Watching the recent Couture shows which took place in various locations across Paris this week, it was clear that an epidemic had spread throughout the fashion world. Couture is the art of using only the handiwork of hundreds and thousands of skilled artisans to create garments which are one-of-a-kind and inimitable. The price tags are eye-watering, meaning that only a select troupe of exclusive women are invited to purchase the clothing – the ‘Couture Club’, as they are often called. These women look to couturiers for painstaking detail, exquisite craftsmanship and, more than anything, a tribute to extravagance and luxury at its finest. As for us mere mortals, we see couture as sartorial proof of artistic brilliance. The spectacle that accompanies the shows helps transport us momentarily from our daily lives into a world of pure, ethereal fantasy which is as mesmerising as it is unattainable. However, this season something was different.
|Chanel Couture S/S 2014, taken from Dazed Digital|
The trend began with Raf Simons’ third couture showing for the legendary house of Christian Dior. By moving away from the unbridled opulence of his predecessor John Galliano’s aesthetic, Raf has managed to win over a new, younger clientele. Sales have soared since he introduced his minimal take on couture, focussing on a clean palette with intricate textural details create a series of dresses which are both timeless and understated in their luxury. His Spring/Summer 2014 collection saw no departure from this aesthetic, accompanied by a manifesto which promised to ‘liberate’ his garments (and, therefore, his clients) from the ‘restrictions’ of couture.
The first visual representation of this came in the form of a series of flatform trainers – all designed to be slipped on with no laces, they were plain black with contrasting soles and liberal sprinklings of couture gems. Then there were the silhouettes themselves; a move away from strict corseting, Simons instead chose loose silhouettes and gowns which were oversized but structured, designed to create space between the wearer and the garment. Holes were punched into dress coats and multi-layered sheaths, revealing the handiwork beneath in a nod of appreciation to the ‘petites mains’ that helped create the collection.
|Dior Couture S/S 2014, taken from Dazed Digital|
Simons also took the unprecedented move of opening the doors of Dior’s top-secret ateliers to a select number of fashion students from some of the world’s top institutions. By allowing fresh blood a peek into the notoriously-exclusive couture industry, he is aiming to slowly knock down the impenetrable barriers which have long hidden couture from public view. Raf’s modern attitude represents shift in focus in an industry which has already developed so much in recent years. With live Twitter feeds of fashion shows, instant reviews and Instagram videos reaching the web even before the reviews themselves, fashion as an industry is now more accessible than ever.
This accessibility was further re-inforced when the godfather of couture, Karl Lagerfeld, introduced a luxury skater girl as the muse for his Chanel couture showing. A celebration of youth in general, Lagerfeld’s sprightly models skipped along an all-white runway in bedazzled sneaks, bejewelled bumbags and metallic silver elbow pads. The outfits themselves were beautiful, and saw Karl re-introduce the waist by showing cut-off tops which revealed tighly-cinched midriffs encased in sequinned black belts. Crystallised eye make-up and messy hair completed a look which was best represented by Karl’s bride of choice, Cara DeLevingne. As she walked the runway with her adorable page boy, it became clear that couture was no longer a closed world inhabited by the fashion’s elite. A shift in aesthetic and a rise in sales show that a new generation are investing in couture and, by the looks of things; they are the kind of women that have no problem teaming an evening gown with frosted pink trainers.
|Cara DeLevingne at Chanel Couture S/S 2014, Dazed Digital|