Designers can't just decide their clothing is couture. The term itself is regulated by French law. The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, the governing body in French fashion's official Couture Week calendar, only counts 32 designers. And what they present is luxury at the highest level both in terms of craftsmanship and decadence.
But couture is evolving. Originally, the idea was to see fashion in its truest sense, without the lens of needing to be commercial or functional. But at a time when the fashion industry is becoming more inclusive, thoughtful, and socially responsible in its approach, some designers are starting to re-examine what modern luxury looks like.
At Chanel, Virginie Viard debuted her first solo collection for the French fashion house since Karl Lagerfeld died earlier this year. Her luxurious basics — roomy tweed coats, breezy wide leg trousers, and dressy flats — marked a shift toward accessible luxury. Maria Grazia Chiuri asked 'are clothes modern?' for Christian Dior's offering, a simplistic take on couture where the models wore flat sandals with culotte pants.
Earlier this year, Valentino's creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli took it a step forward, reimagining high society to be inclusive of Black women. "Couture is a dream. Although it celebrates uniqueness, which is a synonym for diversity, it has always meant to be for white people," he wrote under a photo of him embracing Naomi Campbell after his couture show in January.
Victor & Rolf, scheduled to show on Wednesday, will likely throw convention out of the window, instead opting for the social media capital that lives on in shares and retweets. Their last collection of campy meme gowns was especially popular with millennial shoppers, who Forbes predicts will make up 50% of spending in the personal luxury market by 2050.
There's still a place for fluff. Iris van Herpen quite literally made sculptural art, and Schiaparelli's new creative director Daniel Roseberry evoked what Vogue called "the Surrealists’ obsession with Freudian dreamscapes" in beautiful gowns that made the model look like she travelling in her own personal eco-system. Giambattista Valli's Instagram post of his tulle dresses on view at the Costume Institute’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion” exhibition was his 'most liked' post of all time, so it isn't surprising that he revisited his beautiful silhouette for couture week.
Let's scroll through our favourite couture looks so far.