10 of the best ever haute couture fashion week moments

Naomi May
·4-min read
Versace Haute Couture 1995 (Rex Features)
Versace Haute Couture 1995 (Rex Features)

It's fashion's frothiest frock-worthy event and this week Paris’ biannual Haute Couture fashion week is once again rolling into your living rooms via digital steam, as it pivots to the constraints of the pandemic.

While coronavirus has forced Jean-Paul Gaultier to postpone its couture collection this season, and London-based label Ralph and Russo to cancel its presentation, there are still 28 houses participating in the four-day affair.

Highlights of this week are set to come from Kim Jones, who will make his Fendi womenswear debut with a show that will be live-streamed on the brand’s website and social media channels, and Alber Elbaz, former creative director of Lanvin, will also make his long-awaited return to the schedule with the inaugural collection from his new label, AZ Factory.

Indeed, haute couture has quite the history. English couturier Charles Frederick Worth established the first haute couture house in Paris in 1858, in a bid to champion luxury fashion for the upper-class woman, but it wasn't until 1908 that the term was officially used for the first time. Today there are 15 brands, including Chanel, Dior, and Givenchy, that are part of the French Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture - the organisation that decides who's in and who's out of the couture world - all of whom craft fantastical couture collections twice a year.

So elite is the world of haute couture in fact, that it's been estimated there are no more than 4,000 haute couture clients in the world.

This season, while there might be no street style to lust over and no front row to dissect, but there will be dreamy dresses in droves. As virtual haute couture fashion week gets underway, we thought it apropos to take a trip down memory lane to pore over the most awe-inspiring moments from the bygone years.

Chanel autumn/winter 1983

Chanel Haute Couture AW 1983Sygma via Getty Images
Chanel Haute Couture AW 1983Sygma via Getty Images

Chanel's couture autumn/winter 1983 show was Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld's debut collection for the fashion house.

His elegant oeuvre soon came to epitomise the fashion escapism that couture week is lauded for. The awe-inspiring sets he crafted were a work of art in themselves.

Yves Saint Laurent spring/summer 1993

Yves Saint Laurent Couture SS 1993 (Gamma-Rapho )Gamma-Rapho
Yves Saint Laurent Couture SS 1993 (Gamma-Rapho )Gamma-Rapho

1993 was a blooming brilliant one for supermodel-in-the-making Kate Moss. In February, she sashayed her way down the catwalk for Yves Saint Laurent wearing a bouquet of floral prints, and the following month she snagged her first Vogue cover (for the March issue of British Vogue.) Not bad going.

Versace Atelier autumn/winter 1995

Versace Couture AW 1995Rex Features
Versace Couture AW 1995Rex Features

Gianni Versace's high-octane shows throughout the nineties were a sight to be beheld; all glitz and glam and more-is-more. His autumn/winter 1995 couture collection was a stand-out, as he sent an army of models down the runway in bedazzled and shimmering ensembles, a move that perfectly epitomised the era's hedonism.

Thierry Mugler autumn/winter 1997

Thierry Mugler Couture AW 1997AP
Thierry Mugler Couture AW 1997AP

Thierry Mugler was inspired by Kafka’s Metamorphosis for his haute couture show in 1997. Models were dressed as winged and hard-shelled characters, before a swarm of dramatic butterflies closed the show.

Chanel autumn/winter 2004

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

A tradition started by Karl Lagerfeld, each Chanel haute couture show closes with a Chanel bride. Kendall Jenner and Lily-Rose Depp have held the illustrious position more recently, but in bygone years, it had fallen to Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer, and Linda Evangelista, who was the face of a slew of iconic Chanel runway moments.

Elie Saab spring/summer 2015

IMAXTree
IMAXTree

Elie Saab’s Midsummer Night’s Dream-esque spring/summer 2015 show was the stuff of dreams. Models stormed down the runway which was adorned with lush leaf foliage, as they sported a series of ethereal gowns all imagined in Saab’s dreamy DNA.

Chanel autumn/winter 2015

Chanel Couture AW 2015 (Getty Images )Getty Images
Chanel Couture AW 2015 (Getty Images )Getty Images

Haute couture has always been about fantasy and, ever the visionary, Karl Lagerfeld crafted a Chanel Couture Casino for the brand's autumn/winter 2015 spectacle in Paris. Who knew that Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, and Lily-Rose Depp would ever be centre stage of a casino night that we'd be privy to?!

Fendi autumn/winter 2016

Fendi Couture AW 2016 (Getty Images )Getty Images
Fendi Couture AW 2016 (Getty Images )Getty Images

For Fendi's autumn/winter couture 2016 show - and the heritage brand's 90th anniversary - a swarm of models strolled along Rome's iconic Trevi Fountain. So dedicated is Fendi to the Italian city - its birthplace - that it made a $2.4 million investment in 2013 to the restoration of the fountain.

Viktor & Rolf autumn/winter 2017

IMAXTree
IMAXTree

For autumn/winter 2017, Viktor & Rolf opened the show with a diverse range of twenty mascots all of which had giant heads. The brand stated in the show notes, that the giant dolls “are rooting for a world that is creative, diverse, and eco-conscious.”

Some hated them, some loved them, but either way, it was Viktor & Rolf’s most inclusive line-up to date.

Valentino autumn/winter 2018

IMAXTree
IMAXTree

Shortly after Kaia Gerber sported Pierpaolo Piccioli’s breathtakingly beautiful feathery frock in 2018, Lady Gaga’s team snapped it up for the star to be the first VIP to wear it. Fast forward a few months and Gaga sported it to the A Star Is Born premiere at the Venice Film Festival and looked similarly as spectacular, sending the internet into disarray once more.