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From space-age silhouettes to a princess on horseback: 5 highlights from Paris Haute Couture Week

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French for “high dressmaking,” Haute Couture is the most luxurious and highly protected classification of fashion, conceived by an invite-only group of the world’s most respected designers.

Haute Couture Week, held twice a year in Paris, offers a rare glimpse into this lofty domain, where visual escapism, extraordinary craft and one-of-a-kind outfits with five-figure price tags are commonplace.

Its most recent edition, for Spring-Summer 2022, has just concluded. And while glamour and gloss are a given, this year’s event was unlike any before it.

For one, the industry was reckoning with the death of Thierry Mugler, a designer whose theatricality and inventiveness transformed the world of couture as we know it. But there were breakthrough moments, too. At Valentino, creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli stepped outside the couture norm of hiring waif-like, young models by including a full range of body types and ages in his cast.

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At Schiaparelli, meanwhile, elements of the surreal — which artistic director Daniel Roseberry has become so good at harnessing — shone through, complete with the media storm surrounding Ye (formally Kanye West) and Julia Fox’s attendance at the presentation.

It is a sign of the times that these moments played out on social media, not just in the behind closed doors in Paris. Haute Couture will always be expensive, because it requires the most intensive craftsmanship and specialist materials, yet, increasingly, it is becoming a prism of the zeitgeist — an intertwining of sartorial, celebrity and societal forces.

Here are five highlights from the Spring-Summer 2022 shows.

Fendi looks to the stars

Kim Jones showed a Fendi couture collection in front of a live audience for the very first time, having been appointed as the brand’s artistic director during the pandemic. For the new season, he was inspired by the spirituality of Fendi’s home city, Rome.

With hints of Christianity and allusions to the heavens, in a religious sense, Jones explored a tempting vision of what may lie beyond. The results were statuesque and grand dresses, with styling that mimicked the heavens, in an astronomical sense.