Christian Dior’s AW14 Show in Paris shows Haute Couture can still be Relevant and Fun

Let’s just make sure we all have the same reference point: Haute Couture anyone? Something to do with high French fashion? Well you may be surprised to know that the term originally referred to Englishman Charles Frederick Worth’s clothing work in the mid-nineteenth century- Ah yes, true he was working in Paris at the time!
Today in France, haute couture is a “protected name” that can be used only by firms that meet certain well-defined standards. That said, the term is also used loosely to describe all high-fashion custom-fitted clothing, whether it is produced in Paris, France, or in the other classic fashion capitals of London, Milan, New York or Tokyo.
In French haute couture literally means “high sewing” or “high dressmaking” or “high fashion”. It is usually understood to mean the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture should be fashion that is constructed by hand with little or no use of sewing machines or mass production techniques. The materials will be invariably high quality, expensive, often an unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable seamstresses.
From time to time the major manufacturers of clothes try to claim that this obsessive attention to detail is outdated and not in keeping with current austerity. But they would say that wouldn’t they? To the contrary it seems the average haute customer is getting younger!
Christian Dior’s AW14 presentation earlier this year could have been described as a last hurrah, but it seems to have set the ball rolling again for couture. Some would say that the show proved that the painfully exquisite (and painfully expensive)fashion art form is having a thoroughly modern revival moment.
Haute couture is, it has to be admitted, a bit cut-throat. You need to get on top with your creations because you won’t get much return from haute coutures that don’t sell or end up in a remainder bin! That may be why Jennifer Lawrence pie-splatted Emma Watson after a mutual posing session. Were they just slightly disrespecting the fustiness of the occasion or really eliminating the competition at any given opportunity?!
To the décor and the runways. It was… flowery… No less than 150,000 orchids, all in trademark Dior white adorned the place like… Well, like a church wedding… Was that a coincidence? Well the last presentation of the last day allowed Karl Lagerfeld to steal the show, using that white-orchid backdrop. To gasps and wild camera shooting, the Kaiser of fashion gave the prestigious closing spot at Chanel’s AW14 couture show to a pregnant bride!
But what were the clothes like? There were stunning tilt-hem gowns, delicious off-pisteunusual colour combos and of course that all-round exquisite embellishments. And let’s not forget that Dior has brought haute couture to sportswear. Really. Dior’s hand-crafted trainers have just been released. Every single model at Chanel on one day was wearing trainers made up in a variety of pastel tweeds by Paris pied maison Massaro. Some models wore embellished skater knee and elbow pads, and bum bags. The sportiness was (some would say over) emphasised by the consistently cropped shape of sporty tops. Add in Lagerfeld with his version of “play/fun” clothes – leggings, button-down jumpsuits and cycling shorts in sparkly lace and crystal embroidery and you have a banged-to-the-wall signal that haute couture is not dead- just younger and sportier.