Sunday, January 28, 2007
Paris Couture, a little bit belatedly
I know couture is about as far away from the typical college wardrobe as one can possibly get, but this season's shows are so utterly beautiful they just about broke my heart. I am not kidding. It doesn't shame me to admit that the Dior show brought tears to my eyes. I am normally a stone-hearted person, but fashion manages to make a soft weepy woman of me.

I can't imagine what it must've been like actually sitting there and watching the shows. Seeing a couture show - and buying couture, of course - are among my Things To Do Before I Die.

Also, couture is the kind of clothing you preserve forever in beautiful boxes and never, ever throw away. So this is related to the link Nisha recently posted about "fast fashion" contributing to higher carbon emissions -
save the world, buy couture!
If only it were so simple.

Here's the latest greatest article from the NYT, Far From Hollywood: Haute couture is everything the red carpet is not.

Anddd of course what would a post about couture be without pictures?

John Galliano for Dior
In the words of Annie at Blogdorf Goodman, "Galliano gave me beauty and hope yesterday. He gave me a technicolor dream filled with china blossoms, origami and geishas."

The colours were delightful, like candy shop treats, but the frothy white confections were my favourites. The shapes, the sharp origami details (I've always loved origami), the extent of Galliano's imagination - breathtaking. And I loved how each piece was presented like a treasured work of art, just as fashion should always be. And unfortunately, all the other shows really just paled in comparison to this one.

Armani Privé
Japanese for Dior, Indian for Armani. I think Galliano did a better job bringing out the spectacle of geisha culture for the Dior show, but it would have been very un-Armani-like if he had actually brought the culture and loudness of true Indian culture into his show. Instead, he conveyed the influences subtly while maintaining the modern sleekness and poise that are his trademark. I loved how some the perfectly tailored suits have a sort of hoodie look about them, reminiscent of the way Indian women drape their saris over their heads. The dresses were cut beautifully, full of movement and life. Ohhhh to have a kurta by Armani.

Elie Saab
I didn't actually know that Elie Saab showed during couture week, so I was surprised. He's always seemed like the type who made some pretty dresses for the red carpet, but nothing quite so fantastic that it was worthy of the title 'haute couture'. This show didn't really disabuse me of those notions - it was definitely all stuff that I could imagine J Lo and Beyonce and Halle Berry wearing to a glamourous awards show. However, the dresses were definitely pretty, and they helped me get over the shock of that painfully gold Elie Saab number Beyonce wore to the Golden Globes! I liked the tight, controlled babydoll tops with voluminous bottoms, and the baby-blue-and-black colour combination on a couple of the dresses was bold enough to briefly be worthy of haute couture. Then there were lots of shimmering diaphanous pieces which were... pretty, I guess, but quite blah, really. Not my thing.

Jean Paul Gaultier
Dark religious kitsch. Not really my thing, but really quite fascinating. And he achieved the artist's purpose of making his work stick in your mind. Lots of Catholic iconography - halos, modernistic wimples (funny how a simple hood can recall an Indian sari or a nun's wimple), stained glass effects, dramatic make-up that resembled statues of the Virgin Mary. With a sort of ironic spin, like a pale blue dress with a shiny bleeding heart, and naturally the dresses reveal a lot more skin than the church would really approve of. Ironic but not, I think, patronising. I liked it the same way I liked one of John Galliano's shows a year or two ago which was inspired by the French Revolution. Haunting and hard to understand, but a great work of art in its own right. And some of the dresses, taken seperately from the elaborate headdresses, are really beautiful and wearable.

This collection was unexpectedly young, innocent and flirtatious. Quite a departure from the signature red dresses. But I liked it - it was refreshing, light as spring, and some of the more modern pieces (polka-dots, a bold cut, etc) were really nice. The Jackie O-style coats were adorable, and pastel colours are so soothing. In fact, according to the pastel pink coat (second from left, bottom row) has set the fashion world talking and left many frustrated that there wasn't more like that in this collection. There was one hideous flowered dress though. I'm not sure where that came from (bottom left corner). Ah well, apparently Valentino's preparing himself for a whopper of a show for the July couture season. Will look forward to that.

Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel
Was rather disappointing. Couture is supposed to show you something new, it's suppose to surprise, excite and inspire but there wasn't much that was particularly inspired about this collection, in my opinion. Some nice proportions going on, but the mod silhouette's been going on for a while already, the mainly black-and-white palette is getting old, and the occasions when Lagerfeld tried to inject colour in seemed quite contrived, frankly. And the dresses with the bits trailing down like shredded paper? I couldn't make sense of them. But there were some ensembles which hinted at the classic Chanel goodness that we've come to expect.
And then there was a grossly unflattering, frumpy, poofy gray dress which just made my jaw drop in horror. It's like a prom dress nightmare from two centuries ago, if that makes any sense to you.
Let's hope next season sees a Galliano-esque rediscovery of genius for Mr Lagerfeld.

Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy - "the metamorphosis of sailors into mermaids"
I saved this for last because I don't usually see great clothes from Givenchy, but this show was crazy, dramatic and outstanding in the way that only a couturier can pull off. Loved the moody atmosphere, the modern shapes and brilliant tailoring. And there was lots of navy blue. Am a sucker for detailed tailoring and navy blue. This collection had a poofy gray dress that was just as unflattering as the one at Chanel, but it was so misguidedly over-detailed that I found it in my heart to excuse it. Oh and the huge hats! What's a good couture show without something ridiculously unwearable playing a central role in the collection?

I am not bothering with Christian Lacroix because I never like his couture shows. They all look the same - weird shapes, excessive colours and glitter and makeup. And somehow they just seem to wholly lack originality.

Phew. Long post. Time to get back to writing a Humanities paper!

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from Anonymous Jasmine A:
Haute Couture is not just a title given, it means the art of fine sewing, everything is done by hand, you actually have to be licensed by the country of France before you are able to call your line haute couture. So the comment about Elie Saab's collection not being "worthy of the title haute couture" is silly-it has nothing to do with how grand his clothes are, just how they are made.
from Anonymous papagena:
love love love the dior...i keep setting the different dresses as the wallpaper on my computer so that i have something beautiful to look at during the day. perfect timing too, because i am playing in our school's production of madame butterfly. beautiful opera, beautiful clothes.