Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Look at Fall 2014 Couture

Dior Couture Fall 2014

Earlier this month, the fashion flock descended upon The City of Lights for the bi-annual haute couture shows. Movie starts like Emma Watson intensified the city’s luminescence as they took their places in exalted front row. The less crowded schedule and relaxed atmosphere of couture week is a welcomed sharp divergence from frenzied ready-to-wear.

The clothes shown at the haute couture shows take hundreds of man hours to create. Embroidery painstakingly applied, artfully sewn seams that can only be the reward of a long patience—these are the things that make couture special. With such attention to detail, it is only right that each presentation of these clothes be at a reduced pace, allowing the spectator to rightfully digest each sumptuous frock feast.

It is like a stroll back in time before communication moved at the speed of light and pictures from the runway were instantly uploaded to Instagram. Indeed couture is slow fashion where the hands that manifest such other-worldly creations are represented by the carefully considered singularity of each garment. Contrast this with fast fashion where clothes are mass produced and a pair of jeans can be sewn in mere seconds, often by people in factories in developing countries under objectionable conditions.

These mass market clothing factories in places like India, create easy to manufacture clothes that skimp on quality and are shipped to fashion consumers in far-away lands like Europe and the United States and near-by China. Unremarkable in their craftsmanship, they are created by invisible hands--- a fashion sleight of hand that seems to make on-trend clothes simply appear at the whim of the consumer.

Back in Paris where the clothes are made at local ateliers, onlookers were delighted by Raf Simons Dior couture show that paid homage to the past, but defiantly propelled couture forward into modernity. Raf maintains Dior’s signature ultra-femininity but also grounds it with a bit of sober masculinity by swapping some ball gowns for trousers and frock coats.

There was a quiet opulence about the Dior show where stark courtly white pannier gowns with a flush of red and blue embroidered flowers were shown alongside youthful undulating short hemlines. Some of the less fanciful looks such as black trousers and turtle neck topped with a colorful frock coat may have looked more ready-to-wear than couture—a modern approach to couture that taps into the zeitgeist desire for ease in clothes, no matter the price tag.

What’s old is new again. Maison Martin Margiela also turned to the past to create his fall 2014 couture collection. Using embroidery samples and fabric cut-offs from an assortment of couturiers that includes French national treasure Paul Poiret. The result of this haute mash-up managed to create an elevated freshness while deftly adding the warm charm of nostalgia. French francs were sewn onto thin, sheer fabric, a motif that appeared repeatedly throughout the show. In one instance, a ankle length sheer franc skirt was paired with a Louis XV style floral brocade body suit.

The attempted revival of the house of Schiaperelli as an exclusively couture house continues with the newly appointed creative director Marco Zanini. This latest collection is Zanini’s sophomore Schiaperelli couture collection---his first debuting in January during the Spring 2014 couture week.

There were the known markers of Schiaperelli in the collection, sculpted shoulders and shocking pinks, but in the end the collection failed to conjure the same fun and wit of the original designer Elsa Schiaperlli. Zanini’s hand was too heavy when creating pieces like the opening look which featured a leopard double breasted coat with large, hulking, sleeves done in fur. The attempt at camp in the leopard and fur coat was weighed down by the stiffness of the heavy arms. It’s hard to imagine a bold, independent woman in clothes that are hard to move in.

But there is a showing of promise in Zanini’s work for the house as he clearly understands the codes of the house. Camp, being one of them, is hard to pull off without looking plainly over-the-top. This collection was all-too-obvious, missing the wink of wit.

Karl Lagerfeld set his time machine to the future with his latest Chanel collection. Chanel is a house firmly built on history, an establishment of chic. Lagerfeld stays loyal to the foundations of the house while resisting the stodginess of history. The classic Chanel suit was futuristically sculpted tweed with a peek of matching tweed biker shorts underneath that added a youthful casualness. Lagerfeld also played with modernizing fabric, bringing lace up-to-date, for example, by coating it in silicone.  

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