Considering the horizon of Haute Couture


“Ethereal Symphony.” This is what Chat GPT replied when I asked it to design me a haute couture collection inspired by the juxtaposition of nature and music. The reply: “Ethereal Symphony embodies a harmonious blend of organic elements and musical motifs.”

The colour palette: “Soft pastels and vibrant jewel tones dominate the collection, with colours ranging from delicate rose quartz and pale lilac to deep emerald, sapphire blue, and amethyst.”

The silhouettes: “The collection showcases a variety of silhouettes, from voluminous ball gowns to sleek, structured designs. Each piece exhibits meticulous attention to detail and expert craftsmanship.”

I didn't have a clear idea of what the "Floral Symphony Dress" and this "Melody Jumpsuit" would look like, with the "celestial motifs" of the finale gown. I know that dreams don't come to life as you please. And that I'm fortunate enough not to have to design these dresses, but to appreciate what they convey – in all their depth and boundless diversity. To discover in Paris the essence of what makes the capital so unique. It's a place for all kinds of wonder, for all kinds of extremes. This week was a living illustration. What do Thom Browne's Bob Wilson-esque apparitions have in common with Imane Ayssi's polychrome Queens? The commonality between Daniel Roseberry's exuberance at Schiaparelli and the muslin caresses of Charles de Vilmorin, who sews feelings into space, giving black a sculptural presence? What do references to Schiaparelli's art have in common with Julien Dosséna's references to Jean Paul Gaultier, his sailors, his shell breasts, his apron dresses, this Parisian cartography embroidered with dreams?


Between lines and arabesques, night and day, tributes from some and quotations from others? We can measure the maturity of some designers, like Viktor and Rolf, who, for their 30th anniversary, were able to create a tremendous amount of effect with a minimum of fabric, taking fragments, giant knots, the "NO", from their body of work – and using these like a parody of the Miss Universe contest, with tuxedo-clad models clinging to them. Call it smoking attitude!  This is the attitude we're talking about, whether in the regal silhouettes of Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior, or in the silhouettes sculpted by the light of Sara Chraibi, we find the quintessence, the purity of an unrestrained line – this writing of transcendence that breaks free from the material.  And it is at this very moment that the craft reveals the most absolute expression of itself; when the hands, united to the eyes that direct them, reach for the sky, picking out its stars to adorn a cape of sapphire velvet. Despite everything. Here, perhaps against the mainstream of everything that crumbles, fragments, polarises and inflames this "age of anxiety" in the words of Cecil Beaton referring to the 1940s. Haute couture is a way of defending oneself, as Demna Gvasalia attests with this iron lady and her oversized silhouettes that magnify a message. “In today's world of couturiers, Balenciaga has a place apart, like some wrathful Elizabethan meditating on fashion, its weaknesses and excesses...” wrote the same Cecil Beaton decades ago.


Haute Couture is about staring at a silhouette and taking flight with it, like Iris Van Herpen's “floating cities,” inspired by the aquatic architecture of starchitect Bjarke Ingels. Oceanix versus Netflix? Solar panels versus permanently lit screens, a bit of utopia to reinvent time instead of reconstructing or rewriting it?


Activism evolves into a poetic, absolute gesture, a singular experience that restores luxury to its primary dimension: individuality, personality and temperament. "Haute couture is an osmosis between the intelligence of the hand and the know-how of ateliers focused on innovation," says Pascal Morand, Executive President of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode.


At Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli affirms that Haute Couture is a tale of unconstrained constructions, where nothing disturbs the allure; where the body just seems naturally adorned, haloed by a woven presence. In this age of extremes, the luxury of Paris means celebrating a form of universality. Away from the fragments, where memory and the here-and-now become one – united by talent, a demand for beauty, and the writing of transcendence. This is something that is as irreducible to Chat GPT as it is to strategy; something that is fragile and unquantifiable by metrics. It's the exception that means a haute couture garment can't be measured by the number of times it's been washed (100 for a ready-to-wear garment), but by another, endless durability: that of emotion. It is also the soul of transmission. As Nicolas Boulami wrote for Romain Brau celebrating the 20th anniversary of Sidaction: “A memory is like a well-cut garment. It allows us to wear life better.” Thank you and sorry, ChatGPT.


Laurence Benaïm