From Paris at Couture

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by Leandra Medine
July 8, 2013
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Where for the first time in a long time, everything is decidedly wearable.

One of my favorite facets when considering couture season is the element of absolute unattainability that typically reveals itself as each hand-sewn applique begins to tell the story of the decidedly breathtaking dress or blouse–at times, even head piece–that I will never own.

Call me naive and nostalgic but it seems like when held up against its more practical, durable, obsessed-with-making-the-sale cousins, couture week has maintained the dexterity to speak to the true indie spirit of the fashion week ethos. It’s a show, it’s a gallivant, it’s a spectacle of esoteric creativity that elicits some of your own. It makes digesting the other stuff–that which sprinkles into the expensive specialty boutique or luxury department store and then subsequently into the high street shop of your neighborhood that much easier. It is not for you to own. It’s not even really for you to want to own. That is, of course, until Raf Simons revealed his idea of couture utopia last season for Christian Dior and generated a 24% spike in sales for the legendary house.

Naturally, when your neighbor–historically an equal, who has been subsisting on the same exact plane as you have for years–strikes success in some curious way, you’re inclined to mimic the formula. But when that formula includes the domineering fashion week buzzword, “wearability,” even in the couture climate, does the artfulness of the season get lost?

I’m not sure. Take the nude double-breasted Armani Prive jacket in slide 1 and the consequent pants in 2. Plain indeed, but it doesn’t necessarily take much scrutiny to recognize the eloquently stitched seams and what is certainly very, very fine silk. Raf Simons (slides 3 through 6) tethers to his characteristic whimsy (notwithstanding an audible nod to exposing and celebrating the female body) and Giambattista Valli (slides 7 through 9) follows suit in a series of naked, stupefying, categorically lust-worthy gowns not unlike his mainline designs but certainly exhibiting a different blazon of panache.

It is where Maison Martin Margiela (slides 10 through 12) cloaks his models’ faces (an obvious, recurring attempt to explain that his clothes are not about the girl, they’re about the clothes) and puts jeans on them that I’m left to wonder if–even in spite of the escapist, embellished blouses, bibs-cum-tops and a conceptual, critical eye–yes, the artfulness gets lost.

Cathy Horyn offered a shrewd point of view in reviewing the collections and perhaps more specifically the ambiance circumventing them when she wrote that “[C]outure is fundamentally what you don’t see: the way a garment is constructed, the reason it’s done by hand, and how that literally gives shape to fashion.” This, of course, has nothing to do with wearability and everything to do with unilateral luxury.

While I can agree that couture may be about that which we don’t see on the clothes, the under-blazer transparency at Armani, the breasts by Raf, the legs by Valli, the midriffs at Margiela and the negligee at Valentino (slides 12 through 15–and the poncho/pant combo speaks to the previous question as well), make it ironic to note how much we do still see–anatomically speaking, at least. Perhaps this is where the guile gets lost on me. If I bear a sheer white tank without a bra underneath it, am I conceivably living in the vein of couture? Probably not.

Maybe, to Horyn’s point, it is precisely in the use of Chanel’s ubiquitous, head-to-toe tweed (and in the case of this collection, suede–see slides 16 through 19) that a series of unrecognizable-as-couture looks could plausibly yell price-upon-request and still holster an unshakeable, artful sense of I will probably never own you, but I think I definitely really want you. So is that what it’s all about?

Images courtesy of Vogue.com

REPLIES
  • Irene Laura

    never read something more true

    http://www.ontomywardrobe.com

  • http://newbornfanatic.wordpress.com/ Newborn Fanatic

    Slide 7 and 10. So freakin gorgeous!! :D

    https://newbornfanatic.wordpress.com/

  • Opposite Lipstick
  • Stephanie

    Valentino just gets better and better! And they always have the perfect runway braid!

    -Stephanie
    @LaminLouboutins.com

  • Hudson Berry

    I’d happily stay single if it meant I’d receive unlimited Valentino couture

    • Leandra Medine

      fortunately or unfortunately i don’t think it’d help all that well in maintaining your license to cobweb

  • Style StreetStalker
  • Oliver Lips
  • Belén Cavas Hernández

    Really good selection, here you have my special post from Chanel Haute Couture.

    http://iwanttobeavoguette.blogspot.com.es/2013/07/the-old-world-and-new-world-chanel.HTML

    Bsos.

  • Sharon

    Very well written! that quote about HC was so spot on … thanks for sharing

    http://www.primpedandprimed.blogspot.com

  • Mallory

    Love this post, excellently put! I really think that couture is about the possibility of what clothing can be freed of the boundaries of what is considered “wearable”or even acceptable and that’s what makes it so fun.

  • Giuliana Bernaola

    I feel just an ignorant in fashion when I read this. True Words, never expected to hear such a precise statement of what is happening to fashion nowadays.

    I invite you to visit my blog The Art Sartorialist

    It may not be couture but it’s daily fashion!

    xxx
    Giu

  • kirbybee

    Oh Man Repeller, I feel like you’re speaking exactly what I’m thinking.

    Couture is supposed to be fantasy, it is supposed to have this air of magic, this unavailability that we’ve long ago accepted and now embrace. It is supposed to leave us amazed and shaking our heads in wonder. I want to be blown away by the use of materials and fabrications and technology. I want to view a couture show and be swept off my feet, figuratively speaking of course. I want to gasp and exclaim and be shocked that something so incredible could be created with fabric and thread. So many things I want, perhaps I’m just an old (fashion) romantic.

  • CarolinaG

    I loved it!!

    I’m posting looks from Los Angeles and accessories:

    http://www.thegavlaks.com

  • http://mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr/ Mafalda

    What I find surprising/bizarre in Couture, is that it’s something luxurious that cannot really be worn, it just makes most people like me dream, I mean, who wears these clothes? As for Maison Margiela, I don’t like the cloaking of their model’s faces like that, as I watch the women as much as the outfits, because the dream is about a woman wearing beautiful clothes, not about some person escaped from Daft Punk that just freaks me out!!!

    http://mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr/

  • http://madamecouture.blogspot.com/ Emma Hager

    Great post, Leandra! When I read the Cathy piece a few days, I decided that is was one of the most thought-provoking, well-written pieces I’ve read by her. As I was looking through the collection photos on style.com, I kept asking myself where all the grandeur and color were — but on the other hand, Margiela and its jeans was my favorite collection. I think that comes in part with an instinctual (for me, at least) reaching of something that is more attainable — or at least seems more attainable. Maybe for those (like 98.9% of us) that are not/cannot be in the market for haute couture, these guys are just suggesting a really, really ambitious DIY.

    To add: Tim Blanks’ review of Margiela affirms Horyn’s point that couture is in the details, in tne sense that many of the pieces are vintage dresses that have been added to or subtracted from. Upon first look, one wouldn’t guess that these looks are sourced from around 3-5 different places, with mint-condition vintage pieces, dissected and made again.

    Also, is anyone else in for a post that is basically an ode to Cathy Horyn? Perhaps it would implement elements of the Listing that we love so much on this here site.

    • Leandra Medine

      We can do a melting pot-esque ode to Tim Blanks AND Cathy Horyn

      • http://madamecouture.blogspot.com/ Emma Hager

        Yes! Let’s do it!

  • kerrin

    let the games begin! x
    http://www.CATiD.net

  • Pennywise Poundcake

    I love the structure and cut of the first slide! So chic and simple.

    http://pennywisepoundcake.com

  • Danielle

    It just show that your ignorance has no boundaries. Next time, before begging your agency to get a seat for you, open a book and read a bit about fashion. Parasites like you are the worst, not only for fashion but for any sector.

  • http://www.fashionsnag.com/ Fashion Snag

    Need that purple skirt pronto!

    http://www.FashionSnag.com

  • http://cirquedelatelier.blogspot.com/ Cirque de l’Atelier

    This season really begged the question, is there such a thing as daywear couture??

  • Nicholas+TaylorLLC
  • Guest

    you are becoming a straight up fashion critic and me likes it!

  • Jillian Ouellette

    While I love the aesthetics of couture, I do agree that it is unattainable. I also believe that it is simply not meant to be worn. Ever. Well, mostly ever. The qualities that make a couture garment, couture, also make it impractical. Regardless of the impracticality of couture, couture pieces are a testament to sewing as a craftsmanship that is often time overlooked for an industry that can be easily viewed as shallow.

    http://www.showboatjillian.wordpress.com

    • Leandra Medine

      Right there with you–it’s the only “fashion week” that still holsters the indie spirit of creating semi-wearable art

  • Helena

    I loved that deep v-neck Valentino dress so much! I showed my mom a picture of it on style.com on Sunday. That brocade is just beautiful.

  • nikita

    Love it

  • anna

    scandinavian people think jews have a very strange face, especially the nose is very bad-looking,kinda scythe-like they say, . They call it ” Ful nasa”. the word “ful” is pronounced like the english word “fuel”. i kind of feel sorry for them, but maybe its the testosterone.. i´ve heard it increases the tissues inside the nose, especially bone mass.

    It´s intresting to note that the hebrew work “nasa” can mean both “to marry” and “to lift” and “to desire” among many other verbs..

    In scandinavia people think jews have a very strange face, especially the nose is very bad-looking,kinda scythe-like they say, . They call it ” Ful nasa”. the word “ful” is pronounced like the english word “fuel”. i kind of feel sorry for them, but maybe its the testosterone.. i´ve heard it increases the tissues inside the nose, especially bone mass.

    It´s intresting to note that the hebrew work “nasa” can mean both “to marry” and “to lift” and “to desire” among many other verbs..

  • SF

    Couture runway is supposed to be lavish, outlandish, upscale, extraordinary. When prêt-à-porter or pre-fall or capsule offers something reachable, something sense-making, haute couture is supposed to be aspirational. Do you think that what appears on couture runway will be the real thing when it appears on your wardrobe? Not necessarily. Do you think that the bigger-than-life gown with fur and exotic leathers taken from an entire zoo will be the exact thing you’d posses? Not really. You can cut it way down, making less fur, shortening the sleeves, etc. Haute couture runways offer the ultimate dream, the craziest idea you can dream of your future dress. You can make alterations as much as you want. Haute couture isn’t a ready-to-pick catalogue. It’s the inspiration. It gives brave (yet rich) women who don’t necessarily have the creativity and sense of art to dream crazy and cutting-edge picture about what to wear, when it comes time to choose things they can afford it. So when couturiers offer a simple sleek skinny dream, how would you alter it? Making it less luxe, or making ‘I-want-this-by-tomorrow’ selection, which would make it no difference from ready-to-wear?

    http://bit.ly/understandablecoutureisnocouture

  • ardeo

    Well fashionistas, forgive my philosophy, however I see that we are living in a world of increasing accessibility. This new found phenomena is being spread throughout vital aspects of our collective life such as education, healthcare, and most widely known, social media. This is new (or maybe not so new) trend in the fashion industry as well. While, yes, it is mostly born out of the “bottom line”, there may exist new opportunities by pursuing the “wearable couture” or the “every day, jane couture” through “street style”. Street style has increasingly become a rage that spreads like wildfire via internet sources (as we all know too well) and not only could this potentially take over what we know now as the fashion industry, but also, and most importantly, put the couture and the “true indie spirit” of creativity back in the everyday people’s hands. Listen now, WE are the new designers of tomorrow whether realize it or not. We are making the major decisions with every purchase, “like”, comment or share we make and it’s time that we step up as consumers, bloggers, critics and designers to keep the creative flare that we deserve. Yes, there is something to be said for the awe that unattainability has, but beware this same awe also may put blinders on us to issues that are much bigger than whether artfulness can still be obtained (that’s because art NEVER DIES!!! :D Never forget that ladies!) and whether we should continue to, more or less, worship the unattainable.