"My Fair Lady" S/S2013 Paris Couture Week Highlights

February 06, 2013 11:12 AM

With fast-fashion retailers mimicking designers’ collections weeks after they’re shown on the runway, and the intense pressure put on designers to now deliver a minimum of four collections a year, the fashion merry-go-round is spinning quite rapidly these days.  This makes it quite difficult to remember how the art and craftsmanship of clothing and the subsequent cultural notions of fashion began.  Take a step back and think.  Long before ingenious technological advances and our growing individualistic and perspectival culture, there was just custom-made, hand-sewn clothing.

Yes, now we have ready-to-wear fashion shows that preview the newest, latest, trends and styles, but Haute Couture still has it’s own unique beckoning light. Whereas ready-to-wear designers literally see their wares trickled down through boutiques and department stores, Haute Couture is fashion’s own Art Basel persay; a showcase honoring the art and craft behind the fashion, utilizing traditions of yore while also capitalizing on technology only accessible in the historical moment of “now.” This season in Paris, Couture and Haute Couture impressed on us the history behind fashion as we see it today. 

For Maison Martin Marigela and Alexis Mabille (Snapple fact: they are official members of Haute Couture), they are rising stars in the world of Haute Couture which has been dominated by names we’ve known for half a century or more: Chanel, Dior, & Valentino. Margiela’s collection seemed focused on an Eastern inspired interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, with shapes reminiscent of the Mad Hatters mind in dress-up mode.  Feathers were the key embellishment, intricately incorporated by hand into looks with lace and labors of love. Maison Martin Marigela, on the complete opposite side of fashion, is known for its individualistic recycling concept. We shall call this collection hobo chic. Our take from this line is all about balance, the perfect medium of stoicism and cynicism. Oversized coats, (a house trope and always a big hit) flowing forms, it is embodiment of the Parisian woman's way of not trying to hard:  a complete effect of throwing on whatever you can in a hurry combined with chic conceptual “consciousness”. Alexis Mabille had a different interpretation of the sophisticated: you’d think Marie Antoinette spent her entire fortune on this line alone. Pink is the new pleasure, and his collection makes you feel like a wanton material girl. The only adverb appropriate for this collection: Royalty.  Sultriness sprinkled with sin, his collection captured the inner look of any princess. Lace frills and rich strong forms of sweetness --he consistently showcased a new form of Couture. Black tie eveningwear anyone? These habiliments are statement pieces meant for the red carpet and regal banquets.

One the other hand (no pun intended, as these collections are solely made by them) Iris Van Herpen, Yiqing Yin, and Rad Hourani  (as invited guests to Paris couture week by la chambre syndicale de la haute couture, their couture collections can not lead with the modifier “haute”) had different concepts in mind. Iris Van Herpen focused on one thing, stepping outside the box –she is the couturier associated with some of Lady Gaga’s and Daphne Guiness’s most noteworthy and publicly polarizing get-ups.  Van Herpen’s collection built itself like the evolution of an exotic plant. Starting from the roots and growing into a blossoming figure, every woman’s inner goddess is bleeding from development into female independence, as was seen with the intensity and grandeur she built upon with each model’s entrance. Sporting spikes, rivets and cutouts, she shocked us like the Electric feel.

Yiqing Yin had a unique collection as well. It seems that death preoccupied her latest outing, but she used a defibrillator to bring her clothes back to life. Multiple looks in smoky greys, jet blacks, and silver focused on one goal, delivering Yin’s eery message: Are you afraid of the dark? Her play on textures (Sherpa, Pony Hair and tassels) left her clothes alive in the eternal world of the cerebral. One’s cultural references could say Yin's recent outing was definitely Tim Burton inspired.  But this was no nightmare; it was an awakening!

Lastly Rad Hourani popped on our radar because we adore his concept of unisex couture dressing.  Using only a monochromatic color scheme of black and white, Cruella Deville would have loved to skin these models. Hourani’s slim cigarette trousers, fitted jackets, and cropped blouses were simple and understated but felt quite refreshing, especially on the few men we saw on all the couture catwalks. Sometimes, less is more.  Congratulations Rad Hourani, this more is exactly what we need!

At the end of the day fashion is who you are, and how you own it, both Couture and Haute Couture no less. You could say that couture clothes give their wearer a higher edge of empowerment due to their delicately intricate and personalized construction.  These couture designers don’t just make “fashion;" they make historical commodities: timeless cultural artifacts. 

 

 

WRITTEN BY: MADISON POPPER 

 

 

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Photograph by Chiaki Kato

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