Inspirations, Insights

By Laurence Benaïm

In Paris, the world could come to an end and seamstresses would still try to adjust a model by a few millimetres. This week, 32 haute couture shows are scheduled, with some of the most eagerly awaited including Julien Dossena, artistic director of Paco Rabanne, who has been invited by Jean Paul Gaultier to sign the winter 2023 style exercise, and Thom Browne, who launched his brand in New York in 2003 with five grey suits. “The idea of uniformity to me is interesting because I think it does show true individuality, and I think that it shows true confidence” says Charles de Vilmorin, who is showing his Haute Couture collection on the first day of the calendar. What is individuality?  This is undoubtedly the most burning question posed by haute couture, the ultimate luxury in the age of ChatGPT, XL “Wikipedia Editor” sweatshirts from Vêtements, or Kim Kardashian's Skims bodysuit, which is a big hit on TikTok. Individuality is primarily about embracing the imaginary, enhancing it. “Movement sculpts the fabric. Fabric is linked to the breathing of a body. We build volumes that don't have to weigh anything...” says Sofia Crociani of Aelis. When she talks about haute couture, it's first and foremost to evoke this “unleashed geometry,” this alchemy that transforms discipline into freedom, the small stitch into a moment of grace. The Paris Opera's flat tutus were thus recycled to create dresses. Her woven dandelions blossom on the theme of “Under the Ground.”

Then there’s Julie de Libran. “I'm delighted and proud to have this opportunity to be in Paris: I'm amazed by the passion and discipline of this profession, which still makes me dream,” she says. “I'm exploring new volumes and new materials, there's a little ’80s feel to it, the glitter is always there, it's a material that makes me smile. Haute couture means being able to build your dreams on a body, highlighting shapes and femininity that can't be reduced to clichés.” 

Iris Van Herpen, whose retrospective is scheduled for this Autumn at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, is undoubtedly living proof that the spirit of beauty has never been more essential. It is a form of resistance, of elevation. Her celestial-wave draperies, her way of combining art and science, 3D printing and fine craftsmanship, propel the profession into another dimension. What would haute couture be without such lessons in poetry, the kind that elevate it, freeing it from all forms of academicism and standardisation by the community of followers? Van Herpen expresses the swell and whirlwind of the clouds and the ocean in dresses, in much-needed dreams that propel us far beyond the digital and terrestrial mayhem. In the words of Ovid, “I endeavour to sing of the metamorphoses that have clothed bodies in new forms.”