It’s couture week, that magical time when top designers trot out their most luxurious bespoke creations (and the words “dying art form” are bandied about by cynics). New to the world of haute couture? Here’s a quick history lesson: The first couture collection was created by Charles Frederick Worth, the “Father of haute couture,” in the mid 1800’s. (Worth also pioneered the idea of fashion seasons and was one of the first male designers to create dresses for women. He also created the first mass produced garments). Under French law, a collection can only be deemed haute couture if it is named so by the Chambre Syndicat: In order to qualify, fashion houses need to produce 35 hand-sewn, made to order pieces, created by a team of at least 15 full-time employees. In fact, it’s not unusual for a team of 50 people to spend over 1,000 hours on a single gown. So what if only a handful of people can afford to purchase a haute couture garment? They’re the stuff fashion fantasy is made of. Here are some of our top picks from the current couture season.


The couturier: Donatella Versace

The story:
Versace couture opened the week with its first show in eight years at the Paris Ritz, a symbolic venue for the Italian fashion brand. It was in the hotel lobby 15 years ago that Donatella Versace last saw her brother Gianni,
who was shot dead two days later. “It is with tremendous emotion that I return to the Ritz where I shared so many special moments with my brother,” she says. Her couture collection stayed true to the brand’s DNA—va va voom, look-at-me pieces, filled with bold colours and leather patent strips. We think Gianni would have been proud.

Who else made the cut? Find out on the next page…

gaultiercouturestory.jpgThe couturier: Jean Paul Gaultier
The story: Jean Paul Gaultier is no stranger to controversy. The French couturier, who made headlines for his Amy Winehouse inspired collection last year, presented a couture line in the vein of another rock star with a fondness for hard drugs—Pete Doherty. “My god, he is so seductive, a decadent dandy,” the designer told the Daily Mail about meeting Doherty in Cannes earlier this year. “And that’s my collection.” Even though the show was over 80 minutes late starting, reviews were overwhelmingly positive. chanelcouturestory.jpg
The couturier: Karl Lagerfeld
The story: Chanel always puts on a grand show, and this season was no exception. Karl Lagerfeld’s team transformed the Grand Palais into a full conservatory, with wicker armchairs in place for the front row and white camellias everywhere. “Renovation, evocation, continuity and the opposite of all that: I took the spirit and attitude of Mademoiselle Chanel to create something contemporary,” Lagerfeld explains. The result? “New Vintage,” haute couture, with an emphasis on capes and coats, diaphanous fabrics, appliqued metallic sequins and pleated skirts trimmed with pink paint. Our pick? Lindsey Wixson’s feathered wedding gown, which garnered rave reviews from the well-heeled set.

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The best of couture fashion week