The Lists

The Best of the Spring Summer 2021 Haute Couture Shows

The Best of the Spring Summer 2021 Haute Couture Shows

The haute couture shows in Paris are meant to be the stuff of dreams, and even the global coronavirus pandemic couldn’t stop them from weaving their magic spell. Our correspondent Jillian Tangen has a summary of our top picks of the best of the spring summer 2021 haute couture shows in Paris, including looks from Fendi, Iris van Halpern, Dior, Valentino and Chanel.

The best of the spring summer 2021 haute couture shows

Much like the high jewelry shows, the haute couture shows in Paris are the stuff of dreams. Usually held just a few weeks before the Oscars, it’s both a chance to revel in the gorgeous gowns and pantsuits, but also to speculate about which ones will end up on the red carpet in Hollywood.  But this January the shows, like the awards season they precede, looked a little different.

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Instead of elaborate sets, champagne and star studded front rows, this year’s presentations took place behind closed doors.  While some designers chose to present their collections digitally via fashion films or shoots, others hosted audience-free fashion shows.  Yet, despite all this, there was still much excitement around the breathtaking creations that were revealed.

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Drama, decadence and a whole load of glamour – the spring summer 2021 haute couture shows unleashed a much needed dose of escapism to kick off the year.  From Dior’s mystical tarot card reading to Chanel’s romantic family wedding and the much awaited Kim Jones debut at Fendi, the presentations readily whisked us away from the now all too familiar world of loungewear.  More importantly though, they served as a much needed reminder that someday soon after the long, hard winter, Spring will come again.

The Best of the Spring Summer 2021 Haute Couture Shows

The Best of the Spring Summer 2021 Haute Couture Shows

Ahead, our hopeful highlights from the Spring Summer 2021 Haute Couture collections.

The best of the spring summer 2021 haute couture shows

1. chanel

Under arches of fresh flowers, Chanel’s latest haute couture show embodied the warmth of a traditional family celebration.  In a break from tradition, creative director Virginie Viard began the presentation with the models walking en masse down the Grand Palais’s Great Staircase in exquisite formation, entering a feminine wonderland of florals, string lights and wedding-like decor.  Like you would find an actual wedding, the clothing was varied yet game for celebration. Highlights included long organza skirts paired with effortless white blouses, petticoats, dresses, and tweed vest and trouser sets. They were oozing nonchalant style and elegance.

spring summer Haute Couture 2021

We loved:  The elegant tweed trouser sets as well as the white daisy lace gown with a removable skirt.  We can’t forget the intricate work of Chanel’s maisons d’art partners.  On display there was the flora crownes, feathers, camellias, embroidery and lace either.

Most talked-about moment: Closing out the show was Lola Nicon as “the bride” riding a majestic white horse sidesaddle. She was donning a satin wedding gown embroidered with rhinestone-and-pearl butterflies and a tulle veil.

2. valentino

For Valentino’s latest haute couture collection, Pierpaolo Piccioli sought “to reset and reprogram couture of today.”  Taking place at the Roman Baroque palace Galleria Colonna, the Code Temporal Collection featured clothes made of soft, sumptuous materials and cut in relaxed, roomy silhouettes.  Filled with loose-fit trousers, breezy Bermuda shorts and “seconde peau” dresses, it was like a couture approach to clothing you’d wear to go about your day.  Yet despite the dreamy simplicity, the collection was still daring and loud.  Soft neutrals were mixed with bold fuchsias, oranges and fluorescent greens, on a unisex cast donning futuristic gold faces and sky high footwear.

spring summer Haute Couture 2021

We loved: The wide cut gabardine trousers and crepeline Bermuda shorts paired with sequin embroidered turtleneck sweaters. The dramatic oversize coats including the gold lurex one and a standout princess cut fluorescent green scuba dress.

3. dior

Christian Dior’s Haute Couture presentation by Maria Grazia Chiuri drew inspiration from tarot cards, bringing to life the mystic characters and symbols familiar from the now ubiquitous illustrated decks via a short film titled Le Château du Tarot.  On display were fairytale-like brocade and silk dresses, mystical capes and timeless interpretations of the house’s Bar Jacket.  Both the clothing and the presentation itself provided viewers with an escape from the current realities of lockdown, not to mention the hope for a more magical future.

spring summer Haute Couture 2021

We loved: The dreamy dresses and elegant embroideries were nothing short of enchanting.

Most talked-about moment: Unlike many of the others, Dior opted for a high fashion short film. It followed the story of a mysterious young woman asking the existential question, ‘Who am I?’ to a tarot reader.

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4. schiaparelli

Like Valentino, Schiparelli is looking to redefine what couture means, albeit in a very different way.  Hot on the heels of debuting two unforgettable looks: Kim Kardashian West’s glittering green breastplate at Christmas and Lady Gaga’s architectural gown for her performance of the national anthem at the2021 inauguration, Daniel Roseberry’s latest collection proved that couture doesn’t have to be dainty or frilly.  It can be bold and daring, with pieces like leather trousers, exaggerated hoodies and, of course, a few more super-heroine bustiers that are an homage to a pair of lifelike mannequins that Elsa herself kept in her salons.

spring summer Haute Couture 2021

We loved: While we enjoyed the warrior-like breastplates honoring the female form, we loved the more streamlined evening wear. It included a stretch-fabric dress knitted with more than 200,000 Swarovski crystals and  the pink pleated blouson gown held up by earrings-as-straps.

Most talked-about moment: The debut of the maison’s latest high jewelry collection was woven throughout and included some striking pieces.  Chief among them?  The Madonna and Child breastplate, fingernail rings and a dress held up by earrings.

5. iris van herpen

Technology is often at the core of Iris van Herpen’s collections and this year’s Roots of Rebirth collection was no exception.  The Dutch couturier collaborated with Parley for the Oceans Ocean Plastic fabric. It was made from upcycled marine debris and also enlisted the help of a 3D printer. It created one of a kind designs for this collection inspired by roots and spores.  No less than 21 dresses floated down the runway. This includied a purple column dress featuring large silver paillettes that resembled a cluster of mushrooms.

We loved: The ‘Henosis’ dress modelled by Natalia Vodianova embodied the roots of rebirth. It was made of translucent layers of white lace sprouts out of a hand-embroidered bodice into a laser cut venation of hundreds of hovering fins.

Most talked-about moment: The collections two shimmering kinetic crowns were created in collaboration with artist Casey Curran. It was designed to highlight the metamorphosis in the fungi queendom.

6. armani prive

From sleek 1940’s inspired twin-sets shimmering with crystal patterns to pastel tulle capes and jaw-dropping evening gowns, Giorgio Armani’s Prive Collection displayed the house’s signature grandeur.  Inspired by the quietness that transpired across Milan during lockdown, the collection walked a fine line between melancholy and romance. Its use of translucent tulle and soft, cool colorways paired with accents of ruffles, fur and beadwork.  It’s everything that couture is made of.

We loved: The sharp jackets with shoulders sloped elegantly upward. It felt as if they were made for the modern working woman. Also stunning were the chiffon capes and the red carpet ready, red dresses.

7. fendi

Mixing sheer panel lattice gowns, suiting, capes and crystal wildflowers, Kim Jones made his  debut as the artistic director of womenswear for Fendi.  His first ever couture collection was inspired in part by the British sensibility of the Bloomsbury Group, of which Virginia Woolf served as one of its most famous members, as well as Woolf’s sister Vanessa Bell’s art and interiors.  Jones presented 19 looks in this collection. Models appeared to float through a  a glass maze erected in the form of Fendi’s famous double-F logo. All of which helps solidify Jones’ new place in the history of the storied Roman house.

We loved: The marbled garments donned by veteran models Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell. The split-personality dresses hybridized from half an evening gown and half a blazer were major standouts.

Most talked-about moment:  No only did Fendi employ a roster of veteran supermodels like Kate Moss, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell, but actress Demi Moore opened the show.

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8. giambattista valli

Inspired and accompanied by some of Seville’s most famous landmarks, the new Giambattista Valli Haute Couture collection brought a touch of Spain to Paris Fashion Week – in addition to mounds of taffeta and tulle.  Dramatic hair styles were a match for these larger-than-life looks. Locks adorned with silk ribbons and flowers added even more drama to the sculpted mini, midi and trailing shapes.  It’s a collection made for the moment we dream of – our first big, fancy event after COVID-19 is over for good.

We loved: It’s hard to choose with so many dreamy dresses.  We couldn’t resist the voluminous cream-colored tulle skirt with a bust modeled after a bouquet of red roses. The sweeping white robe with flowing ostrich feather sleeves. A pink party-ready mini adorned with white flowers. And a cape and a frothy pink tulle frock with a train for days.

other notables

Alber Elbaz returned to the scene with his new label AZ Factory, while Sterling Ruby became the first U.S. haute couture designer since Ralph Rucci in 2009.  In lieu of a show, Viktor & Rolf envisioned a ‘’Couture Rave” pairing fishnet tights with dramatic ruffled blouses and patchwork for punk rocker chic looks.  Also opting for a party was Alexandre Vauthier presenting a video of models dancing at Le Palace, dressed in 1980’s inspired styles.

so what did we learn?

Aside from the further longing for the return of Spring, we learned that the concept of couture is evolving.  While it will always be at its core the utmost in craftsmanship, it’s use of fabrics, style and purpose is widening.

Whether you want to escape to a magical world of tulle, brocade or surrealist superheroes, or are looking for something more grounded in haute reality, there is something for every taste.  At long last, you can choose your own version of powerful, feminine and fun at the highest levels of fashion.  Now, if only we lived in the stratosphere of being able to don some ourselves – a girl can dream, right?

The best of the spring summer 2021 haute couture shows

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This article contains affiliate links to products independently selected by our editors. As an Amazon Associate, Dandelion Chandelier receives a commission for qualifying purchases made through these links. 

Jillian Tangen is the Head of Research at Dandelion Chandelier and a former Senior Research Analyst at McKinsey & Co and Analyst at Shearman & Sterling. She is an avid fan of Nordic design, having owned an independent lifestyle store and sales agency focused on emerging Scandinavian design. Jillian lives in New York and is married with three young children. She loves cross-country skiing, the New York Rangers, reading, travel and discovering new brands.

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