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