Couturiers in Paris sent their models veiled this season

Couture has always been avant-garde’s favourite playing field in fashion; there is only a certain amount of whimsical that prêt has tolerance for. Couture shows are where the most ridiculous and outrageous come together to create what is “interesting”, a shining example being what Dior under former creative director John Galliano became known for — hair and makeup designed towards deliberate ugliness to create drama, with millinery from the likes of Stephen Jones keeping the look busy. (Not that prêt is always immune to deliberate ugly; here one can recall Alexander McQueen’s Autumn/ Winter 2009 ready-to-wear show in Paris with its Marilyn Manson-inspired makeup.) To their credit, Galliano and McQueen did keep the clothes beautiful, which would have been obvious to anyone subtracting the add-ons.

The recently-concluded haute couture week in Paris saw veils and masks emerging the common denominator across a few of the most anticipated shows of the season. No one’s dreaming that the trend will distil off-ramp, but they provided just that little extra that one naturally expects from a couture showing.

Raf Simons, in his successful debut collection for Dior (with which, until now, he seemed to not have much in common), married his simple, architectural shapes with classic silhouettes from Dior’s pre-Galliano era. Net masks paired with neon makeup here were his additional concession to the label’s love for transgressing the simple.

Giorgio Armani Prive, with its colours-of-dusk palette, sent out embroidered veils in black net — heart-achingly beautiful and a fitting way to symbolise the mystery of the approaching night.

It was a buzzing garden at Giambattista Valli. The Italian designer, in only his second showing at the haute couture week in Paris, sent out models with faces wrapped in net and butterflies sitting on them, ruffles and big skirts keeping things aflutter.

The most elaborate of them all, though, came at Maison Martin Margiela. The reclusive Belgian, whose collection for H&M will hit stores in November, sent out models in bejewelled masks that, depending on how you looked at it, resembled fencing masks or chignon nets worn back-to-front, achieving a homogeneity that was broken only by the outfits, which is the point really.