The dry spell for Haute Couture may very well just be over. For once in a long time, it has finally found a promise to remain relevant in this day and age of fast-fashion.
No appliqués or embroidery rained on Armani Privé this spring, but instead it shocked us with a forward-looking collection that is deliciously psychedelic with its electric colours and high tech fabrics, a drift from the usual Haute Couture palette. With the mirror effect on the organza and the out-of-this-world Philip Treacy head gears, the Armani girls are a God-sent breath of fresh air delivered straight from the 11th planet. For a risk that could have gone sour, dismissed as being contrived, this risk is supported with the no nonsense craftsmanship expected of Haute Couture. The collection wasn’t busying itself to look futuristic. It just simply was. Moreover, it still maintains the essence of Armani through the recognizable silhouettes unlike the tragedy that was Valentino Haute Couture Spring 2010.
On the other side, Givenchy pulled off a ballsy move casting only Asian models for its show. It is also interesting that the house decided to be inspired by Japanese culture and Japanese art - hence, the Samurai hats and the compulsive crane motif embroidery. What’s more brow-raising is that the inspiration comes not from traditional Japan but from the modern day land of Takashi Murakami, Kazuo Ohno’s Butoh dance form and Hello Kitty. Whether Givenchy is inspiring a new ‘Asian cult’ with this collection or merely riding on the wave of the current pulse in fashion, it is certainly doing something right. More importantly, it is paving the way for Haute Couture by drawing inspiration from more contemporary sources.
Last on the list of favourites for this season is Christian Dior. Inspired by Réne Gruau illustrations, the collection showed a lot of variety. And above, all the silhouettes also seem younger and fresher from the usual cuts that can only be imagined on trophy wives of super rich oil moguls. The collection is aspirational without being stuffy. And simply, it’s fun.
What is heartening to see is that Haute Couture may be finding its way back to its helm as the pinnacle of fashion by being the source of inspiration not just through its unparalleled craftsmanship but through its exploration of higher concepts that ready-to-wear cannot afford to. Boasting thousands of man-hours and counting the appliqués on a dress is not going to be enough to preserve this venerable art form. On the contrary, being at the forefront of fabric technology and standing at the edge of globalized culture like Armani and Givenchy respectively may just be Haute’s Couture ticket to saving itself from sinking to the depths of obscurity.