TIME AND TIDE
CREATIVE DIRECTION: DANÉ STOJANOVIC
PHOTOGRAPHY: PAUL MOREL
FASHION DIRECTION: MARNE SCHWARTZ & ANNA CASTAN
DIGITAL TECHNICIAN: JULIEN DAUVILLIER
SET DESIGN: ALESSANDRA CHIARELLI
HAIR: CHIARA MARINOSCHI
MAKEUP: RICKY MORANDIN
MANICURIST: SARA CIUFO
MODEL: EMMANUELLE LACOU / SILENT
CASTING DIRECTOR: SHERI CHIU
WORDS: ALISSA THOMAS
The term ‘couture’ is sullied a lot, these days. It’s been leant, in jest, to our time in captivity via the ubiquitously tagged couch couture and via viral lockdown tableaus that fashioned bin-night couture. The pandemic itself even claimed a stake with COVID couture – thanks to the multitude of face masks, surgical gloves and anything-made-from-fleece that’s become suddenly uniform. Satire? Of course. Blasphemy towards the traditionalist infrastructure most exclusively prefixed with the word ‘haute’? Some might say so.
Haute couture is a protected sphere, held tightly under the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, and dates back to 17th Century France. Despite its commonplace referencing, only 21 labels are considered official members (Dior, Chanel, Valentino and Versace, for example). Each house must adhere to strict guidelines and, foremost, include two seasonal collections per year made up entirely of unique creations.
Its history predates the ready-to-wear construct, when high society would commission bespoke, tailored garments to achieve status style. By the time the more practical alternative to manufacturing arose (standardised sizing, pre-set seasonal ranges), haute couture drifted to a corner of fine art creativity and its runway shows deviated from dapper and regal to extreme and absurd. For the everyday fashion fan, haute couture had become a distant, surreal, even bygone genre. So, to navigate the machine out of the dark and into current consciousness, it meant polishing it up for a modern generation. It required challenging its archaic foundations, employing diversity and discerning a new future.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Pierpaolo Piccioli expressed the importance of being “radical” today. Valentino’s creative director was referencing the past year, the pandemic and the multitude of climatic changes happening within the fashion industry. He preached the necessity to stay relevant despite outside challenges. For spring 2021, he presented Valentino haute couture via a digital runway presentation, as many houses did this season. It was a mood-lifting spectacle set within the baroque walls of the Piccolo Teatro in Milan. However, there was a new determination behind this collection, a renegade rebirth that challenged many of the system’s long-held rules. He reversed the norm to include a larger portion of daywear than evening wear, blended the runway with women and men and tailored minimalist pieces that offered a gender buoyancy. Yet, despite its neo-couture path, the collection remained true to its most core purpose – bespoke atelier craftsmanship.
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For Alexandre Vauthier, the post-pandemic season meant casting a net beyond the dreary nature of current limitations, and setting sail for valiant nostalgia. Disco flamboyancy via spectacular metallic tasselling, raucous head-high ruffles and delicate drapery that reiterated his tailoring precision. At Giambattista Valli, the Italian designer served exactly what his disciples order – explosive volume with incomparable silhouette drama. This season he associated the pieces more existentially, however, suggesting their sculpture as refractions of architectural space.
As the fashion industry at large faces crises both COVID-adjacent and ecological, there has been a shift towards an appreciation for the spectacular and the organic. Even though its echelon is supreme in both tailoring and bottom line, haute couture as a practice represents a sustainable future. Pieces made carefully, singularly and purposefully. Of course, such fashion decadence is not sympathetic to mass-market manufacturing, yet its symbolism is undeniable. From our craving for artistic satisfaction, to reconsidering the insatiable ways of our disposable wardrobes, haute couture is once again invigorating the zeitgeist.
None more so than at Schiaparelli. Creative director Daniel Roseberry took our captive inaction and our appetite for constant fascination and fired out a collection of extrapolated Deco designs hosting wild conversation starters. The Madonna and Child golden breastplate, was one. The superhero muscle-mutated bodices, was another. The crustacean adornments and the bishop sleeves that nod to Elsa Schiaparelli’s infamous Lobster gown and exaggerated blouses, were more again. A-listers have been fast to pledge allegiance too, with Lady Gaga, Emma Corrin and even Kim Kardashian taking Roseberry’s cosplay pieces viral at recent socially distant red carpet events.
Back at Valentino, Piccioli’s collection was aptly titled Temporal. A glorification of fleeting time, of fluid, impervious moments. As the pandemic closed doors, literally and figuratively, all over the planet, aside from the job losses and the company folds, fashion also found its runways without a front row. But despite the strange vacancy, what also evaporated was the internal competition, the elitism, the exclusivity. Designers streamed collections to a faceless audience, one obtuse and diverse. And since then, many have mentioned this to be their most exciting spring collection yet, skiting growing orders and global destinations (China, the Middle East and Europe are said to have been increasingly receptive).
Business aside, the pure escapism of unruly, unbridled atelier-lead fashion is evergreen. Perhaps we’ve never lost our adoration for such beauty, perhaps it just got wrongly sidelined when we tried to levitate it beside life’s regular wearables. When the tide turns, and we evolve beyond this momentary stoppage, however, haute couture might thrive in a brand new light. It might find a relevant place in our woken fashion faction, relieved of its old world ethics and given a radical new moment. One that extends well beyond the couch.
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