Tuesday, December 25, 2007

New Blood Brewing at the Paris Haute Couture

Despite the predicted demise of haute couture, the Spring 2007 season proved to be a turning point for fashion’s supposed “Dowager” who isn’t looking so old these day’s. Although the press only seems to cover a handful of the couture shows each season (most notably those of the big fashion houses), there are at least 30 names on the off calendar list of presenters, as well as a growing number of invited and newly inducted members. At the latest presentations in July the haute couture season expanded from three days to four days, with a total of 43 shows, making it a record number in recent history.

At the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture’s board meeting on October 22, 2007 several designers were given “invited member” status including: Adam Jones, Boudicca, Cathy Pill, Christophe Josse, Eymeric François, Felipe Oliveira Baptista, Gérald Watelet, Gustavo Lins, Lefranc.Ferrant, Marc Le Bihan, Nicolas Le Cauchois, On Aura Tout Vu, Richard René and Udo Edling.

Inaddition the following designers were invited to become members by the board, giving them the right to call their collections Haute Couture: Alexis Mabille, Josep Font, Stéphane Rolland, Anne Valérie Hash and Maurizio Galante.

Here are just three of couture’s rising stars:

Left: Moritzio Galante

Unlike many of the designers presenting during couture week, the Italian Maurizio Galante shows his haute couture collection once a year for both spring and fall. Also an artist and furniture designer by training, he often treats his couture pieces like works of art. Employing laser cut fabrics and the latest in Japanese textiles, he will often use labor intensive techniques such as origami pleating, antique lace and feathers for his creations. Known as well for his strong sense of color, Galante maintains the idea that couture should be unique through the use of innovative materials and craftsmanship.

Center: Riccardo Tisci

When the venerable House of Givenchy named a little-known Italian designer, Riccardo Tisci, to take over its couture ateliers in 2005, it was unclear whether he’d be able to turn the house’s fortunes around. On his first day on the job he asked to see the houses’ archives, only to be ushered into two small rooms. The first was stuffed with clothes hanging from rails, and dozens of hats in stacked boxes. While the other room contained shelves filled with press scrapbooks, fabric samples and collections look books. Hardly the type of well organized and maintained archive found at other illustrious houses such as Saint Laurent and Balenciaga.

The word “archive” has frequently been mentioned in relation to established houses. But many houses did not maintain extensive archives until fairly recently. Part of the reason for this is that space was simply unavailable and dresses that took up too much room were frequently given to the designer's friends or loaned out never to be seen again. "Archive" was frequently a catchword to denote house history rather than an actual collection of clothing and documentation.

But recently Givenchy has worked hard at revitalizing it’s archives, paying new attention to them and hiring specialists to maintain, catalogue and collect disparate elements from the past into a cohesive whole. Outside acquisitions have been necessary to supplement the rather meager traces left in-house from the couturier's 43-year reign. Despite this, in the three years he’s been at that house, Tisci has been successfully attracting a new clientele, many of whom are from the Middle East, in tune with his modern version of couture.

Right: Richard René

The French designer Richard René has a small enterprise compared to most couturiers. A modest man, who often cuts and sews many of his garments himself, he is happy to continue perfecting his craft in his tiny atelier.

He trained for three years under Claude Brouet at Hermès and seven years at Jean Paul Gaultier. His big break came in 2004 when he won the Hyères Festival award and showed for the first time under his name in January 2005.

This young designer, who has been presenting for a number of years in Paris, is steadily creating a buzz around his work, which could be described as architectural. Often cutting away extraneous materials to pare down a garment to its essence, he’s managed to attract a number of clients searching for what some have called “an outrageous faux minimalist” approach to haute couture.His is the kind of garments where construction seems to take center stage.
© THE POLYGLOT (all rights reserved) CHICAGO-PARIS

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