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Couture Fashion Week: Going Big and Staying Home

Haute Couture Week is where designers go to let their imaginations run wild, and rather than let the COVID-19 pandemic tame them, the fashion shown in Paris throughout this past week was bigger and better. 

Twice a year, in January and in July, a limited number of fashion houses can show their Haute Couture collections in Paris. These houses are selected and approved every year by a commission run by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. 

According to Vogue magazine, there are multiple qualifications required to be considered an official Haute Couture house. The house must design “made-to-order garments in an atelier of at least 15 full-time staff, as well as 20 full-time technical workers in one of their ateliers. Collections must be presented with a minimum of 50 original designs, including day and evening looks, presented to the public in January and July and created for private clients, with each piece requiring more than one fitting. Guest members are invited each season, and if a brand is invited four times in a row, it becomes eligible to be a member.”

This year, since the designers couldn’t present shows in front of a live audience due to the pandemic, they could deliver their looks however they wished. Some shows were live via Zoom while others presented their designs in short films and lookbooks. 

The lack of an in-person audience didn’t stop designers from creating anything less than their best, most extravagant, and most intricate looks. Many designers took this opportunity to let loose and make couture more fun. Giambattista Valli took his mantra of “go big and stay home” to heart when he created a collection of voluminous ball gowns with textures that seemed to bounce out of the computer screen. Viktor & Rolf made a colorful “couture rave” filled with youthful separates, including lots of bra tops and skirts. Moreover, Schiaparelli presented a collection filled with colorful breastplates with muscles and voluminous sleeves. 

Other designers were more message-focused when creating their collections. Iris van Herpen emphasized sustainability via Zoom when she presented ethereal dresses made out of Ocean Plastic® fabric made from upcycled marine debris, in collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, and lace patterns grown from wood. Virginie Viard created a collection inspired by an intimate bohemian wedding for Chanel. The collection consisted of simple silhouettes with lots of detailed embroidery and beading. Meanwhile, Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri designed an entire collection inspired by tarot cards and worked with director Matteo Garrone to make an accompanying short film. The looks are not as big and loud as other brands. Instead, the collection consists of delicate dresses and mystical corset bodices.   

Haute Couture Week provided a socially distant escape from reality for fashion lovers around the world, and now that it’s over, it’s back to sweatpants.


Gabi Kurzer

Northwestern '24

Gabi is a freshman from Miami, FL studying journalism at Northwestern University. She is an amateur fashion designer who loves to design and sew her own clothes. In her free time, Gabi enjoys traveling, watching Netflix, and spending time with her family and friends.
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