Haute Couture has represented the intersection of fine art and fashion for over a century. Its Parisian beginnings came around the same time as the city’s major renaissance in the mid 19th century thanks to designers such as Charles Frederick Worth, considered the founder of Haute Couture, and patrons like Empress Eugénie.
Paving the way for the future of couture, Dior’s New Look introduced in 1947 set the stage for couture to be regarded as an art form. Couture is not just about making clothes; it is about expressing feelings, exploring and taking risks. Couture transforms the artisan into an artist.
Today, couture collections are shown in Paris twice per year to an intimate group of press and couture collectors from around the world. The craft is highly protected by the French government, as well as the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, led by Didier Grumbach, who decides which design houses are worthy of being deemed Haute Couture.
The dichotomy in couture today rests on those designers who create romantic eveningwear, such as Elie Saab, Valentino and Zuhair Murad, and those who take the avant-garde route, creating wearable works of art laden with existentialist inspiration, such as Maison Martin Margiela, Iris Van Herpen and Viktor & Rolf.
The youngest and most recent designer to be invited to the official Haute Couture calendar is Chinese-born, Paris-raised designer Yiqing Yin. This season’s collection underscored why Yin is the designer to watch, as her artistic creations were both intricate and wearable. Yin found inspiration in the beauty and chaos of the deep sea, with graceful shapes reminiscent of jellyfish and patterns imitating coral and the dark abyss.
The 'mise en scene' complete with flamenco dancers was the perfect backdrop for this collection of black, white and navy blue gowns, long and languid silhouettes, and transparent capes.
Saab’s heavily sequined, jewel-toned evening gowns showed a dash of modernity this season with geometric cutouts and of course, waist-accentuating silhouettes fit for royalty and starlettes.
At the hands of Raf Simons, the House of Dior presented an internationally-inspired collection balancing its heritage with the desires of today’s couture customer. By blending classic New Look silhouettes with modern codes of dressing, Dior mixed it up with new shapes, materials and cultural inspirations.