There are 6 days and 25 designers (number varies as designers might sift in and out of this exclusive club) in Paris that define the most luxurious, most expensive side of the fashion industry: haute couture. Many of you have heard the name before, but maybe were never fully educated as to what truly defines couture. Back in 1868, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture was born. In 1973 it morphed into the French Federation of Fashion and of Ready-to-Wear of Couturiers and Fashion Designers. What makes couture immensely different from ready-to-wear is that everything is hand sewn, the fabrics are heinously expensive and highly unusual, while the attention to technique and detail is more on a grandeur scale and kept exclusive. What might take weeks to make a simple ready-to-wear dress would take months to craft a couture gown. These techniques and ideas date back to more than a century ago, and oddly enough it has survived. The French government even protects the titles and ideas of couture. Many slam the couture industry for being an exclusive and a non-lucrative business, however the idea of couture alone was meant to be seen as an art exhibition. One can see the business model behind couture come in somewhere in the mid 20th century, probably after the war, when the likes of the house of Dior would dress film starlets in the “new look”. Today, we see still see film starlets wearing couture to the Oscars, and other awards shows that celebrate actresses being overtly successful in the entertainment industry. The price range on couture isn’t for the weak minded which is why we still only see it on the upper class today. Many argue that this sect of the fashion industry is dying and should rethink their business model because it’s too exclusive and does not bring in enough money, but after all these years haute couture still manages to survive.
While reading other reviews of the couture season, a lot of writers and bloggers a like were rather bored with this coming season. Maybe they were coming from the view point that this is a dying business. However, I found it to be rather invigorating, even though there were a couple questions marks on some designs here and there. Ethereal comes to mind for many names. Viktor & Rolf hired professional dancers from the Dutch National Ballet to tip toe their way around the runway in teased and cascading fro’s with immense and cream draperies, Karl Lagerfeld opened Chanel with Cara Delevigne running down the stairs in thousand dollar sneakers (this is one of the odd ball question marks) on a spinning stage with Sebastien Teller playing “L’amour Naissant”. Maison Martin Margiela showcased some controversial tattoo ensembles. I can already see the celebrities wearing pieces from Zuhair Murad , or Elie Saab to the Oscars(predictable). Though I do enjoy their designs, both Murad and Saab tend to send the same sheer and sparkly silhouettes down the runway season after season, though they’ve found a beautiful system that works for them, it is not as exciting. I will go down start from what I found to be memorably outstanding, and to the questionably foreseeable levels of the runway.
Viktor & Rolf
I love the use of print and draping. It plays with the mind in the best of ways. The birds give the illusion they are pinching the fabric between their beaks, the bows feel like they’re the only thing holding the dress together. The colors are light, they blend into the skin. This was my favorite show of the season. When I first began looking at the runway shows and in my early years of getting into fashion, Viktor & Rolf were the first designers, next to Rodarte to inspire me and give me chills. To this day, they always impress me with their theatricalities. I can only hope someone is smart enough to go to the Oscars in one of these, I could see Tilda Swinton or maybe Saoirse Ronan basking on the red carpet in one of the longer silhouettes with pants underneath.
“We like the idea that you don’t know what’s skin and what’s clothing. We are blurring the lines between the two,” explained the duo after the show. “We wanted latex that was as light and ethereal as chiffon. It needed to be delicate for it to be right for couture. We literally wanted to elevate the whole collection. It’s the whole purpose of haute couture.” -Viktor & Rolf on their S/S 2014 couture show.
gif credit goes to Oxford + Park
Maison Martin Margiela
The artisinal masks/veils the house of Margiela designs for their couture shows are a staple on their own, as well as the tabi boots (shown above)! This season, the gold twill was the choice of color and they look like liquid gold. Now, I am not a woman, but what is it like wearing these boots? Can someone answer this? I’d imagine one would feel powerful considering the price tag, but along with that, I think one would feel other-worldy while walking down the street in such boots. The collection’s personality exuded artistic vibes, do I see a Gauguin jacket with other classic paintings on the dresses? The tattoo shirts with the baggy and large pin stripe pants gave a nod to the beauty behind those who have tattoo’s. Even though Maison himself isn’t with his own namesake house, the design team behind the name has been doing a brilliant job keeping this iconic brand alive. They always keep the industry guessing with how they’ll take their direction next.
Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli (current creative directors of Valentino) dipped their hands into the whimsical fantasy of the opera and the safari. Tribal drawings of lions and hyenas, music notes, ornate and decadent brocading laid themselves lightly on the surface. Some of the pieces were reminiscent of early Rodarte, the ballerina dresses especially. Everything else was spot on. I didn’t like the duo when they had first taken over for Garavani Valentino, however I think they’ve found their proper place within the brand. They’ve found their flow or their style and are sticking to it like glue while producing new vibes each season. Kudos to Chiuri and Piccioli. And I have no doubt that more than two of these dresses will end up on celebrities on the red carpet at the Oscars, there’s no doubt.
Zuhair Murad always produces beautiful work. He’s one of those designers who has entered into this world of comfort and doesn’t dare take risks because what he produces is safe, and I am guessing somewhat lucrative. A lot of people in the industry say if one does not look forward and bring something new to the table, those creatives will not survive, but I beg to differ. Zuhair is a prime example of that idea. Amazingly beautiful work that plenty of celebrities and their mother’s wear to opening premieres and events, but it’s not exciting.
If one watches any Chanel show, they’ll notice how Karl Lagerfled always sends out a slightly different and moderated silhouette of the ridiculous tweed jacket. Every season, every show there will be that ridiculous tweed. Again, another prime example of a brilliant designer who designs beautiful clothes but remains in that zone of comfort and safe. Okay, he designed an athletic couture collection with some crazy diamond studded sneakers, but this doesn’t make him a pioneer. All of his work is light, airy, and exudes whimsical vivbes Not this season at least. They shoes are humorous and beautiful all at the same time. Mainly humorous. The collection is beautiful, minus those dull tweed-like jackets, but again predictable.
I have a challenge, for you, reader. If you were to compare each season of Elie Saab’s couture shows, would you be able to decipher which designs belong to which season? Personally, I’d have a hard time. Every starlet has at least worn one Elie Saab design in their career down the red carpet, as it is understandably beautiful. The attention to detail alone is stunning with all of the intricate work, but it’s the same every season with the Saab couture shows. Why is it bad for a designer to have this comfortable safe zone in which they are stuck producing the same silhouettes with the same designs each season? It might be lucrative for some, but how long will it be lucrative for? It definitely isn’t exciting, which isn’t a key factor to surviving in fashion. However, it is a key factor to thriving in this industry. The chances of an Elie Saab gown being worn to the Oscars this season are more than high, it is to be expected.
On the fence:
Christian Dior by Raf Simons
Raf Simons has been at Dior for almost two years. In that time, Jennifer Lawrence has become his off-the-rack muse, sales have been ascending, and he’s completely rebranded the image of the house since Galliano’s reign at Dior. It’s understandable they hired Raf, a talented Belgian who has many visions for many different clients. Many say his menswear outshines his womenswear, but all in all they go hand in hand with one another. This couture collection wasn’t boring, nor was it exciting. Borderline mundane and borderline edgy is a good description. Finally, Simons left the same silly black blazer jacket with tight pants back stage. Or maybe he added gaping slits to it?. Nonetheless, it was different. Somewhat of a dull color palette, small undertones of blue and a pink here and there, but really the collection oozed an anti-climatic woman who loves monochrome orifices in her wardrobe. The silly flat sneakers on the other hand. I can only imagine the time it took to make those and the Chanel ones (seen above). Can we please ban sneakers from couture shows? They aren’t attractive, and I don’t see any starlet wanting to wear them on the red carpet because she’d either be trying to hard to be edgy or she’d thrown to the dogs on the silly poorly dressed columns. I can see teen bloggers gasping and drooling over the diamond studded sneakers or sea slippers.
This post is late. Ready-to-wear for this coming fall is almost finished as Paris fashion week is coming to a close. I have a few things to say about each city. Stay tuned, reader. Couture this season was interesting, designers had things to say yet, some remained in their cocoon of comfort, while others proved their innovation with diverse and exciting collections.
Thanks for your time, reader.