Put couture back on the streets? Christelle Kocher put it back in the mall for the first runway show of her brand Koché, or more precisely on the Place Carrée, the nervous epicenter of the Châtelet-Les Halles transportation node where youths from Paris and its suburbs come to shop, mingle, attempt seduction, and abate the boredom of kidult life. Friends handed out leaflets urging visitors to post their snapshots of the event on social media with a piece of the collection up for grabs. The usual fashion crowd attended, as well as a fair share of curious onlookers who happened to be passing by. Here, the thrumming beat of the soundtrack and the smell of cooling fast-food provided a full sensory immersion in the designer's parable on cultural crossroads.
With only two seasons under its belt, Koché is a new-comer with expectations heaped heavy on its fledgling shoulder: one of the 26 semi-finalists of this year's LVMH prize, with orders from top tier retailers around the world, a standing-only open show stacked with the industry's cool-spotters. And then the visitors backstage. "It was very beautiful; it's extraordinary," said Michèle Lamy, flashing her golden smile. "Cool," Kocher nodded, bobbing her head with deference while mirroring the veteran super-muse's expression, yet appearing charmingly bashful at the praise.
Tapping into the craftsmanship that she spent a decade honing – first at houses like Chloé or Dries Van Noten, then at Maison Lemarié where she still works when not toiling away in her self-funded brand – Kocher aims to bring together a vision of urbane contemporary dressing spliced with the exquisite crafts seldom harnessed in the real world. "It's a melting pot of Parisian romance, Asian color-clash, the New Yorker's cool sportswear. There are easy nylon track pants and dresses requiring hours of embroidery to create," the designer said, as her chill cast milled around in the corridor. Point in case, a lightweight parka delicately fringed with feathers, bejeweled crop tops, or fantastic low riding jeans with a singlet one-piece. Everywhere, pseudo ethnic silver jewelry (if your tribe is the neo-raver one) twinkled and tinkled.
This is the don't-care-for-gender dress form of athleisure, a savant mixture of the trappings of 1980s, 1990s sportswear combined with the craftsmanship of couture. All of it smacked of questionable youthful taste, but that would be missing the painstaking attention to details where snobbery might only see dubiously printed polyester and lurid laces. By deploying the arsenal of age-old crafts on the synthetic and man-made, is Kocher breaking the last taboo, or bridging a divide no longer necessary? For the Willow and Jaden Smith generation, Koché is exactly what couture means.