The Art of Louise Dahl-Wolfe

Virginia Stewart (in Joset Walker) by Louise Dahl-Wolfe for Harper’s Bazaar, May 1948. Image HEARST PUBLISHING

Recently, I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic…. I’m putting that down to the fact that I’ve been clearing out a lot of old clutter in my life. Oddly enough, amongst the sorting everything out, I’ve found artistic inspiration in that I’m currently going through a very creative period. Hope it lasts for a long time! But enough about me, on to the fashion!

Tan Arnold (in B.H. Wragge) at the Hearst estate in San Simeon, California, by Louise Dahl-Wolfe for a 1958 edition of Harper’s Bazaar. Image HEARST PUBLISHING

As with last week’s jewelry post, today’s is inspired by a picture- an old editorial photograph to be exact. You can see the picture below, and if you’ve been on our Facebook page recently, you’d recognize it as our new profile picture. It’s a 1957 shot of Jessica Taft by the legendary Louise Dahl-Wolfe that was taken on the original (now eroded) Clifton Hill beach in Point Fortin, Trinidad- a place that means a lot to me. Finding this shot has made me extremely nostalgic for so many reasons, but especially because it was taken just steps from my grandparent’s and then father’s home in Shell Petroleum Trinidad’s Clifton Hill Camp.

Jessica Taft by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, 1957. Image GETTY

When this picture was taken, Clifton Hill was in its heyday- the glittering social hub of Shell Trinidad and a place of elegant parties, afternoon high tea and after dinner cocktails at the Clifton Hill Club. With one picture, I was transported to a world I knew from countless family stories; similar in many ways to mine, but different- mostly in its simplicity. Its simplicity that makes this image so striking- using nothing more than natural light, good clothes and setting, a gorgeous model and the brilliance of Ms. Dahl-Wolfe, an image of lasting, completely un-retouched fabulous-ness was created. I’m always floored by the the work of the great photographers of the fashion’s golden days, and this picture certainly reminded my why that is.

Jessica Ford (in a Nelly de Grab beach outfit and Mr. John hat) by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, for Harper’s Bazaar May 1957. Image HEARST PUBLISHING

As you might have guessed, this post is about Louise Dahl-Wolfe, one of the most celebrated photographers of the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s. She’s primarily known for her work with Harper’s Bazaar and her collaborations with editorial legends Carmel Snow and Diana Vreeland. She pioneered the use of natural lighting in outdoor and location shoots as well as in fashion photography, and is renowned for her role in integrating color into fashion editorials. Her work has heavily influenced many great photographers from Horst P. Horst, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn to Steven Meisel and Annie Leibovitz.

Betty Threatt by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, for a 1949 edition of Harper’s Bazaar. Image HEARST PUBLISHING

Born in San Fransisco, California, in November 1895, Louise Dahl-Wolfe originally intended to be an artist. She began attending the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Institute of Art) in 1914, where for six years she studied design and painting; taking courses in life drawing, anatomy, figure, composition and colour.

Mary Jane Russell by Louise Dahl-Wolfe for a 1955 edition of Harper’s Bazaar. Image HEARST PUBLISHING

During her time at school she became acquainted with a close friend of photographer Anne Brigman, who then also became a friend of Louise. Ms. Brigman invited Louise to her studio, where she viewed some of the photographer’s work. After examining some nudes set in ice caves and amongst cypress trees, Louise fell in love with the art of photography, and set about getting herself a camera.

Dappled Nude by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, 1944. Image HARVARD ART MUSEUM

She began taking pictures in 1923, eventually moving to New York to study design and architecture at Columbia University within that same year.

Her growing genius in photography soon began to attract attention, and in 1932 she was hired as a food photographer by Woman’s Home Companion. Soon after, acting on the suggestion of a friend, Louise sent some of her test portraits to the editor of Vanity Fair. It was this step that was the first true milestone of Louise’s career- her work was featured in the November 1933 edition of Vogue Magazine.

Diana Vreeland by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, for Harper’s Bazaar January 1942. Image HEARST PUBLSHING

Vanity Fair was so impressed by her work, that soon after her feature was published, they offered her a chance to join their staff as a portrait photographer. However Louise turned them down, preferring the artistic freedom that freelance work offered her, and set up her own independent photography studio.

Elizabeth Treatt (in Hattie Carnegie) by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, for a 1951 edition Harper’s Bazaar. Image HEARST PUBLISHING

Shortly after, Louise began working with Saks Fifth Avenue, taking pictures for their catalogs and advertisements. This was her first experience with fashion photography, and her new job required her to create beautiful images that portrayed designer clothing in an interesting, but natural way. She began experimenting with showroom models and clothes to perfect her style, practicing different lighting techniques until she was able to develop new ways of making the women she shot look chic, elegant and beautiful while remaining completely natural.

Designer Jaques Fath (foreground) in the studio with model Bettina Graziani (right, wearing a Jaques Fath evening gown), by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, 1940. Image GETTY

Louise joined Harper’s Bazaar as a staff fashion photographer in 1936. She started small, photographing accessories and still lifes, and gradually working up to shooting portraits and fashion editorials. Louise remained with Bazaar for 22 years, during which time the magazine published thousands of her images- including 86 covers, 600 colour photographs and thousands of black and white pictures.

Cherry Nelms (in Lilli Ann) by Louise Dah-Wolfe, for Harper’s Bazaar February 1953. Image HEARST PUBLISHING

Louise Dahl-Wolfe had a very distinct style of capturing subjects in full focus. She often styled her compositions against striking backdrops (often in the outdoors) and repeatedly featured light-reflecting props like mirrors and crystal chandeliers in her photographs. She drew upon the skills she learned during her time both at university and after to produce unusual and striking photographs. She saw light as an artistic medium, and by manipulating the play of light on the figures in her compositions, Louise conveyed her subjects in relate-able- but fully chic- terms.

Mary Jane Russell (in Balenciaga) by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, for a 1950 edition of Harper’s Bazaar. Image GETTY IMAGES

Louise often said that she preferred portraiture to fashion photography and during her career she photographed many notable people of her time- Mae West, Mary Jane Russel, Orson Welles, Edward Hopper, Sidonie-Gabriell Colette and Josephine Baker, to name a few. She is also credited with discovering Lauren Bacall (GASP), who she photographed as a teenager for a 1943 cover of Harper’s Bazaar.

Lauren Bacall (in Maurice Rentner) by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, for Harper’s Bazaar May 1943. Image HEARST PUBLISHING

Her career at Harper’s Bazaar ended in 1958, when she left amidst a shift in editorial management. Louise disliked the notion of being told how to work, and preferred to keep her artistic freedom, saying, “I could never work in someone else’s studio. I am of an independent nature and need my own surroundings.”

After leaving Bazaar Louise returned to freelance work, doing features for Vogue, Sports Illustrated and many other publications.

Millicent Rogers (in a Charles James blouse and Balenciaga skirt) by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, for a 1940 edition of Harper’s Bazaar. Image MILLICENT ROGERS MUSEUM/LOUISE DAHL-WOLFE

Louise Dahl-Wolfe lived many of her later years in Nashville, Tennessee, eventually dying of pneumonia at the age of 94 in New Jersey in 1989.

Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s work has literally changed the face of fashion and defined an entire era of iconic American history. She elevated the skill of fashion photography to a true art form and her work continues to stay current regardless of her craft’s ever changing style. Her images are still, and will continue to be regarded as a measure of sophisticated glamour and elegance in photography.

Model in White Dior Ball Gown with Mirror Mary Jane Russell (in Dior) by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, 1950. Image MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY

This post is for you Ms Dahl-Wolfe. Thank you for constantly reminding us of beautiful times!

Friday Fierceness!

Bliss Carnival 2015: Blue Preview

Danielle Matouk by Laura Ferreira for the Bliss Carnival 2015 Lookbook. Seen here is the Frontline edition of the Pai Costume by Valmiki Maharaj. Image BLISS CARNIVAL/LAURA FERREIRA STUDIOS

This has got to be one of the most eye-catching costumes of the season- I love this combination of cobalt blue with neon green and yellow! It’s just too fab!

Miguel Romeo, Danielle Matouk and Brianna Shim by Laura Ferreira for the Bliss Carnival 2015 Lookbook. Seen here are (fron left) the basic male, frontline female and basic female editons of the Pai Costume. Image BLISS CARNIVAL/LAURE FERREIRA STUDIOS

Teaser Video:

Models: Catherine Miller, Danielle Matouk, Amanda Ali, Shandi Silochan, Brianna Shim, Miguel Romeo and others.

Production team: The Bliss Carnival and Tribe Carnival family- Valmiki Maharaj, Ruana Booker, Solange Govia, Lana Nobrega, Claude Desir, Monique Nobrega, Jodi Henriques, Gina Maingot, Kirt Jaimungal, Joel Lynch, Dexter McShine, Shauna Ramroop, Andrew Charlett, Mark Deane, Danielle Tardieu Moze, Richard Ali, Jamie Garcia, Arielle Williams, Leeanna Legall, Aeron Kalloo, Gisel Laughlin, Sasha-Marie Mohammed, Hannah Samuel, Serala Ramlogan, Karisa McKenzie, James Phillips, Janine Morton, Kearlene Crosby, Kristi-Anne Chin Mc Auley, Natushka Latchman,, Rhiannon Pemberton,Robert de Gannes, Brent Acosta, Aurora Tardieu, Arvinder Rampersad, Danielle Henrique, Ryan Brown, Ashleia Baksh, Michelle Mohammed, Rian Ramrattan, Krista Clarke, Bruce Shepherd, Douglas John, Beids by Chuff, Melissa Deane, Nina Alcantara, Narvely Labastide, Leah-Marie Guevera, Lionel Jagessar, Rose Jagessar and others.

Produced by: Lizzard Blizzard Entertainment

Shot on location in the Santa Barbara Villa, Santa Cruz, Trinidad, by Laura Ferreira Studios.

See more on the Bliss Website

Hemmerle: The Masters of Exotic Jewelry

Ajak Deng by Charlie Engman for Vogue’s February 2014 issue, features a gorgeous pair of conch pearl, spinel, white gold and copper earrings by Hemmerle. Image VOGUE/CHARLIE ENGMAN

A few days ago I was clearing out some files in my computer and I came across a picture of a brooch amongst some old documents. It was a picture of Hemmerle’s Tarantula Brooch, an exceptional piece of jewelry featuring a 117.76 ct. horse conch pearl- one of the largest and rarest conch pearls in the world. Paired with yellow gold, chocolate diamonds, sapphires and tortoise shell, then wrought in the shape of a large tarantula, the brooch is quite literally a wearable masterpiece of art .

In a word, its simply… breathtaking.

The Tarantula Brooch by Hemmerle was produced in 1995 and has toured the world on multiple occasions as part of touring exhibitions of fine pearl jewelry. Image HEMMERLE

I’ve known of Hemmerle’s exceptional quality and devotion to detail for years, but every time I see one of their creations, I’m struck anew by their craftsmanship. Finding this picture has inspired me to write about the Hemmerle jewelry house, one of the world’s most innovative producers of intriguing fine gems.

The Physalis earrings and brooch from Hemmerle’s Nature’s Jewels Collection; yellow gold and Melo pearls are wrought in the shape of a physalis fruit. Image HEMMERLE

Hemmerle has been crafting fine jewelry since the late 19th century. The house was established in 1893 by jeweler brothers Anton and Joseph Hemmerle, who, in 1895, were appointed as the Court’s ‘Purveyors of Medals and Ornaments’ by Prince Regent Luitpold. The jewelers’ fame continued to grow as they produced creations for the likes of King Ludwig III of Bavaria, as well as other notable figures of German nobility, government and military.

Hemmerle’s Bishop’s Cross circa 1900. A confection of yellow gold, pearls, amethysts, quartz and blue enamel. Image HEMMERLE

From there, the jewelry house steadily established its reputation for exceptional fine jewelry, eventually opening their flagship boutique in 1903 in the fashionable Maximilianstrasse district of Munich. The house still operates out of this original location and is overseen by members of the Hemmerle family- now in it’s fourth-generation of jewelers!

Two pairs of Hemmerle earrings featuring (from left) white gold, patinated copper, aquamarine briolettes, blue opals and sapphires and white diamonds, grey pearls, white gold and silver. Image HEMMERLE

Hemmerle produces a wide scope of precious ornaments in conjunction with their artistic gems, including silver and military ornaments. The firm most notably produces medals for the Bavarian Maximiliansorden, an award established by King Maximilian II of Bavaria in 1853 to celebrate achievements in science and art. Hemmerle was granted the honor of creating the award in 1905 and still produces them to this day.

The Maxililiansorden Award for achievements in science and art. Image HEMMERLE

The house may be steeped in history but it’s certainly not bound by traditional methods of jewelry making. Hemmerle’s style can be described as “contemporary traditional,” and their jewelry embodies this aesthetic perfectly- it’s the right mix of age-old techniques and modern innovation. Their jewelry is eye-catching and strikingly exotic and their avant-garde approach to design has made them one of the forerunners in progressive fine jewelry design.

A bangle from Hemmerle’s Egyptian Sotry Collection in white gold, patinated copper and tourmaline. Image HEMMERLE

Hemmerle creates jewelry that is truly unlike anything else on the market today. Bold and experimental, their style still manages to harken back to the house’s fundamental aspects of design. By pairing old-cut diamonds, vintage cameos and rare coloured gemstones with both precious metals and copper, iron, brass or wood, the house produces jewelry that is truly unique.

A collection of mushroom-shaped pins from Hemmerle’s Mushroom Collection, wrought from cognac diamonds, white diamonds and champagne diamonds, in white gold, yellow gold, silver and patinated copper. Image HEMMERLE

This penchant for mixing rare stones with unorthodox settings was developed in 1995, when the firm was commissioned to create a ring for a client who hated traditional ‘flashy jewelery’. Hemmerle responded by indulging the patron’s fondness for Berlin iron jewellery, and set a large diamond in a ring of textured steel. The combination of common metal with a precious stone was unusual, however the iron enhanced the diamond’s beauty and inspired Hemmerle’s design aesthetic to progress their collections into new directions.

A collection of Hemmerle rings, featuring opals, spinels, topaz, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, beryls, tsavorites, mammoth ivory and diamonds, set in yellow gold, white gold, patinated copper, iron and brass. Image HEMMERLE

Hemmerle’s gem setting techniques can also be called unconventional. Aside from their use of avant-garde mounting materials, the company often stitches stones into a silky mesh or reverse-sets them for a prickly effect. To me, its a setting reminiscent of Van Cleef & Arpels’ mystery setting, but less rigid and stuffy. Hemmerle uses only the most exceptional of gemstones, often preferring gems that are not widely used: green tsavorites, intense blue Brazilian aquamarines, richly hued tourmalines and Melo Pearls, to name a few.

A turquoise and aquamarine necklace in white gold and patinated copper from Hemmerle’s Egyptian Story Collection, showing two of the firm’s trademark features: a woven chain of hand drilled gemstones and a lush jeweled tassel. Image HEMMERLE

Nature is one of the main inspirations behind Hemmerle’s jewelry. Their designs are often breathtakingly lifelike reproductions of objects found in the natural world. Flora and fauna alike have been rendered in mixed metals and precious gems, turning into perfect miniatures of their organic counterparts. Everything’s fair game – Hemmerle has not only fashioned gems in the shape of arachnids, birds, insects and reptiles, but even jeweled mushrooms, woodland flowers, fruit and even vegetables like aubergines and cauliflowers!

A collection of jeweled vegetable brooches and earrings from the Delicious Jewels Collection by Hemmerle, featuring seed pearls, demantoid garnets, white diamonds, violet sapphires, jade, orange sapphires, spinels and tsavorites, set in white gold, yellow gold, silver and patinated copper. Image HEMMERLE

Every piece is perfectly proportioned with the right balance of textures, colours, geometry and movement, with the result of quirky jewelry that is at the same time both understated and perfectly statement worthy. They’re thoroughly chic- and a perfect choice for women who like wearing their big gems in the middle of the day (like me!)

Two pairs of Hemmerle earrings featuring (from left) rough tourmalines and sapphires in patinated copper and white gold, and tourmalines and pink sapphires in white gold and patinated copper. Image HEMMERLE

Hemmerle’s incredible designs have been celebrated the world over, with their pieces often being included in global touring exhibitions of fine jewelry. Their most famous touring piece is without a doubt their Tarantula Brooch, which has been included in a number of exhibits showcasing the beauty of pearls. The praise that their jewelry has received has prompted Hemmerle to release four publications, Delicious Jewels, Art of Nature, Jewels Today and Nature’s Jewels, that document the company’s design process and showcase outstanding pieces of their work.

The Arbutus brooch from Hemmerle’s Nature’s Jewels Collection features prickly reverse-set sapphires and demantoid garnets in patinated copper, white gold, bronze and silver. Image HEMMERLE

It goes without saying that Hemmerle’s jewelry is extremely exclusive; their workrooms produce about 300 pieces a year. The company employs only 15 artisans for their whole production, where the process for creating the spectacular jewels remains a practice in pure devotion to the craft. Not a single detail is overlooked in this exact approach to construction- it’s not unusual for 500 or more hours to be spent on the making of a single Hemmerle jewel! However this process is key to producing Hemmerle’s exceptional jewelry.

Hemmerle bracelet featuring antique walrus teeth set with cognac diamonds in white gold and burnished copper. Image HEMMERLE

I’m thrilled to showcase these stunning examples of their work. Please feel free to swoon with me!

Friday Fierceness!

Model Portfolio- Yidah Leonard in Adrian Foster

Blouse and Trousers: AF Adrian Foster Resort 2014, Shoes: Model’s own. Image MARLON JAMES

Model: Yidah Leonard
Photographer: Marlon James
Hair and Makeup: Amanda Salandy

Shot on location in the Crews Inn Marina, Chaguaramas Trinidad

Haute Joaillerie F/w 2014

One of the shot’s from Chanel’s Café Society Collection campaign, featuring the glamourous Midnight Suite of white diamonds and onyx set in white gold. Image CHANEL

It’s become a tradition of Paris Couture Week to end on a glittering high note. I say that in the most literal sense because the end of the couture shows is always marked by the season’s display of Haute Joaillerie. While high jewelry showcases have been held around Paris throughout the week, the biggest events were scheduled for July 10th.

One of the shots from BVLGARI’s MVSA Collection campaign, featuring the Viola necklace of cabochon-cut garnets and amethyst nuggets in yellow gold. Image BVLGARI/FACEBOOK

“Boucheron…Chaumet…Mellerio…Dior,” the list goes on to include the who’s-who of the haute jewelry and fashion world. If I have said that I died and went to Heaven earlier on in the week, then this is the place that exists beyond that.

One of the shots from Boucheron’s Rêve d’Ailleurs Collection campaign featuring the gorgeous diamond and quartz Pinceau de Chine necklace. Image BOUCHERON

Unlike many of their fashion counterparts, jewelers did not go along with this season’s trend of muting the pizazz of their collections. For the f/w 2014 season, bigger is most definitely better, with jewelery houses producing Haute Joaillerie collections that push the boundaries of opulent gems to a whole new level.

Here is a compilation of the season’s best gems; the crème de la crème of the jewelry world:


The gorgeous Seascape suite from BVLGARI’s MVSA Collection, featuring emeralds, rubies, amethysts and white diamonds set in yellow gold. Image BVLAGRI/JEWELS DU JOUR

Piaget Haute Joaillerie

A gorgeous textured cuff of yellow gold, white diamonds and turquoise from the Extremely Piaget Collection. Image PIAGET

Van Cleef & Arpels

The Robe Couleur du Soleil clip, in white and yellow gold with round, oval-cut and rose-cut diamonds, spessartite garnets, yellow tourmalines and sapphires, from the Van Cleef & Arpels Peau d’Âne Collection. Image VAN CLEEF & ARPELS

Dior Haute Joaillerie

The Bar en Corolle bracelet, in white gold with diamonds, pink and purple sapphires, emeralds, garnets and pink spinels, from the Dior Archi Dior Collection. Image DIOR

Mellerio dits Meller

The Éclats de Lys necklace in white gold, with white diamonds and violet sapphires, from the Mellerio dits Meller Secrets de Lys Collection can be worn in eight different configurations, both as a necklace and as a bracelet. Image MELLERIO DITS MELLER/VOGUE FRANCE

Sylvie Corbeline Haute Joaillerie

Intriguing mobile earrings from the 2014 Sylvie Corbelin Fascination Collection features three independantly-moving jewelled stations suspended from a singular stud. Image SYLVIE COURBELINE/JEWELLRY EDITOR

Giampiero Bodino Haute Joaillerie

The Primavera ring from the Giampiero Bodino 2014 Haute Joaillerie Collection features a large central yellow diamond, with white, grey, yellow and cognac diamonds, pink sapphires and emeralds, set in yellow gold. Image GIAMPIERO BODINO/THE JEWELLERY EDITOR

Alexandre Reza Haute Joaillerie

The Atoll earrings from Alexandre Reza feature 8.56 ct. of cabochon-cut unheated Burmese sapphires, and 22 ct. of emerald-cut and brilliant-cut white diamonds, set in white and yellow gold. Image ALEXANDRE REZA HAUTE JOAILLERIE


A breathtaking necklace from the Cartier Royal Cartier Collection features a 15.29 ct. oval shaped ruby, a 3.51 ct. round rose-cut diamond and a 5.10 ct. pear-shaped diamond set amongst strands of rubies and white diamonds in white gold. The ruby and diamond choker stations can also be worn separately. Image CARTIER

Cindy Chao

A gorgeous white and yellow gold, white diamond and emerald brooch from the Cindy Chao Black Label Four Seasons Collection. Image CINDY CHAO/JEWELLERY EDITOR

Louis Vuitton Haute Joaillerie

This white gold, white diamond, aquamarine and sapphire necklace from the Louis Vuitton Acte V Collection features a majestic 88 ct. triangular opal. Image LOUIS VUITTON


A pair of iolite, blue topaz, quartz and white diamond earrings set in rose gold from the Damiani Dorotea Masterpiece Collection. Image DAMIANI

De Beers

A pair of white gold and white diamond chandelier earrings from the De Beers Aria Collection. Image DE BEERS/LUXURY INSIDER

Atelier Versace

A pair of yellow gold, yellow diamond, white diamond and emerald earrings from the Atelier Versace F/w 2014 Haute Joaillerie Collection. Image ATELIER VERSACE


A breathtaking lime-green diamond ring in yellow and white gold, from the Messika Exceptional Stones Collection, shown here being set in the workroom. Image MESSIKA/FACEBOOK

Wallace Chan Haute Joillerie

The Chest of Treasures necklace from the Wallace Chan F/w 2014 Haute Joaillerie Collection: a white gold, peridot and white diamond station necklace with a gorgeous pendant featuring a 132ct peridot surrounded by smaller peridots, amethysts, white diamonds and white gold. Image WALLACE CHAN/JEWELERY EDITOR

Chanel Haute Joaillerie

The Sunset pin in rose gold, with white diamonds and Padparadscha sapphires, from the Chanel Haute Joaillerie Café Society Collection. Image CHANEL/AFP

Carrera y Carrera

The gorgeous Orquídeas stud earrings, in rose gold with white diamond and rubies, from Carrera y Carrera’s Seda Imperial Collection. Image CARRERA Y CARRERA/THE GEM STANDARD


The Trésor de Perse cuff bracelet, in white gold with white diamonds, cabochon-cut sapphires and mother-of-pearl, from Boucheron’s Rêves d’Ailleurs Collection. Image BOUCHERON


This white gold, violet sapphire, and white diamond bracelet from the Chaumet Lumières d’Eau Collection features a 39-carat cabochon-cut white opal.


We couldn’t pick our favourite! A selection of Buccaletti’s Bracelets de Rêve in yellow and white gold, with white diamonds, yellow diamonds, sapphires, garnets, emeralds and spinel, from it’s Haute Joaillerie showing at Paris Couture Week. Image BUCCELLATI


A pair of architectural rose gold and white diamond rings from the 2014 Repossi Serti sur Vide Collection. Image REPOSSI

De Grisogono Haute Joaillerie

This gorgeous ring from the Di Grisogono Haute Joaillerie Collection features a large yellow diamond solitaire surrounded by emeralds and yellow diamonds set in yellow gold. Image DI GRISOGONO

Graff Diamonds

A breathtaking ruby and white diamond necklace in white gold from the Graff Rhythm Collection. Image GRAFF/THE JEWELLERY EDITOR

Modern Goddesses at Valentino Couture Fall 2014

A view from the final walk-out of the Valentino Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Now let me say upfront that Valentino is one of my favourite designers, so I may be a little biased when it comes to my overall feelings about the collection.

Valentino Couture premiered it’s Fall/winter 2014 Collection at the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild on June 9th, and it is something else! Inspired by Pre-Raphaelite art, designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli delivered a collection that is opulent, airy and undeniably feminine.

Looks from the Valentino Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Over the past few seasons the duo has sent out couture collections teaming with breathtaking embellishments and detail work that pushed their atelier to new limits. This time, the designer team explored a scaled back approach, crafting a collection of clean lines with minimal fuss, proving that their talent at crafting exquisite pieces of wearable art.

Elegant and airy: looks from the Valentino Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The duo did Signor Garavani proud by producing a collection that stays true to Valentino’s pure aesthetic, while reinventing it with darker, edgier elements. There is a whisper of the tragic figure of Ophelia to be seen in the spare colour palette, leather accents, plain ornamentation and monochromatic prints, but the overall effect is one of romance and delicacy. “It’s our past we’re thinking about,” said Ms. Chiuri. “Something graceful, regal and a bit more pagan, this time.”

Looks from the Valentino Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

This discord resulted in a fall collection with a full scope of offerings; simple looks appeared next to extravagant haute couture pieces, with some separates and day wear thrown into the mix. Clients can choose from a selection of un-ornamented blouses and dresses, simple evening gowns patterned with unfussy intarsia motifs, floor-skimming formal skirts and jackets. THEN there are the pieces truly worthy of the label of couture!

Looks from the Valentino Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Lushly embroidered brocade gowns and jackets, paneled dresses made of flat lace ruffles, evening skirts heavy with metallic beading, fluttering goddess robes…the list goes on! There’s even a little gold lamé included for the glittery divas (like me)! The most extraordinary pieces are a skirt and coat fashioned from panels of 17th-century tapestries. My art and history loving brother would probably have a stroke, but the pieces are gorgeous!

Looks in tapestry and gold lamé, seen at the Valentino Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

It’s a collection with a lot of contrast and austerity that very much heightened its impact. The designers played with a lot of textures in this collection- mixing chiffon, silk crepe, tulle and net with more substantial brocades and winter silks. Unexpected details like those leather accents, ostrich feathers and patterned furs made for a striking show.

Looks of patterned net and ostrich feathers seen at the Valentino Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The result is one of the collection of a modern goddess. The demure restraint of the Valentino woman is apparent in the long-sleeve dresses and below-the-knee hemlines in transparent fabrics. Roman-inspired accents further enliven the looks with elegant draping reminiscent of wrapped togas, plain tunics and gladiator sandles. It’s a fresher, more youthful approach to Goddess dressing, and very much in keeping with the designers’ modern vision of “an ethereal, pagan goddess on the way to the temple.” Ahhhh… speak to me Valentino!

Looks seen at the Valentino Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

This youthful mood extended into the show’s setting with the catwalk itself being a wooden floor lined with lush garden hedges. Runway styling was also in tune, with the models sporting comfortable sandles and no jewelry. Hair and makeup was kept suitably nymph-like, with models showed off long, wavy tresses and nearly nude faces.

Looks from the Valentino Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Adaptability seems to be the trend that’s being pushed by many designers- not just here at Maision Valentino, but all over the runways of the Paris Haute Couture Week. Designers have been pushing to bridge the gap between traditional haute couture and prêt-à-porter for years, but this Fall 2014 season marks the closest that many of them have ever come to making such a big connection.

Haute couture meets prêt-à-porter at the Valentino Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

It’s a nice idea, allowing women to include the height of luxury into their everyday wardrobe, but could it ever realistically be done? And if so, how many would be willing to pay the couture price for items that could just as easily be found off the rack? Could this season be the start of a new age of haute couture, where modern adaptability replaces the traditional pomp and circumstance? Only time will tell, but I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Looks from the Valentino Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The show was thoroughly gorgeous, with a wonderful mix of romance, realism and rawness. The designer’s approach to their vision resulted in an haute couture collection that could actually work in a contemporary woman’s closet. If you couldn’t tell, I absolutely love it!

Back the the Future at Dior Haute Couture Fall 2015

Looks seen at the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

As he did with his last collection for Maison Dior, Raf Simons served up an eclectic mix of looks for this latest showing of Dior Haute Couture.

Taking place in a futuristic circular construction in the back gardens of the Musée Rodin, Mr. Simons presented a collection that is as varied and romantic as Paris itself. It’s clear that he drew his inspiration directly from the city’s history, taking cues from iconic looks of Parisian fashion, adding features from the house of Dior- and mixing it with urban elements that are synonymous with the city’s modern working woman.

Looks seen at the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Some of the themes that Mr. Simons has touched upon in the past have returned in this collection to be explored in much greater depth and detail. Issues centering around women, power, and gender equality were assessed in this runway show. It sounds a little heavy with these themes probably being more appropriate for a university thesis than a fashion show, but Mr. Simons has previously shown that exploring such concepts has allowed him to create absolutely dazzling fashion.

Looks seen at the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The theme of this season focuses on taking historical designs and reworking them for modern life. In many ways Mr. Simons aimed to interconnect both past and future, and present them in startlingly current terms. Thus he sent reworked versions of the great coat, astrakhan coats, 1920’s shift dresses, boiler suits, Marie Antoinette worthy corsets and brocade gowns down the runway. These bold pieces were often paired with everyday staples like miniskirts, tailored trousers, Tee-shirts and turtlenecks to produce stunningly futuristic results. It sounds messy, but was a meaningful and coherent statement to the collection’s theme of exploration.

Looks seen at the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

It was Raf Simons’ version of a concept album, with the presentation showcasing over 60 looks that extended over six segments- each section highlighting remarkably different types of dress.

Looks seen at the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The show started on a simple note with structured 18th century-inspired evening gowns, complete with tight corsets, panniers and delicate embroidery. This ‘princess’ look was slowly deconstructed and blended with hints of the segment’s other style inspiration- astronauts! Gradually, starched skirts transformed into baggy skirts and then coveralls- corsets became heavy belts and fragile embellishments were replaced with utilitarian decorations.

From ball gown to boiler suit: looks seen at the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

From there the utilitarian theme took over the show, this practical look becoming downright businesslike in certain areas, with the designer experimenting with deconstructed versions of almost every type of coat and jacket. Beautifully rendered in velvet, silk and fur, embroidered with crystals and metallic threads, these handsome cover-ups were paired with plain separates to produce looks that wouldn’t be out of place in any young professional’s wardrobe.

From maxi-length jackets, to Edwardian frock coats and sharp double-breasted jackets, Mr. Simons refurbished them all over the course of the next four segments- even Dior’s iconic Bar coat was updated!

Updated versions of the Bar coat seen at the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Dresses and mod-inspired skirt suits were shown in conjunction with these workplace-ready ensembles, giving the audience an idea to what could be worn under under the heavy coats. Elegant and unfussy, these looks are perfect examples of outfits that would work from day to night in many business settings and events. Easily wearable and adaptable enough to mix-and-match every item, Raf Simons’ Dior provides the modern jet-setting business woman with a complete wardrobe that is appropriate for almost any occasion.

Looks seen at the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Evening wear was shown yet again, but this time with the sleek lines and straight hems that made up the quintessential look of the 1920s. Here, a casual approach to the flapper dress was taken with opaque beading, unfussy floral patterns and plain net-lined lace rendering an iconic look in simple, modern terms.

New-age flapper dresses seen at the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The collection came full circle with the final segment being a return to the princess dresses that opened the show. Stripped bare of most adornment and with lush tulle skirts dangling unsupported, it was a the modern version of the ball gown. Bare tops flare seamlessly into full skirts, while frivolous peplums and corsets are stripped of their padding and reduced to simple flattened panels that suggested the same silhouette in a more relaxed way.

Modern ball gowns seen at the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Overall, I think it’s a beautiful collection, varied in it’s inspiration- and although somewhat disorientating in it’s scope, on the whole, it’s a cohesive and technically impressive production. In the show notes, Mr. Simons said the collection was about bringing “the attitude of contemporary reality to something very historical,” thereby finding something modern in the result. This concept collection suggests he might have done just that.

Looks seen at he Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

In many ways he may have even surpassed the idea of modern dressing with some of his looks becoming downright futuristic in their pairings and accessories. By looking to the past for inspiration, Mr. Simons has produced a collection that is not just about the house and its legacy, but which seeks to address Mr. Simons’ own cultural musings.

Looks from the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Raf Simons has said in the past that he, “wanted to present women with freedom and possibilities in the way they dress,” and he does this by removing the restrictive features of dress. By stripping fussy skirts of their voluminous underpinnings, by unlacing corsets and removing pads, Mr. Simons’s Dior allows women to move freely while still maintaining the drama and elegance of Dior Haute Couture. By eliminating all of it’s uncomfortable confinements, Mr. Simons strives to preserve the time-honored tradition of couture by making it compatible with contemporary life.

Part of the final walk-out at the Dior Haute Couture F/w 2014 show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Acknowledging the need to preserve such a fabled house’s heritage while making it relevant to today’s standards is not an easy task. Nor is honoring the past while altering it to anticipate the future, but Raf Simons manages to do it again- and with exceptional talent, in his Dior Haute Couture fall 2015 presentation.

Dark Enchantresses à la Julien Fournié Fall 2014

A high-drama look from the Julien Fournié Haute Couture F/w 2015 runway show. Image AP/ZACHARIE SCHEURER

“In every creature, even the darkest, most evil ones, there subsists a hint of light,” said Julien Fournié as he and his team put the finishing touches on the final gown of his then upcoming couture show.

A look from the Julien Fournié Haute Couture F/w 2015 runway show. Image GETTY IMAGES

It’s no surprise then, that the designer, a master of drama, staged his 11th runway show in the Oratory of the Louvre. It was an extraordinarily theatrical show, in which Mr. Fournié sought to plunge his audience straight into the dark and dangerous world of truly dramatic creatures- seductive and mysterious women.

A look from the Julien Fournié Haute Couture F/w 2015 runway show. Image GETTY IMAGES

For the Fall/winter 2015 Collection, Premières Pulsions (First Impulses), Monsieur Fournié drew upon the mystique of the vampire enchantress as envisioned by William Blake, David Lynch and Francis Ford Coppola’s cinematic adaption of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The late addition of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent (who wouldn’t find inspiration with that character’s portrayal?) produced a collection that is both vibrant and beautiful for it’s darkness.

Maleficent worthy: an emerald-green gown from the Julien Fournié Haute Couture F/w 2015 runway show. Image GETTY IMAGES

This a lesson in pure glamour. By stripping shapes down to their barest lines, Julien Fournié produced a captivating vision in startlingly simple and beautiful terms. By keeping lines clean, the fabrics luxurious, and the details unexpectedly lush, this collection updates the idea of the seductress as being an oversexed vamp, to that of an ethereal creature that is sensual, fragile- but extraordinarily glamorous all at once.

A look from the Julien Fournié Haute Couture F/w 2015 runway show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The show started simply enough, with Mr. Fournié taking full advantage of the opportunity to showcase pieces from his upcoming Spring/summer 2015 Collection for Paris’s Printemps Department Store and his soon to be released shoe collection for Fashion Lab. Here he showcased his separates; pencil skirts, silk blouses, layered jackets and trousers, before moving on to his dramatic couture looks.

I love this! A prêt-à-porter look from the Julien Fournié 2015 F/w Haute Couture show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Let me take a minute to mention these prêt-à-porter pieces.

It was a smart decision for Mr. Fournié to present these at the beginning of the show. Not only did it provide the perfect allegory for bridging fantasy and reality, it also helped to build anticipation for his upcoming collection. These off-the-rack pieces ground the collection into the realities of contemporary luxury wear (which is basically all about sales) while offering a streamlined selection of wardrobe-building possibilities. It’s a good move, and from judging the fantastic array of wearable items shown, I can say that this is an area with real growth potential for the house.

A prêt-à-porter look from the Julien Fournié 2015 F/w Haute Couture show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Afterwards, the runway changed to one swathed in shadows, with almost every possible shade of black being the major colour. Rendered in net, lace, chiffon and silk, and coated in iridescent finishes, black took on a whole new dimension in terms of texture and shade. By showcasing so basic a colour in such an imaginative way, Mr. Fournié truly conveyed the of the beauty of shadows and the glimmer of light that persists in darkness. Its all simply gorgeous.

A look from the Julien Fournié Haute Couture F/w 2015 runway show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Then, Julien Fournié further amplified the effect by juxtaposing his shadowy blacks with vibrant pops of fuchsia, butter yellow, emerald and acid green and sapphire blue, As I said before- drama! These brighter inclusions were not without their dark embellishments; black returned here in the form of graphic prints, lace cutouts, crystal embroidery, and feathered trims. It may sound like a lot, but trust me, these theatrical trimmings made the collection.

Bright colour pops paired with dark embellishments really livened up the runway show of the Julien Fournié Haute Couture F/w 2015 Collection. Image GETTY IMAGES

There was also a little practicality included in the details- a clever snap closure concept that was both ornamental and inventive banished the need for fussy zippers and hooks. It’s a pretty cool concept, and I hope that it catches on with other designers!

A look from the Julien Fournié Haute Couture F/w 2015 runway show illustrating those ingenious snap-closures. Image GETTY IMAGES

The tailoring was impressive; the long, clean lines and body-skimming fabrics showed the female body off to the best degree. Plunging V-necks that extend to the waist and sharp slits that allow just a hint of the thigh to be seen, guarantee Mr. Fournié’s clients will be showstoppers. It’s very sexy, but never too much.

A look from the Julien Fournié Haute Couture F/w 2015 runway show. Image GETTY IMAGES

By pairing such risqué details with gracefully fluted skirts, cascading waterfall sleeves and soft, flowing fabrics, Julien Fournié rendered the concept of the dark enchantress in an updated, thoroughly glam form.

A look from the Julien Fournié Haute Couture F/w 2015 runway show. Image GETTY IMAGES

By stripping away the fussy details and presenting his vision in stark drama Julien Fournié perfectly demonstrated that even the wicked have a soft, delicate side.

Too fab!

Chanel Haute Couture, sans ‘couture’ for Fall 2014

The looks seen on the runway at finale of the Chanel Couture F/w 2014 Show. Image EPA

Chanel’s F/w 2014 Haute Couture show took place in Belle Epoque greenhouse of the Grand Palais on June 2nd, all I can say is…

A look from the 2014 F/w Chanel Couture Show. Image RACHEL ZOE/THE ZOE REPORT

Oh. My. Gosh.

I think I might have died and gone to heaven!

The graphic train of the closing look of the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The Chanel F/W 2014 collection was a huge production- it included over 70 looks and was shown during the course of two consecutive runway shows at the Grand Palais. This season, Karl Lagerfeld drew inspiration mainly from the work of architect Le Corbusier, added the rococo glamour of Marie Antoinette and stirred it all together with the uniform of a Tour-de-France cyclist from the 1980s. Fierce.

Looks from the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The result was per-fection. Only Karl Lagerfeld could have pulled off a collection with so much going on. Tongue in cheek, or rather (in Kaiser Lagerfeld’s words), “Tongue in chic”…”very chic” is the only way to describe this offering, with the overall look being a mash up of stark modernist lines, opulent embellishments and punky ’80s silhouettes.

Looks from the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

It was an interesting lesson in control: dazzling beads and trompe-l’oeil embroideries were set against clean lines, while the more imposing, substantial clothes were practically worn without jewelery. Stiff, fussy skirts were matched with flat sandles, coatdresses were worn over shorts- as were jackets and skirts, regal dresses were paired with flip-flops.

Looks from the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

It’s a collection with a lot of separates- these pieces making up over two-thirds of the looks. Chanel’s persistence with a hefty separates segment suggests that this is one house where clients really come to buy a complete wardrobe- not just party frocks. Embellished tunics, shirtdresses, jackets, coats, tailored trousers, shorts (in tweed and silk), fur shrugs and a variety of skirts were all seen on the runway alongside all-out couture gowns.

Oh the separates! Looks to mix-and-match seen at the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Oh the possibilities to mix-and-match!

Models backstage at the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

This season, futuristic technology was applied in an endless number of ways; lace was coated with silicone, tulle stiffened and bordered with strips of plastic, leather sandles tied with silk bows, a NEOPRENE bridal gown (gasp)! You’d think it would look crazy, but it all works!

Oh and what a gown it is! Karl Lagerfeld (left) kisses his pregnant bride, model Ashleigh Good, at the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

Things were molded rather than seamed… in that sense it takes away the literal meaning of the word couture: cutting and seaming. It’s remarkably futuristic, yet the Chanel workrooms produced look after look of such gorgeousness, that you really wonder if all the extensive seaming so common in couture is necessary! It’s overall unexpected, but very cohesive, with each unusual pairing- the collection as a whole, creating a beautiful sense of balance.

Modern technology meets vintage design at the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The most startling feature of Chanel’s F/W 2014 couture shows was the use of concrete as an embellishment. In a tribute to Le Corbusier, who made concrete an integral part of modern architectural design, Mr. Lagerfeld incorporated tiny tiles of the stuff into beautiful mosaic embroideries that were added throughout the collection.

Who knew such a mundane material could be so chic? Concrete sits amongst more traditional luxurious embellishments adorning the outfits of Chanel’s 2014 F/w Couture Collection. Image GETTY

The styling was in keeping with the blended milieu of the collection; the perfect mix of regal chic and eccentric edginess. Flawless makeup met with punky 1980s ‘Peak Hair’, paired with jaunty little hats courtesy milliner Maison Michel, and the occasional oversized ring, gave an outcome that was both fabulous and offbeat… and completely refreshing.

The array of hats and hair seen at the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

A sparse colour scheme of black, white and grey with just a little red, gave one of the chicest- although by no means minimalist- pared-back Chanel collections in a while. It’s something incredibly new and very much in keeping with the trend of youth-ifying couture.

Looks from the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

This collection shows that the House of Chanel and its eponymous designer, Mr. Lagerfeld, continue to be at the forefront of luxury design, all the while keeping their roots firmly set in the past. Mr. Lagerfeld stays true to Chanel’s origins with boucles, wools and tartans, but rendering them in ways that are sleek, modern and easy to wear. Every season, Chanel manages to make heavy fabrics seem light, airy and almost weightless- and in this showing, they did it while adding concrete and molding to the clothing!

Looks from the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

It seems that Mr. Lagerfeld really has mastered the impossible with this collection. On the plainest level, the fact that he managed to cohesively pull together a collection so full of contrasts is an achievement in itself. On a more thoughtful note, his production not only mirrored the austerity and excess of his inspirations, it echoed the duality of Coco Chanel’s own life- her strict professional self countered by Coco at home, the exotic orientalist. What a tribute!

Looks from the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The production value of the show was incredibly scaled back in this instance- a huge change from the extravaganzas of Chanel shows past. This time, the runway was left bare to mimic the stark geometry of Le Corbusier’s designs, with the only decoration being a pair of decorative mirrors and rococo fireplaces at each end of the catwalk. Shown to a small audience of 350, the spare surroundings really helped to draw the attention acutely to the clothes.

A view of the runway and stage setting at the Chanel 2015 F/w Couture Show. Image GETTY IMAGES

The Chanel F/W 2014 show was simply a stunning and meaningful way to pay homage to Le Corbusier. For the man who in the 1930’s designed an apartment where sharp modernity melded with 18th century rococo, with a view overlooking the Champs-Elysees, this collection couldn’t have been a better tribute. The juxtaposition of severity/overindulgence, modernism/antiquity and brutality/baroque made for a show that was provocative, thoughtful and oh-so-very Karl Lagerfeld!

Friday Fierceness!

Elie Saab Haute Couture F/w 2014

A stunning ice blue gown and stole from the Elie Saab Haute Couture F/w 2014 Collection pictured on the runway (left) and backstage. Image GETTY IMAGES/PASCAL LE SEGRETAIN

Designer: Elie Saab
Hair: Orlando Pita
Makeup: Tom Pecheux

-July 9th, Pavillon Cambon Capucines, Paris