Follow me behind the scenes at Paris Haute Couture.
Haute couture Spring Summer 17 is all about superstitions and mystical themes. From legends, to goddesses, to the ethereal and whimsical, couture is about embracing beauty in its freshest form. This season I followed Stephen Low, session stylist and creative director of Neville Hair and Beauty, and Senior Mac artist Debbie Finnegan backstage for Haute Couture in Paris. Discover my backstage diary and beauty edit from models in make-up, to meeting Carmen Dell’Orefice.
11 am… It’s my first day in Paris and it’s snowing, but who cares because I’m reporting backstage from Julien Fournié and I’m struggling to contain my excitement. Recently receiving France’s coveted Haute- Couture label, Fournié enters the circle shaped room of the Oratoire du Louvre seemingly relaxed to greet the models. Meanwhile, much in demand session stylist Stephen Low and his trusted faithful’s create a wet look that is modern, fresh and young to compliment a rhythmic collection inspired by kinetic art and the work of its masters in the 60’s such as Jackson Pollock. The hair look resembled a sophisticated version of towel dried hair.
7 am… Day two, I’m on my way to the Westin Vendome with the lovely Neville team who despite only several hours’ sleep are bursting with energy.
I am preoccupied at how big the bags under my eyes are because these “bags” are definitely not Chanel. As I apply numerous layers of YSL anti-cernes concealer we pull up in front of the hotel. Excited I pick up the pace and head backstage to discover my favourite couture designer, Ziad Nakad’s collection. My heart skips a beat as I enter the room, not only is the room fit for a princess the Lebanese designer’s creations send a shiver down my spine. The dresses are like nothing I have ever seen. The extravagant silhouettes, intricate embroidery, embellishments and laser cut embroidery in my opinion, rank Nakad above Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad despite the similar design DNA.
For the occasion, Low creates a young and natural updo that combines tradition and modernity. Just like the collection the hair encapsulates a vision of freshness representative of a universal garden filled with butterflies and flowers. Picture a youthful girl at dawn crossing a garden covered in dew, said Josephus Thimister, Former Balenciaga helmer and now Nakad stylist. It is that exact brief that make-up artist Natasha Lakic nailed to a t. The make-up look remains relatively nude for the eyes but is emphasised on the complexion with the use of old pink and apricot toned blush on the cheekbones. A look which we will gladly borrow come the summer days. Natasha then applies an illuminator to create a glowy finish to structure the face. To finish off the look a barely there pinkish lipstick is dabbed on gracefully. This fresh make-up look only highlights the beauty of the Ziad Nakad dresses.
21.30 … Guo Pei was one of those shows that no amount of words could describe… Guo Pei show cased her collection at the Conciergerie, the place where the last queen of France was held captive before being beheaded. It was a ghostly Marie-Antoinette who opened the show floating down a dark runway in a phosphorescent dress and make-up. Much to the Frow’s disappointment her apparition could sadly not be captured in photographs. Following which a procession of 19 ornate creations took to the runway. All inspired greatly by European monarchical and ecclesiastical dress. The show was closed with the queen of all models Carmen Dell’Orefice, aged 85, wearing a red wedding dress. In China, the colour red is considered a symbol of love and prosperity.
Whilst the creations spoke for themselves the hair and make-up looks created for each individual brought the show to the next level, playing a huge part in bringing Guo Pei’s vision to life. In this case it helped communicate the mood and ethereal appearance to the audience, intensifying its impact…. “imagine having a theatre show with no costumes…. it wouldn’t be the same!” said Debbie Finnegan.
The inspiration behind the hair looks Stephen created, was religious iconography, royalty and the French court. The looks were a variation of soft majestic up do’s and romantic stylised curls. Each look took roughly 30 minutes to create and were achieved using L’Oreal professional haircare products.
Debbie Finnegan, was also given references of religious iconography to create the make-up looks. Inspired by the slightly cold skin of statues, the opulence of drapes and ecclesiastical dress. The key products that were used to embellish the skin were MAC Face & body foundation in skin shades & white which Debbie then set using Mac Studiofix Powder & iridescent powders. Debbie used many gold silver and light metallic shades of MAC Pigments (Rose Gold & Gold), glitters and Reflect. The appliqués on the other hand, were made from the same Pigments/glitters & liquid latex. This combination created the ‘metallic tears & drips’.
7 am … Back to the Westin Vendome. I am mesmerised by the models and mostly their NFG attitude ( No f*cks Given) lounging around the lobby. I make my way backstage and enter a surprisingly calm and organised atmosphere. In front of me Antonio Grimaldi, guest member of the official calendar of Paris Couture fashion week, wears an embroidered Riccardo sweater. I am guessing a way to thank, Riccardo Tisci, creative director of Givenchy. It was Tisci, who recognized and appreciated the quality of Grimaldi’s work and invited him to show in the city of lights. Next to him at all times, Ornella Mutti, his close friend (and inspiration behind my middle name.. Yes, that’s right I am Lydia Ornella.. but shhh!!) admires the Grecian inspired collection Aphrodite. Filled with chiffon, metallic georgette, crepe, jacquard and fil coupé, these sumptuous dresses fill the room with a crescendo of colours from absolute white to pink and red. Debbie’s make-up is married with Stephen’s hair styling, that is reminiscent of the Amazons helmets with use of braids and punk details. It is Grimaldi’s inspiration of Greco-Roman architecture and the obsession of research, geometric modeling and constructions that pushed Low to create geometric braid on either side of the head.
SS17 Paris haute couture pictures taken by Ambra Vernuccio