Alexandre Vauthier charted a different route for couture, ditching the flash of his spring outing in favor of neat shapes grounded in his mastery of cut, replacing boisterous colors with dense shades of black, and ebullient volumes with sharp silhouettes. “I’m not a reductionist, but the state of the world, the noise and the harshness surrounding us is pushing me towards a quest for balance, for grounding my work in its essential foundations,” he said backstage. Tellingly, on the soundtrack Erik Satie and Leonard Cohen took over the cutting-edge techno beats he usually favors.

Vauthier revisited his repertoire “looking for sobriety and allure,” he said. He cast models like Karmen Pedaru, Carmen Kass, Élise Crombez, Georgina Grenville, “women who know how to walk,” who embrace their age while still looking breathtakingly beautiful with almost no makeup and hair just pulled back. Stilettos and needle heels were nowhere to be seen: stacked heels grounded the silhouette “in reality,” said Vauthier. “It’s not the time for opulence.” The color scheme hinted at a sort of neutrality, a toned-down, elegant canvas to emphasize individuality.

Vauthier is a master tailor and this collection was proof of his ability to get inventive with the tools of couture—cut, construction, execution, savoir faire. While sticking to a slender, elongated silhouette, he played with variations of draping, unusual asymmetries, trains and capes to add sensuality and drama to long fluid dresses, or to tops worn with tight-fitting pants. Sartorial pieces had strong presence but no severity: a velvet pantsuit with satin sharp-edged lapels was cut with “millimetric precision,” he said. With the same rigor the designer approached the tailoring of a men’s suit, introduced here for the first time.

Showmanship is ingrained in Vauthier’s fashion genes; there were a number of showstoppers that gave rhythm to the collection, like a black stretchy leotard whose back extended into a billowy cape densely embellished with tiny silver beads. Flashes of bronze and gold lamé, the rich textures of brocades, and the plissé ruffled rosettes exploding from tight-fitted tops worn with finely pleated leggings had high visual impact. No matter the quest for essentiality, Vauthier’s idea of allure is never too far from bold, confident gestures.

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