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Denim Makes Presence Felt at Couture Fashion Week

Denim continues to capture the imagination of haute couture designers.

Following up an impressive showing in Fall 2021 couture collections, fashion houses like Balenciaga, Schiaparelli and Jean Paul Gaultier are revisiting the universal fabric. Their Fall 2022 haute couture collections presented in Paris this week showed denim twisted, patchworked and spliced with luxury fabrics into meticulously executed show pieces.

Though black velvet and surrealist silhouettes were the focal points in Schiaparelli’s collection, creative director Daniel Roseberry added a contemporary edge through denim. Tonal patchwork denim modernized an open-front jacket and pencil skirt with lacing that cinched the waist. The stitching of the patchwork emphasized the set’s corset-like lines, while handmade flowers attached to the jacket added a sense of whimsy and joy.

For its third collection with a guest designer, Jean Paul Gaultier plugged into the creative mind of Olivier Rousteing. The Balmain creative director culled inspiration from Gaultier’s Spring 1994 “Les Tatouages” collection—a show that went down in the annals of fashion for its eclectic mix of tattoo and graffiti prints, corsetry, and piercings—and other signatures including Gaultier’s cone bra and fragrance design.

Gaultier’s signature sailor stripes were reworked with tattoo prints while trompe-l’œil breasts served as the bodices to body-hugging dresses on the runway and in the front row on Kim Kardashian.

Denim vests were layered over tees, while denim shorts—an ‘It’ item on recent S/S ’23 fashion weeks—were spliced with printed patchwork textiles. Waistbands were flipped upside-down and used as a hem detail. Low-slung jeans were paired with pinstripe tops that nod to Gaultier’s work for Madonna.

Braided denim was saved for some of the most intricate pieces like a sculptural cage dress, and a denim cape jacket framed a feather-embellished denim minidress.

Upcycled denim made an impact on RVDK Ronald van der Kemp’s runway. Artfully placed shredding created a wind-swept effect on a long jean skirt with a ruffle hem. Over-the-knee denim boots with Western motifs and belts and bags made with scrap fabrics kept a long coat dress cool and edgy.

For Balenciaga, Canadian tuxedos were wearable alternatives to the balloon gowns that models struggled with to get down the runway. Twisted and unfinished seams added texture to oversized Trucker jackets and jeans. Nods to classic Balenciaga designs were found in looks like a long denim skirt with a train.