For those whose conception of haute couture is limited to the postings on style.com, it may come as quite a shock that there are, in fact, more than one or two official members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Consequently, we decided to broaden the collective horizon for the Fall/Winter 2012 Haute couture showings by covering some of the comparatively under-publicized presentations. But never ones to arbitrarily assume the role of contrarian, this is not simply difference for the sake of difference; the clothing was actually pretty amazing. Continue reading for our take on the standouts, irrespective of mainstream notoriety…
Making Exceptions for Rad Hourani
As the title aptly implies, Rad Hourani is not technically a member of the Chambre quite yet. Actually, last week in a decidedly Parisian runway space, Hourani underwent a sort of audition for the board. If successful, the Paris-based designer will be invited by the Chambre as a “guest.” While guests are permitted to call their garments “couture,” subsequent collections may only be anointed “haute couture” if a guest becomes a grand couturier/official member, a title only made available after two consistent years as a guest.
When it came to the clothing, Hourani wisely opted to consolidate his prêt-a-porter vision with a modern, sleek and urban silhouette – unknowing of gender, season, or time. However, this was Hourani-elevated. Transcending ready-to-wear, each piece is exceptionally crafted in a three-dimensional context; with textile becoming an architectural origami canvas. As the show progresses, a model stalks down the parquet floor in a leather jacket, made of the finest Italian leather, worked and reworked, lined in leather and silk, and requiring a week and a half to construct (not to mention running Hourani’s prospective couture clients a paltry $20,000).
As for the designer’s chances for a favorable outcome, the deciding factor will undoubtedly be the board’s readiness to accept change. Never before has there been such a thing as “Unisex Couture,” and Hourani’s focused and remarkably refreshing point-of-view signals reformation. With the number of profit-turning French couturiers dwindling, it’s no secret that the business is experiencing a general period of decline. Hourani’s ability to attract a 21st century client will prove a valuable asset in the final attempts to resurrect a dying art.
Stéphane Rolland Fights for Attention
The drama was palpably high as Chinese singer, actress, and this season’s muse to French designer Stéphane Rolland, Fan Bingbing, closed the designer’s couture show wearing an ivory sleeveless turtleneck gown, her matching silicone slice-embellished cape trailing several feet behind the “it-girl.”
Many of the garments had a delicate sort of edge to them; like the long-sleeved gown embellished at the shoulders with silicone rock crystals, or an appliqué which resembled the human skeleton on another. Rolland knows that less truly is more, resulting in a restrained yet demure vision for autumn. Geometric armor-like forms, rounded cut-outs, and cascading capes also played a very prominent role in Rolland’s couture this season, who found inspiration in European architecture, sculpture and furniture design.
While we try to avoid commenting on logistics, it’s beleaguering to imagine that a certain invited rapper (who we will continue to afford anonymity), his new girlfriend inevitably in-toe, redefined what it means to be fashionable late, forcing Rolland to delay his presentation by an hour. The requisite media chaos ensued, and unfortunately detracted from the wonderful clothing. While this anything but isolated incident is almost as unsurprising as it is rude, we are disappointed, given this rapper’s very public aspirations towards a career in design. Apparently even that doesn’t warrant some sort of common courtesy. Here’s hoping that the clothes remain just as impressive, but that Rolland’s front row is slightly less crowded next season.
Iris Van Herpen Theorizes Couture
Considering Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen’s aesthetic, along with her commitment to providing a concrete conceptual framework to accompany each collection, one can’t help but think of Alexander McQueen; a parallel which is perhaps a product of the designer’s time as an intern with the late designer in 2006, prior to launching her eponymous endeavor the following year.
For Fall, Van Herpen offered up an edgy and ultra-modern interpretation of couture, which at times, was slightly terrifying in its precision. Entitled “Hybrid Holism,” the twelve-look collection drew inspiration from a project lead by architect Philip Beesley called “Holozolic Ground,” in which the architect theorizes a future in which buildings are self-sustainable and capable of reacting to the changing environment.
The prospect of inanimate objects with the capacity to evolve informed the entirety of Van Herpen’s approach, from her silhouettes and structure, to the designer’s signature textiles. Using a 3D printing technique called “Mammoth Stereolithography,” the designer constructed garments slice by slice in a polymer vessel which hardens when struck. The opening look; a dark blue knee-length dress perfectly exemplified the responsive and dynamic nature of Van Herpen’s chosen technique. Fluid one moment, stiff and arresting the next; Van Herpen envisions a sartorial future synonymous with constant change.
- James Lavapie