Haute Couture: the dream factory

Wednesday, 02 February 2011
After men’s fashion and the professional salons, the first month of the year ended on a high note. From 24 to 28 January, around 20 small and large couture houses took up residence in the French capital for the Spring-Summer 2011 presentations. A genuine dream factory, this activity, which gives carte blanche to the creativity of the fashion designers, remains a loss-maker for most fashion labels.

This season, the house of Chanel holds the record for the number of appearances: Karl Lagerfeld paraded 65 models, against 41 by Elie Saab or 32 on the Christian Dior podium. The artistic director who revived the century-old label with a “rejuvenating cure” was delighted with “a new client base from new continents” which provides a livelihood for the 200 little hands of the workshop in the rue Cambon.

“The couture show is the star on top of the Christmas tree, which evidently has a positive media and commercial impact”, observes Claude Mialaud, Director of couture for Jean-Paul Gaultier, whose objective is to maintain the “financial equilibrium” of its haute couture activity.

The house of Armani, on the other hand is aiming for the moon. The Italian label, which presented a collection worthy of Pierre Cardin in Paris on 24 January, recorded a 45% increase in sales in 2010. Far from being out of breath, haute couture has some glorious days ahead. Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Dior have registered an impeccable performance. The three houses have again made a safe bet: French-style refinement. For its last collection, baptised Punk Cancan, the enfant terrible Gaultier revisited its classics: the tuxedo, the corset and also the smock. There is humour, but an enormous amount of chic in each of its silhouettes, which were applauded by Catherine Deneuve and Pedro Almodovar.

One nugget: last Tuesday, jeans burst onto the Chanel podium at the Pavillon Cambon. In their couture version, they are in tulle, buttoned at the ankle and worn with a fishnet tunic in crystal or in pleated muslin, with black satin ballet pumps. The (so sought after) facelift is guaranteed.

Very attached to the Musée Rodin, the house of Dior has succeeded in creating a magnificent bridge between fashion and art. Surfing the “Mad Men” wave, for this collection inspired by the 1950s, John Galliano has reimmersed himself in the sophistication of the drawings of René Gruau, the famous illustrator of the house of Dior who “sketched” post-war fashion and the New Look. This vintage spring-summer collection is composed of as many textile masterworks with bouffant shoulders and wasp waists: puffed out petticoats in tulle, ostrich feathers, voluminous pleats, shades of red, blue, pale yellow, a gouache and Indian ink effect, etc.

“Haute couture is a part of Dior’s roots and brings creativity and emotion to the house, so that we will be continuing with it for a very long time”, explains Bernard Arnault, owner of the LVMH Group, regarding the longevity of Christian Dior’s haute couture activity.

With a manufacturing period of 4 weeks to a month, these unique creations cost between € 40,000-120,000. At Maison Martin Margiela, each model specifies the number of hours of work required for production. With deep roots in the tradition of haute couture, Givenchy, which audaciously incarnates Parisian elegance, unveiled its new couture creations at a private presentation. Among the flagship pieces, this dress entirely embroidered with sequins, which required no less than 4,000 hours of work...Sacré couture!

From our correspondent in Paris

Photos from top to bottom: Elie Saab, Christian Dior and Onauratoutvu.