Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Thrill of Couture

Arriving in Paris for the couture shows has always been an experience. First-class on Eurostar; limo waiting at Gare du Nord (apart from meeting relatives or a lover, there’s no better way of arriving at a station than seeing your name on a card, held up by your personal chauffeur for the week); hotel staff welcoming you back with what seem genuine smiles; flowers from the top designers waiting in your room. What’s not to like?

Then there’s the excitement of opening the invitations to the shows, always bigger and stiffer than for ready-to-wear; checking all the right ones are there (phew!); the personal notes from the designers; the invitations to an intimate dinner – which, in fashion terms, can mean anything from 10 to 60 people! – and even private views or special open evenings at the top exhibitions at the time from the Louvre to the Grand Palais or the Pompidou Centre. You really feel privileged. And I, for one, love being pampered – or should that be corrupted?

But it’s all about work and that goes on even though first class and limo have gone for most of us. And it doesn’t matter at all because couture week is a joy, not just for the obvious privileges but also for the great privilege of seeing clothes made with love and incredibly (almost crazily) obsessive attention to detail. The couture shows are the ultimate fashion experience: refined, elegant and perfumed with that very correct Parisian politesse which means that nobody shouts – even at the paparazzi – there is no running or pushing, and even if there is chaos and hysterics behind the seams, the serenity and confidence reign supreme front of house.

But even at couture, where the numbers to be seated (tickets carefully checked, placement strictly adhered to) are much smaller than for ready-to-wear, punctuality (once the prerogative of kings, according to Louis XIV) has never been a priority of fashion and we all sit patiently, watching the private customers arrive, calculating their husbands’ bank balances (couture starts at around €30,000 per garment and can easily soar way above €200,000) and reminding ourselves that we are not at the opening of a new supermarket here but waiting to be inducted into the higher mysteries of fashion as art. No wonder it feels rather like being in a temple of perfection.


  1. This religious experience you describe is still an exclusive event, reserved for the upper echelons of the fashion world. With ticket allocation so stringently monitored I often wonder on what basis the designers/publicists decide who to allow to worship at their catwalk altar? We saw the much debated appearance of young blogger Tavi (an excellent PR coup by POP magazine!) but were any other bloggers invited? On what basis is the "congregation" chosen - publicity or sales?

    It leads me to ask are monetary transactions the ultimate goal at Couture shows or does it remain a collection of oeuvres d'art sashaying down the catwalk, giving the designers free reign to properly show-off the intricate skills at their disposal?

    I think the main appeal of couture for me is that is remains exclusive, unobtainable and enigmatic. It is a huge, over-the-top extravagance in an industry predominantly ruled by sales. I hope your couture week experience has restored your faith & brought you back into the fold.

    Random Fashion Coolness

  2. I love it. Almost I felt there with you, Colin, the thrill, the luxury, the exclusiveness. Almost I could smell the flowers in your suite and sink into your limo. How fantastic that after all these years you still ENJOY it so much, and are not blasè. Your enthusiasm is contagious.
    How good it is to know that there are still such palaces of perfection, beacons to inspire, rising above the plain of the cheap and mundane.

  3. Whoop, couture reigns, as it should by definition, can"t wait for your round-up x