly extravagant celebration fit for royalty. Inspired by the remarkable beauty of Thailand, he focused on the nature and rituals that are deeply rooted within the country and transformed them into incredible works of art.
His vision was depicted in every aspect of the collection. It could be seen in the sunset hues and water-like colorways of the lavish gowns and silk crepe bows, the mermaid silhouettes and scalloped hems, the abstract depictions of koi fish and dragons dancing on dramatic coats, and of course, the intricate detail work of thousands of sequins, pearls and beads displaying three-dimensional florals rounding out a truly exquisite showing this season.
Ashi’s Spring 2023 collection is named “Moonlight and Dust” stemming from the epic tale of Penelope and Orion, two lovers set a world apart. As the story goes, Penelope feverishly gathers dust and ashes in order to create a mountain so she can reach the moon to be with Orion, which proved to provide ample inspiration for the nearly divine and seemingly wind-swept creations that ascended the runway.
“Amplified silhouettes”, as the show notes call them, must have begun in what we can only imagine having been a fantasy. Silks and satins were manipulated into works of artistic expression, creating skirts, sleeves and necklines that were flowing with organic lines creating an almost wave-like appearance. When silhouettes weren’t exaggerated with volume, they were body conscious, with waists often corseted and swathed in head-to-toe crystals. No matter the silhouette, the entire collection received an exuberant amount of embellishment that included cascading waves of ruffled lace and feather-trimmed tassels, yet remained harmonious from one creation to the next.
Another couture season undoubtedly provides us with another chance to experience Giambattista Valli’s, now signature, tulle-filled designs, however, for Spring 2023, this jubilant spirit that is often reserved for his closing looks was instead presented to us from start to finish, painting a literal rainbow of designs focused on escapism and we were happy to be along for the ride.
The candy-coated color scheme was applied throughout the exaggerated voluminous silhouettes - most often presented in ballgown skirts and off-the-shoulder princess sleeves - yet, even when detailed with bows and rosettes, remained modern and of-the-moment due to flashes of skin seen in higher hemlines, peek-a-boo cut-outs, fitted bodices and sweetheart necklines.
Another flood of inspirational styles came from a series of crystal-encrusted catsuits, full-length feather coats and beautifully draped silk-chiffon gowns that were masterfully wrapped around the models bodies, providing a drastic alternative from the gowns that surrounded them and an overall balance to this dreamlike collection.
The French Riviera is not an uncommon resource of inspiration for designers but it is a plentiful one. And while it isn’t typical of Zuhair Murad to use it as a reference, his take on the modern-day young heiress and the lives they lead in Belle-Époque - riding on vespas, taking in the sunset from their chateau balconies and evening cocktails in the garden - it became an obvious choice for the always glitzy designer.
There’s a lot that stands out in Zuhair’s Spring 2023 couture collection, starting with the first five looks. Stark white with fabulous accents - feathered gloves, long silk head-scarves, crystal caged trousers and uber chic wide-brimmed hates - it was the perfect lead into what was the beginning of a collection filled with 1970’s inspired looks, (by way of the 1920’s), that was equally elegant and glamorous. The collection then cascaded into a sunset vision of colors - fuchsia, canary yellow, sea green and pale blue - in flowing silk chiffons that romantically draped around each model, highlighted with architectural-inspired embroideries as well as feather trims and bodices encrusted with jewels.
A mention in the show notes about a time before the pandemic truly permeated each piece as they all symbolized celebration in the most prolific way, showcasing decadent style for any occasion.
Josephine Baker was the guiding light for Maria Grazia Chiuri’s SP23 couture collection, reflecting not only the French-American’s style and vigor as she sang on the stages of Carnegie Hall, but her life as a role model, breaking boundaries as she redefined the idea of who a pioneer and activist could be. This inspiration was also felt off the runway thanks to the incredible floor-to-ceiling portrait work displayed on the walls by artist, Mickalene Thomas.
What began as a peek into the cabaret stars’ dressing room in the form of elegant velvet dressing robes and satin lingerie, continuously morphed into modern interpretations of 1920s silhouettes - languid and glamorous - displaying an array of embellishments and beadwork that while plentiful, was so precisely executed that it appeared both understated yet impactful, a skill Chiuri has truly mastered.
Without fail, the classic 1950s Dior silhouette appeared, juxtaposing looks that were more subtly seductive by means of monochrome suiting such as double-breasted jackets and shin-grazing wide-legged trousers in heavier fabrications, but remained cohesive due to the overall tonal palette of the collection - an homage to the energy felt from the black and white films and photographs featuring Baker.
A nightclub deemed “Le Club Couture” set the scene for Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Spring 2023 show, creating an atmosphere filled with designs that provided both the club kids and ladies-who-lunch with a singular collection in order to fulfill their desire to transform into whomever they wish to be.
Playful and bold with a little bit of everything mixed in, Piccioli continued the trend of exaggerated silhouettes and excess that we saw so much of this couture season. There were zoot suit-inspired blazers paired with barely there bottoms, while oversized collars and ballooned skirts came to life as they were often accessorized with tiers of ruffles and bows or embellished with large paillettes, crystals and feathers that flourished as the models stomped the runway.
His mastery of color was not to be missed as Piccioli took to mixing pieces together that were somehow complimentary even if they fell far from one another on the color wheel. There were grand splashes of neon, sherbet, mint and of course PP Pink while metallics and neutral tones of black and white grounded everything together, allowing the collection to breathe without losing focus on having fun.
Rami Al Ali
Over the past 27 years, Rami Al Ali has studied and mastered the meticulous craft and artisanship that defines what it means to be a couturier. For Spring 2023, he took this premise and applied it to a collection inspired by the Greek fable, ‘Golden Fleece’, presenting a glamorous fleet of pastel gowns aimed to alter our idea of what contemporary femininity looks like.
Construction was at the core of Al Ali’s collection with tedious details such as hand-beaded motifs and gold-embossed bodices enhancing each design. These ornate pieces created a dance for the eye as you attempted to catch all of these nuances in one passing view. The fabric was perfectly shaped, molded into petals, pressed into pleats and romantically draped in order to create waves of movement whilst other portions of the designs were sculpted and rigid resulting in a seamless combination of architecture and art.
Written by: Jillian Magenheim