What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, the demise of haute couture had been widely predicted.
After all, how could it possibly survive the worst financial crisis in living memory? The very definition of a niche market, the couture customer base has been actively dwindling for years.
But fast forward to 2010, and the future of haute couture, for now, seems secure. It is secure because designers have realised that at couture’s heart is not exclusivity, but creativity. Often criticised for being ‘over-the-top’, couture has in recent years swung from wild excess to measured temperance, and it leaves us asking just one question: what comes next?
Couture this year has been determined to go bigger and better, and if the Chanel show was anything to go by, Karl Lagerfeld intended to lead by example. The models at Chanel walked in the shadow of an enormous golden lion, meant to pay homage to Coco Chanel’s star sign, Leo. Standing at 45-feet high, the lion oversaw a collection that was full of boxy jackets and the trademark tweed paired with beaded and heavily embellished eveningwear. Watched eagerly by Gossip Girl stars Blake Lively and Leighton Meester (on a break from shooting in Paris), this collection was a medley of maroon and navy shades – a touch moodier than the Chanel Couture of previous years, but worn with a swagger, it will have young Hollywood clamouring to work their pouts in the latest Chanel two-piece suit.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, John Galliano’s theme for Dior Couture was florals. It’s a perennial choice for fashion, but done the Dior way it became something extraordinary.
Flanked by enormous 3-D tropical flowers, the models emerged wearing a series of dazzling gowns that mixed colour with wild abandon: violet & pink, indigo & lime, orange & black. The collection grew from iridescent tulip skirts to a succession of gigantic gowns that looked like undiscovered exotic blooms.
Fronted by models Jessica Stam, Karlie Kloss and Frida Gustavsson, the Dior collection took on one of the oldest fashion favourites and made it look daring, vibrant and new. Galliano’s supremely confident flower-show put creativity front row and centre. It’s easy to forget in tough times, but fashion, even when done by the best, still needs that light-bulb moment. This was pure fashion eureka.
It may not be suitable for a trip to the supermarket, but these heart-stopping, jaw-dropping collections sent out a message loud and clear to anyone who doubts that couture can last, in just two words: beat that.