Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Couture - Haute & Atas

The hype for WFW 2011 has certainly died down but the impact that some of the designers have left sure has not. I think it was absolute brilliance for the Haute Couture Week to be tied in with Voilah, the French Festival. Not only did us Singaporeans get to savour the beauty and genius of French grand couturiers, we also managed to catch a glimpse inside the fashion industry through the fashion films presented by the Alliance Francaise Singapore at their in-house theatre and at Sinema. Together, they provided an overview of the French luxury fashion industry that prior to this, I would not have been able to comprehend and hence appreciate. 

Going back to day 4 of WFW, I remember Alexis Mabille's show as one of my favourites. Not only was his show breathtaking, he had a vision for haute couture as an industry and as a trade that got me thinking. For one, Mabille believes that haute couture is not a dying industry and hopes to present it as something that is fresh and modern such that it would appeal to more people. 

To get haute couture to the market is not easy. For most people, fashion is just what they wear everyday. A haute couture showcase then is probably a more 'atas' show than the usual, boring fashion shows. That does have some truth in it. After all, haute couture as the name suggests means high dressmaking. To most, it's probably more atas fashion. To others like Fal and I who study dressmaking and can give our two cents worth about tailoring, haute couture is dressmaking at its absolute finest. It is the artisan concept made tangible and real through the use of unrivalled construction techniques, manipulation of fabrics, textures and shapes and attention to the most minute details, some of which would have never even crossed my mind.

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The artisan concept that is the foundation of haute couture is definitely not one for all to appreciate. There are just so many people out there who will not understand the rarity of such creativity and the intricacy of such construction. Neither will they understand the complex design process in which the designers can spend weeks and months poring over in order to produce a physical manifestation of the visual and architectural concepts (relating to the way the textiles and construction come together of course) conjured up in their heads. Sometimes it isn't just the pieces coming down the runway that get me excited, it's the audience. To hear the audible gasp among the audience, that short intake of breath that is hardly audible individually but so powerful as a collective, is proof that there are people who see what I am seeing and can appreciate what I am utterly impressed by. 

Not too long ago, I had a friend joke about the fashion channels on cable. While channel surfing, he (of course it's a he) happened to see stick-thin models walking down the runway. In 30 minutes, when he chanced across the channel again, it was the same stick thin girls strutting down the runway. No difference. I get where he's coming from of course because fashion shows on tv, not exactly entertainment. More like a channel filler. Haute couture is definitely something to be absorbed in the flesh. The drama takes place in tandem with the music and the setting in an atmosphere of anticipation and unspoken excitement. This was exactly what it was like before Alexis Mabille. Several people whom Fal and I had spoken to outside at the cocktail reception were psyched for his show, especially after the roundtable symposium that had gone on earlier that day with the rest of the designers. With a history of nine years once spent under the master of drama, John Galliano, at Dior, Alexis Mabille definitely brought the drama on with fierce animal accents and lots of volume.

Finale dress

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Unfortunately, Fal and I were stupidly presumptuous. We assumed the show would start at least 15 minutes late because Dominique Sirop started exceptionally late. Hence, we left the venue to catwalk (more like balance on our skyscraper heels) to a coffee joint for a caffeine fix at the other end of MBS. When we returned, the show had STARTED. Panicking, flustered, frantic (feel free to insert all other synonyms), we rushed in and managed to catch half of the show. Oh yeah, we were close to killing ourselves (haha). 

Couture pieces demand and deserve so much more than a half-hearted sense of 'wow, that's nice' and only people who can understand the work and value behind couture will be able to give couture just what it needs. To each his own, I cannot expect everyone to afford couture the same amount of respect and admiration as I (or Fal) do. As for Alexis Mabille's vision, I do hope haute couture manages to live through an evolution that doesn't diminish the mystique and allure that surrounds haute couture as much as it defines this niche and artisan industry.


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