In practise, couture is an exercise in exclusivity; a precious diamond reserved for a small coterie of clientele with a price tag to match. These are collections that are entirely bespoke, handmade with the finest materials that take literally thousands of hours to make (one Chanel collection in particular took a team of 200 approximately 2000 hours to engineer) leaving only a few hundred women worldwide who are able to shop the offerings.
In theory, however, the couture shows are a playground of ideas, fantasy and excess, littered with translatable trends and hints of what's to come for the season ahead. Here's what to expect.
Tie one on
Inspired by the laissez-faire, 90s style of tying your jacket around your waist, the low-slung waist tie was a fresh new feature for evening wear. High-shine fabrics and careful hand-stitching elevated this detail into after-dark-appropriate territory.
Sculpted, futuristic shapes and high-shine surfaces combined to create a line-up of looks that would make George Lucas proud.
Turn up the volume
While a little drama is to be expected at couture, this season saw silhouette sizes turned up to 11. From Galliano's behemoth coat to Guo Pei's exaggerated skirt size, more is definitely more.
Disney villain cape
Designers channeled the bewitching charms of Snow White's Evil Queen in a dramatic, floor-sweeping cape.
It's the fuzz!
Fur, fuzzy textures and tactile surfaces for eveningwear were an interesting development - thankfully, without the muppet connotations.
The empire strikes back
Austen-esque empire line dresses are officially back in the fashion vocabulary as seen across the shows. The look was made modern with photographic prints and bold accessories.
Bit of ruff
Elizabethan-inspired neck ruffs ran the gamut from modest to maximally oversized, evolving from the past few season's Victoriana necklines. Throw in a reference to the Bard from Valentino and it's a sartorial love story for the ages.
Les Petites Mains
Designers turned their focus inwards for inspiration to pay homage to les petites mains (seamstresses and couturiers) and the importance of couture practise. Karl Lagerfeld recreated the Chanel atelier in the Grand Palais in which his actual seamstresses were working for the duration of the show.
Donatella Versace went back to the stand, choosing drape over her usual body-conscious style while at Christian Dior, the collection centred around the house's iconic New Look bar jacket from 1947 in a show intended to emphasise the work of Dior's own petites mains.
Closely related to the boatneck and distant cousins with the off-the-shoulder neckline, the portrait frames the collarbone elegantly with the appeal of a garment that looks as though it may slip off at any minute. As Demna Gvasalia pioneered this trend at his Balenciaga debut for A/W '16, expect to see more of this style.