How Haute Couture reinvented itself in digital form?

Although virtual, Haute Couture week was more alive than ever. Between enchanting and humorous films, daring staging and sublimated backstage, this carte blanche has exacerbated the character of each house by celebrating art clothing in an unprecedented way.

Quintessence of French luxury, the pinnacle of elitism, the Haute couture is an exceptional theater from every point of view. Unity of place, -Paris-, of time –twice a year for over a century, and action with pieces in a single copy which represent singular know-how. In July 2020, dramatic change: the health measures and the Covid-19 crisis upset the rules of the art. The play will no longer be performed at sold-out, in living settings and with a chosen audience, but online. Organized by the Federation of Haute Couture and Fashion, the Haute Couture fall-winter 2020-2021 digital wisely followed the official schedule, but each house produced its own video staging. The result is baroque.

Less is more

The first show to appear online sets the tone: the decor is not the only factor impacted by the pandemic. Schiaparelli, separated from her artistic director confined to New York, presents a poetic clip in the form of a promise, proposing not silhouettes but sketches that will be made in the future. Ditto for Elie Saab. To best respect this discipline of gestures and crafts that are difficult to dematerialize, the houses are numerous to present a reduced number of pieces. Maison Rabih Kayrouz and Iris Van Herpen have thus bet on a single dress as the emblem of their Haute Couture fall-winter 2020-2021 line. But this new format is also seen by some as an opportunity to reveal more.

In the intimacy of the workshops

How to transcribe the Haute Couture experience on video? If the claws have struggled to stand out from the filmed fashion show format, like Alexis Mabille or Georges Hobeika, or its animated look book version, with a very good result at Giambattista Valli or Chanel, others have experienced the constraint as an opportunity to embody their collection. Rahul Mishra, Guo Pei, Yuima Nakazato and Ralph & Russo offer us a commented making-of of their creation process, giving us glamourized images of the garment workshops. Between reportage and advertising film, this honoring of the pure work of couture makes sense, when it does not turn into advertising.

Ralph & Russo Haute Couture fall-winter 2020-2021 collection © Ralph & Russo

The art and the way

Because it was a question of preserving the aura of exception of couture. Thus, to bring the presentation of an art object closer, many brands have taken the side to invite artists to immortalize the collections. The results vary, but overall the bet pays off. Dior immersed us in a fairy tale, Aelis in a powerful dance performance, Aganovich in a quirky stop motion universe and Azzaro Couture in a music video. The magic of the pieces dialogues with that of the production, creating enchanting fashion shorts. Always off the beaten track, Viktor and Rolf did not have cold eyes by betting, on the contrary, on humor. The brand has chosen a presentation commented by Mika, punctuated with punch lines such as “There’s something to be nervous about these days, these adornments will convey that feeling perfectly.” about a mantle adorned with thorns. A welcome touch of derision in the land of luxury.

The rebels

Celebrating singularity more than ever, this digital version of Haute Couture week has obviously had its share of transgressions. The first took place ahead of the event, with the floating parade of Balmain’s 75th birthday orchestrated by Olivier Rousteing. Jacquemus took advantage of the news to announce his new presentation, offered to a small audience on July 16 in Paris. Within the official calendar itself, two of the biggest names have also emancipated themselves from the planning. As of the date and time of their presentation, Margiela and Valentino have finally revealed a teaser. The Margiela collection will be gradually unveiled in four stages until July 16 and Valentino will give a show at the Cinecittà studios in Rome on July 21. Constraint, sewing? Never.

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