Haute Couture prepares for its busiest season in decades
Think of haute couture as fashion’s great honey pot. A unique Parisian nectar that lures copious numbers of couturiers, designers, brands and events into its five-day schedule. And, starting Saturday, this is shaping up to be its busiest season ever.
A decade ago, Pierre Bergé repeatedly predicted the death of couture, as a generation of greats like Yves Saint Laurent exited the stage. However, the official calendar of the Chambre Syndicale – French fashion’s governing body – lists a striking 37 runway shows in 120 action-packed hours. And, that’s not including almost 20 “off” schedule shows. By some calculations, there are fewer than 2,000 actual couture clients worldwide, yet designers everywhere still dream of showing in couture – the ultimate expression of urbane refinement.
Ironically, the two most anticipated runways will not, technically speaking, be couture, but ready-to-wear. We refer to Proenza Schouler, the darling of New York cognoscenti, and Los Angeles-based Rodarte. Two American houses entering the Paris catwalk for the first time.
The Proenza Schouler duo of Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are scheduled to show at 11AM on Sunday. Following that, LVMH’s new luxury website @24Sevres hosts a Sunday lunchtime cocktail for the two gents to celebrate their French debut. Rodarte, without question the one great fashion house based in California, is also skipping the New York season to show their fall 2017 collection to a select group of buyers and editors in Paris. Joining the Americans are three other “guest members” invited to show by the Chambre: Ronald van der Kemp; Azzaro and A.F. Vandevorst.
“These invitations are vetted and approved by Chambre’s couture Committee, after extremely careful examination. We’ve taken into consideration elements like their skilled use of high quality ateliers and the level of sophistication. They will bring a fresh impetus to couture. This metier clearly is flourishing,” said the Chambre’s executive president Pascal Morand.
Without question, the busiest man of the week will be Karl Lagerfeld. Due to stage two Chanel shows on Tuesday morning, the latter followed by the conferring of a thoroughly high distinction. When Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo pins on the Grand Vermeil de la Ville de Paris, the highest echelon given to individuals who have accomplished “remarkable acts concerning the capital.” Karl effectively closes out the season of big shows on Wednesday evening, when he presents his latest fur fantasy collection for Fendi.
Post-Fendi, expect couturier gridlock at the Chambre’s annual party in the Petit Palais. On Monday, the invitation to have is Christian Dior Couturier du Rêve, and the opening of a major retrospective feting the 70th anniversary of the house in the Musée des Arts décoratifs, France’s most important fashion museum, housed in a wing of the Louvre.
Ever since the Chambre Syndicale turned Thursday into a special day devoted to High Jewelry, concentrated on Place Vendôme, the most important concentration of luxury jewellers in the world, a gang of tony labels have dazzled visitors to couture. Eight marques - including Chanel, Dior, Bulgari, Boucheron and Louis Vuitton – will present collections. Though, Chaumet kick offs off Sunday night, with its “soirée parisienne” in a secret location. While young hipsters like Gaia Repossi – in which LVMH took a stake last year – will unveil her creations ideas in the Musee Picasso, no less.
Expect a large turnout for the inauguration of Maison Chloé, and a vernissage of the exhibition by a true fashion photography legend: Femininities Guy Bourdin. Also yet to be revealed, the location of Ralph & Russo’s after-show event, intriguingly entitled Beasts & Beauties Ball on Monday. And getting his oar in the water, Norwegian Peter Dundas, the former star at Pucci and Roberto Cavalli, who will debut his first-ever signature colleciton.
Couture is nothing if not exotic. It really is the United Nations of fashion. Like Didit Hediprasetyo, the son of an Indonesian presidential candidate; Galia Lahav, Russian-born, but based in Israel; Ewa Minge of Poland; Patuna of Georgia; Antonio Ortega of Mexico; Ulyana Sergeenko of Russia and not one but six Italians. Fashion legend Armani will stage his couture collection Armani Privé in his preferred location; the Palais de Chaillot. And, ever keen to get his beauty sleep, the 82-year-old plans to fly his private plane back home after the show.
“The power of attraction of couture has never dimmed. It is part of today’s zeitgeist, beyond fashion. In the age of the digital revolution, which is all about efficiency and speed; people also really want – individualization, and the savoir-faire. They respect traditional skills, and what shows that more than couture?” argues the Chambre’s Morand.
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