Highlights of the Fall 2018 Couture, as Seen by Piet Paris At Valentino, decadent volumes, riotous color, and flowered heads.
Illustration: Piet Paris
What made the couture crack, sizzle, and pop for Fall? The way designers walked the tightrope that connects heritage and handcraft to a tech-driven future. Maria Grazia Chiuri acted the mixologist at Dior, serving up new takes on cocktail dressing and the LBD; Iris van Herpen fused innovation into her most wearable pieces yet; and John Galliano’s Artisanal collection for Maison Margiela beamed couture into new dimensions. Witnessing all of this, and more, was Dutch artist Piet Paris, who captured five of the season’s haute-est looks exclusively for Vogue.
This year marks Paris’s 30th anniversary in fashion—though if you count his wall scribbles at age 3, he’s been at it much longer than that. It’s not by chance that the artist renamed himself after the word capital of fashion: “My real last name is ’t Hoen,” he explains, “a difficult name to get famous by. Piet is a very common name in Dutch, and the combination with the elegant identity of Paris makes a good contradiction. It defines my character, as well: Piet for down-to-earth and Paris for the flamboyant side.” The artist is hard to miss, with his daring proportions and penchant for djellabas. “I tend to dress a bit like a man in a suit who looks as if he has difficulties getting older,” he says, laughing.
Piet Paris Photo: Wouter Vandenbrink / Courtesy of Piet Paris
Fashion has transformed itself since Paris started chasing the line. “It feels like it’s changed from a creative industry into a marketing and big-money one,” says the artist, who is a big fan of independent designers like Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten, Thom Browne, and Rei Kawakubo. “It feels as if they work within the language I speak.” Paris’s parlance is line, and his looks as fresh as it ever has. A graduate of ArtEZ University of the Arts, his first big break was working for Anna Piaggi’s legendary magazine Vanity. He contributed regularly to De Telegraaf for a decade and Japanese Vogue for nearly as long. More recently he was named creative director of Dutch Harper’s Bazaar. Somehow he also found time to establish and mastermind the Arnhem Mode Biennial, a multimedia showcase of talent. And let’s not forget his collaborations with countrymen Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren.
You wouldn’t know from looking at Paris’s highly sophisticated work that two of his greatest influences are Dutch children’s book illustrators: Dick Bruna, of Miffy fame, and Fiep Westendorp, who brought to life the adventures of Jip and Janneke. Thirty years in, Paris has his technique down pat. He begins by sketching “from the top of the head,” not allowing his pencil to leave the white paper as he searches for “the right lines, pose, composition, shapes, and proportions involved.” Having made a mess, he turns the paper over on the light table and starts to correct his work until he’s arrived at a one-line black-and-white drawing. The final is constructed with stencils or paper cutting, and finished with a black fine liner. “Illustration matters because it’s a voice from an artist who analyzes and defines the chosen fashion, like journalists do when they write about the collections,” Paris states. “It brings beauty and personality to the industry.”