I’m never a fan of fashion journalism that talks more about the show than the clothes. It smacks of a writer reticent to offer an opinion, lest it offend (or perhaps, just unsure of what they really think, or what to really say). But, with the newly-minted Around The World In Eighty Looks format of pre-collection presentation, it’s unavoidable. Fashion houses want journalists to be awed by the financial might that can shift an entire industry across the world on a creative whim. Moreover, they want them to communicate that to their readers, reinforcing the strength of the designer and, perhaps most importantly, the security of the brand as a whole. That not only sells clothes – it also drives the share price up.
Sex, sugar, pins and needles – Versace, Schiaparelli, Giambattista Valli, and a little from Dior and Chanel at the spring couture
As I was walking out of Sunday night’s Atelier Versace show – the official start to the spring/summer 2015 haute couture collections – I overheard an exchange between a couture client and one of the house os Versace’s aides. Well, I overheard one part of the exchange. I presume said aide asked said client what she thought of the collection. “That see-through beaded shit,” she barked. “Sexy as fuck!”
That’s not something you hear much at the haute couture.
When the models began to take their complex turns at the Givenchy show on Sunday night, whizzing around the venue as if ricocheting around a pinball machine (the hairpin bends, I must confess, made me feel a bit sick), the first thing I thought was: well. It’s been a while since we saw this.
This being sex. Or rather, sexy. or rather, a certain idea of sexiness. “I would be a very rich man if I could make sexy clothes,” said Gianni Versace in 1997, in one of his final interviews. Which, from the long-acknowledged Italian master of dressing to undress, speaks volumes. Namely it poses the question, what is sexy in clothing?
A little bit of history repeating: something old makes something new, at Raf Simons’ Dior and Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel
The much-vaunted and oft-debated “point” of haute couture is tied up in history. Haute couture is living history, less a retrograde throwback and more a direct link to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The latter was when “haute couture” as a term was officially incorporated by Charles Frederick Worth, couturier to Empress Eugenie and most of her court; the former was when the idea of a fashion dictator was pioneered by the first celebrity dress designer, Marie Antoinette’s “Minister of Fashion” Rose Bertin. Those are some heavy antecedents, but they’re ones couturiers often bank on. Buying haute couture is a bit like buying a stake in a past you can never be part of.
There’s a trend right now for fashion houses to show the collections we still dub Cruise in far-flung locales. I’m writing this in the airport in Dubai, following Chanel’s show; a week ago Dior Cruise-ed to New York and chugged us from Manhattan to Brooklyn on a chic branded ferry; last summer, that house showed in Monaco, coincidentally the site of Louis Vuitton’s inaugural Cruise show this weekend.
The couture schedule, somehow, was packed this past week. Here are a few words on a few shows for the spring/summer 2014 haute couture week, including Vionnet, Chanel, Valentino and Armani.
Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent shows the trickiness of trickle up rather than trickle down, as well as being referential but not reverential. Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel, by contrast, was a masterpiece of really, really great clothes. Simple.
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