Can Haute Couture Survive In The New Decade?

The answer is plain and simple: it has to, as the craftsmanship it is based on carries the hope for a plausible form of sustainable fashion. And, according to the first Spring/Summer 2020 shows in Paris, there is a growing interest for Haute Couture itself and the levels of craftsmanship and textile innovation it implies. 

In fact, the Paris Haute Couture Week – which has just started today – will feature 36 Maisons until January 23rd, a notable amount of fashion brands for such a short time frame. Amongst them, 16 brands are members and officially hold the Haute Couture label, 16 others are guest members, and the remaining 4 are so-called "corresponding members".

In times of ecological and societal crisis, however, detractors deem Haute Couture as useless, frivolous and elitist. But Haute Couture is de facto the only sector of the fashion industry that prioritizes limited quantities over mass production, authenticity over trends, and handmade craftsmanship as opposed to industrially manufactured garments. So what if a renewed focus on Haute Couture — and the craftsmanship skills it implies — would enable the fashion industry to keep at least some of the promises it has made to the environment? 

Industry heavyweights such as DiorChanel and Givenchy, which are also showcasing their new collections this week, have initially emerged from human-scale houses dedicated solely to craftsmanship — and are still reaping the benefits of this authentic aura. However, not only the major fashion houses have made a name for themselves in the world of Haute Couture: independent designers and smaller houses are also causing much ink to flow by putting craftsmanship at the heart of their ambitions.

Iris Van Herpen, for instance, unveiled yet another ethereal Haute Couture collection based on her tireless passion for textile innovation. "We translated the anatomical drawings of the Spanish neuroanatomist Ramón y Cajal into the 'Labyrinthine' technique," the Dutch designer explained to NOWFASHION, referring to the 3D laser-cut silk dendrites that were heat-bonded to blossoming leaves of black transparent glass-organza and eventually hand-embroidered onto laser-cut pearlescent exoskeletons. "The 'hypertube' looks, for their part, are 3D printed from a single-lined web using white silicone thread, that is printed onto black silk-chiffon, twisting down the body," she added when explaining one of the many innovative techniques that she used to craft her latest Haute Couture creations.

Further Haute Couture numbers explored the so-called 'Hydrozoa' technique, which featured cellular aquarelles in dark purple and turquoise that were oil-painted and multi-layered into hundreds of transparent laser-cut bubbles, as well as the 'Morphogenesis' technique, which is a carving technique Van Herpen created in collaboration with Philip Beesley. Iris Van Herpen made sure that she was pushing the boundaries of craftsmanship from head to toe: her sculptural shoes, created in collaboration with the German designer brand Trippen, came with handmade wooden soles and laser-cut leather uppers that were woven into a 3D chain texture to comfortably embrace the foot. 

Earlier today, Ulyana Sergeenko also made a notable craftsmanship statement — albeit a less elaborated and more girly one. After welcoming us in the powder pink interiors of the Mona von Bismarck Center in Paris, Ulyana Sergeenko unveiled her very own take on the precious and extravagant party-girl from the '60s. Almost as feline as a cat, her feminine cocktail outfits and evening gowns evolved in all their festive splendour with the cat motif as their common denominator. Cat paws were de facto scattered on leopard prints or interpreted in the form of embroideries on gloves. The image of a cat even became a structural element on corsets, dresses and feather boas that wear an amusing substitute to fur.

Ralph & Russo, for their part, focused on their most iconic, archetypal signature style pieces as part of their 10th-anniversary celebration. The Australian duo's sumptuous Haute Couture numbers expressed a keen sense for tailoring with silk crêpe tailleurs, structured floral applications, as well as hand-painted organza trains and oversized bows in a multitude of pastel hues. 

But it wouldn't be a successful first day of Paris Haute Couture, without a French fashion clou: today, Balenciaga announced that it will relaunch the brand's Haute Couture line after a 52-year hiatus. In this regard, the Maison will present its new Haute Couture collection in July 2020 under the creative direction of Demna Gvasalia — it will be the first one since 1968. Needless to say, as of now, Haute Couture and the craftsmanship it entails can both still look forward to a bright future.

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