Finding hope in French tulle, Chantilly lace and broderie anglaise
If fashion is reflective of our times, we are in deep trouble. July couldn’t have been a worse time for Paris. Euro 2016 was on, as was Couture Week. Hotels and streets were packed to the gills and crowds were simply everywhere. Brexit had just happened, Trump was all over the news and there were more bombings than we could count on two hands. It seemed almost trite that we should be looking at fashion in such troubled times. But the show, as they say, must go on. Vetements opened Couture Week with a bang as the hottest ticket of the season. It was quite a coup for this new label to be included in the hallowed halls of couture and on the Chambre Syndicale’s official schedule- and it didn’t disappoint with its usual thought-provoking fashion. The collective engaged Levi’s, Dr Martens, Juicy Couture, Champion and Reebok (amongst others) to produce signature pieces with its own DNA. By working with more established brands that are experts in their distinct fields, Vetements, in its cool street-meets-couture way, made these iconic brands its own métiers d’art. This was street couture in the most literal sense- and it couldn’t be more refreshing. The pressure of the unforgiving fashion cycle to create collections for consumers to buy is not a new problem. But instead of simply churning out new creations, brands are taking a step back to reassess the situation- some are going back to their roots, while others are trying to solve two issues at once by tapping on the idea of recycling and self-referencing. Chanel summed it up best. The Maison recreated its couture ateliers in the Grand Palais- the usual space for all its runway shows in Paris- and played to the notion of intimacy, a starting keyword to the collection. Backstage, Lady Amanda Harlech, Karl Lagerfeld’s most trusted aide, shared that Karl was somewhat on an existentialist journey. The brand’s famous tweed was recreated as intricate 3D embroidery on silk with grand silhouettes- with tunics over culottes and boleros over dresses. The collection’s new proposition appeared as armour with the attention on the jacket’s shoulder, most of which were either angular (with no padding) or feathered. In times of strife, the rich ladies on Rue Cambon are ready to go to battle togged in tweed, silk and satin
Speaking of armour, trust the boys at Viktor&Rolf to present a highly unusual concept. Their latest installment for haute couture repurposed fabrics, trimmings, and buttons from their previous collections. Was it recycling fashion or more a political message on consumerism? Either way, the result was an intricate collection that weaved together dreams and reality. The highlight was the injection of denim and pop cultural references, appearing as a sweater with a Coke logo on it. Street couture, in the Dutch duo’s hands, is always humorous and ironic, which is just what the doctor ordered. The homecoming collections at Fendi and Dior were hardly coincidental. If couture is a celebration of beauty, then what could be better than showcasing your own heritage? The solemn and exclusive showing at Monsieur Dior’s original atelier on 30 Avenue Montaigne was a testament to how in times of uncertainty, a brand should sit back and reflect. The simplicity of the monochromatic silhouettes, worn with flat sandals, brought a lightness that was cool and youthful at the same time. Fendi’s extravaganza in Rome was a fairytale made in heaven. As Kendall Jenner walked on a crystal platform atop the Trevi fountain, one would instantly recall the iconic scene from La Dolce Vita. The fur concoction that appeared on the runway (one of 46 extravagant looks) was a mix of tradition and splendour, evidence of Fendi’s pursuit of true beauty. So what does all of this amount to? Ultimately, couture brings hope, dreams and fantasies to a wider public. In times of strife, everyone yearns for a little glamour, a little magic and a little hope. Couture houses go back to their DNA- strengthening their signatures, their “look” and their points of view. The renaissance of denim in couture, of street brands as your métiers d’art and with sports going luxe all point to this: Different fashion camps putting on their fantastical creations, folding up their sleeves and bringing the belief that couture is great, couture is relevant and couture, in short, captures the zeitgeist. Yes, very few can afford this, but everyone can live the dream- and that’s always free.