Couture, busier than ever, kicks off this weekend
Pierre Bergé, the partner of Yves Saint Laurent who passed away last fall, must be turning in his grave. Ever since Yves retired in 2002 he spent the next decade predicting the death of haute couture, but instead it has rarely looked healthier.
This weekend, the fall-winter 2018/19 season opens for five days presenting fashion’s highest and most rarefied clothes, as thousands of clients fly in on private jets to catch their favorite couturier. Moreover, couture week continues to act as a powerful magnet, luring all sorts of trendy brands and fledgling talents to stage events in Paris. The season will also celebrate the 150 anniversary of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM), French fashion’s governing body, an organization that traces its roots back to 1868, when the father of haute couture Charles Frederick Worth was dressing the Empress Eugénie.
The official calendar lists 35 catwalk couture shows (albeit two brands doing double shows – Chanel and Giorgio Armani Privé). There are almost the same number of off-schedule shows in embassies, swish hotels, classy palaces and numerous hotel particuliers. One could argue that a bare handful of houses actually have significant numbers of couture clients: A Magnificent Seven of Givenchy, Christian Dior, Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Elie Saab, Jean Paul Gaultier and Valentino. This septet kicks off with Givenchy, though the calendar actually starts Sunday morning with RVDK, the couture collection of Dutchman Ronald van der Kemp, underlining how Paris is such an international fashion hub.
That said, Sunday’s most novel moment will be the debut of L’Atelier, the new collection from the house of Sonia Rykiel, inside the Beaux Arts college’s Cour du Mûrier, named after the ancient mulberry tree at its center.
However, scores of editors will be busy the evening before. Couture week’s ability to attract in myriad brands remains remarkable. The season effectively opens on Saturday night with a cruise collection show and dinner by Miu Miu inside the Hôtel Régina, a classic hotel where no less than 14 feature films have been filmed.
All the world’s a stage, all the men and women merely players; though no theatre of fashion is more international than couture: on Sunday there is Agonovich, by Nana Agonovich (born in Belgrade) and Brooke Taylor (born Monte Carlo); on Monday, Gyunel, an Azerbaijani based in London; on Tuesday, Ulyana Sergeenko (a Russian born in Kazakhstan) and on Wednesday, Galia Lahav, (a Russian based in Tel Aviv).
And, no couture season is complete without an appearance by Vetements, the Geneva-based, Paris-acclaimed disruptive label created by Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia. His show in on Sunday; his invitation is in gingerbread by Lebkuchenherzen.
There were some departures: like A.F. Vandevorst, who is skipping couture and will show on the Paris RTW season in September. While after arriving with great fanfare from America a year ago, both Proenza Schouler and Rodarte have retreated to New York.
At one moment, 2.30 p.m. Sunday, there are not one but three off-shows: Eva Minge from Poland; streetwear brand ANDI.KP and Hermès which will unveil its latest pre-collection inside its storied flagship on the Faubourg St Honoré.
Visitors to Paris will also want to catch up on major exhibitions from Margiela – Galliera to “L’alchimie secrète d’une collection,” the latest show staged by the Alaia Foundation.
The season also witnesses another show by Fendi, though rechristened Fendi Couture, rather than the more limiting Fendi Fourrure, meaning just furs. The house is also changing locations from the Théâtre de l’Avenue Montaigne to Palais Brongniart, the former Paris Bourse. Which given the price tag for some of Fendi furs, would seem to make sense. Fendi is one of five correspondent members, along with Giorgio Armani Privé, Elie Saab, Victor & Rolf and Valentino, approved by the FHCM.
As is the tradition each July, the FHCM will celebrate the season with a fête for the great and the good inside the Petit Palais on Wednesday evening. Though the week has one final day devoted to yet another industry dominated by Paris, high jewellery. Centred around Place Vendôme, ten marques will present their latest ideas including Boucheron, Chopard, De Beers, Dior Joaillerie and Louis Vuitton. And, once again, almost twice as many ambitious jewellers have sent out invitations to rival presentations.
Couture, in short, remains fashion’s most sticky honey pot, luring in scores of brands to the season. Ironically, the most famous brand missing is Yves Saint Laurent, which has not staged a couture show since 2005, Hedi Slimane’s one and only couture show for the house. Someone had to prove Bergé right.
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