The Biggest Takeaways from Haute Couture Fall 2018

Everything you need to know about what happened in Paris.
Reading time 6 minutes

The Fall 2018 couture shows have officially wrapped up. All the editors, models, and celebrities who are not Paris-based are on planes headed back home, and the rest of us have been left with a lot of pictures to flip through.

You thought you could catch up over the holiday this week, but then before you knew it, it was 9 pm and the fireworks were starting. Suddenly it was Thursday morning, and you’re back at work without having looked at a single thing Guo Pei sent down the runway. So now you have fashion FOMO (as you rightfully should, because Guo Pei’s collection was amazing and ya done goofed). It’s ok. We’re here to help. Below are the biggest takeaways from this season to help you sort through it all, and catch you up to speed:


This was among the most over-the-top couture seasons in quite a while and almost a stylistic return to the grandeur of the ‘80s. It was also a season in which many designers were on the same page, with a few trends that were near-ubiquitous. For example, feathers—especially ostrich feathers—appeared in nearly every collection. No, seriously: the soft embellishments were featured in a range of ways, from small details (Jean-Paul Gaultier) to entire gowns (Valentino). Pick a name, I guarantee you they stuck a feather somewhere in there…unless those names are Alberta Ferretti and Giorgio Armani because they opted for a feather-adjacent trend with extra-long fringe.

One of the biggest surprises were the voluminous capes and ball gowns that paraded down the runway. Though there were still plenty of column dresses, it really seems like designers were embracing a “more is more” vibe, especially Giambatista Valli and Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino collections, which utilized large swaths of fabric.

Designers also weren’t shy about color, opting for some bold choices—hot pink among them. Sure, one expects to see hot (or “shocking”) pink on the runway for Schiaparelli. It might actually be sacrilegious for it to be omitted. Anyway, the hue a fun surprise on the catwalks of Ronald van der Kemp, Margiela, and Armani, among others. Armani actually had a voluminous, hot-pink feather look, hitting the major trends like the world’s most fashionable hat trick.

Finally, there was an unexpected trend in suit dresses. That is dresses that took cues from suiting. Weird? A little. But considering how many houses gave it a shot (Ralph & Russo, Alexis Mabille, Sonia Rykiel), maybe consider giving it a try? A personal favorite was JPG’s take, which was basically the joke “tuxedo t-shirt” in caftan format.

Standout runway pieces

Considering how many designers were all falling for the same trends, there weren’t a lot of attention-grabbing pieces this season. That being said, there were a few runway moments that truly left a mark, such as Gaultier using a clear vinyl sheet that read “Free the Nipple instead of a top, or the surreal “hands” trompe l'oeil detail on a cape at Armani (which was swiftly called out by Diet Prada for looking similar to a Frédéric Forest illustration). Meanwhile, John Galliano put forth a cool, if not confusing accessory idea with his ankle iPhone holders, and the best thing about the Chanel show was little Hudson Kroening in his “Institue Chanel” sweatshirt. Please Karl, if you’re reading this (he’s not): put that sweatshirt into ready-to-wear production.

But the biggest standout pieces were all of the elaborate headwear that dotted the collections, each so unique and flamboyant that simply combing them as “hats” in the trends section doesn’t seem to do them justice. Bertrand Guyon made sure his collection for Schiaparelli was true to the house’s surrealist roots by including animal masks (like flamingos, a cat, and a butterfly), Ronald van der Kemp has some elaborate fascinators, Iris van Herpen wowed everyone with headgear that multiplied the model’s face, and Valentino doubled down on the headwear that made Francis McDormand the best-dressed at this year’s Met Gala, with some over-the-top flower balls.

Model moments 

Model watchers had a pretty quiet couture week, with no major casting surprises. That being said, Kaia Gerber grabbed some attention with some big hair at Valentino, designer-favorite Anna Cleveland made multiple appearances, and Adut Akech made history closing Chanel’s show in Lagerfeld’s bridal wear. It is a particularly big deal as the Chanel “bride” spot is reserved for Lagerfeld’s favorite models (so it’s kind of haute couture’s highest model honor), and Akech is only the second black model to ever close a Chanel couture show. Suffice to say, keep an eye on the 19-year-old, as she clearly has an impressive career ahead of her.

Overall moments 

Sometimes there is a bigger story behind a collection than just what is shown on the catwalk. For example, Viktor & Rolf fans surely recognized much of what came down the runway, as the duo decided to celebrate their 25th anniversary by showing 25 pieces (re-issued in all white) that showcased their oeuvre. Seeing the looks all together was not only a reminder of how inventive they are but also that off-the-wall ideas are often the most timeless.

Meanwhile Julie de Libran presented a Sonia Rykiel couture collection for the first time in the brand’s history. It’s kind of a big deal considering that when Rykiel founded the line 50 years ago, it was among the first to counter haute couture’s hold on “chic”. Luxury ready-to-wear, and the freedom of the fashion industry as we know it today was able to rise thanks to designers like Rykiel. With that in mind, it’s arguably funny to honor her with a couture collection, but considering the same-ness we’ve been subjected to by fast-fashion giants, we think she would have loved the creative expression shown through what couture is today.

Finally, there was one trend we didn’t mention out of the gate: publically praising atelier workers! Clare Waight Keller brought her team out after the show to let them take a bow, and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior set was decorated with toiles to showcase all the work that goes into a couture collection. Meanwhile, Pierpaolo Piccioli has been praising his team all over Instagram with pictures and videos. It’s absolutely adorable—nothing is chicer than showing appreciation for the people you work with.

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