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What’s “Haute” At Couture Week

By Mickey Hightower

Across the globe, cities like Stockholm, Tokyo, Nashville, and New Orleans are cultivating fashion weeks to show off their emerging designers. While fashionistas are flocking to these smaller cities to scoop the next big names in fashion, the most important shows still take place in New York, London, Milan, and Paris. This week, the most coveted designers in fashion are converging on the French capital for Couture Fashion Week, the highest echelon in design.

Haute Couture, “high sewing” or “high fashion” in French, is all about fantastical creations featuring exquisite details. There are only a handful of designers who are certified couturiers as members of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. This commission determines which fashion houses meet the criteria to be labeled haute couture such as designing made-to-order pieces for private clients and having an atelier in Paris. This small elite group includes world-famous houses like Chanel, Christian Dior, and Valentino that people with little interest in fashion can recognize. Other prominent couture designers come from a younger generation and include Jean Paul Gaultier, Giambattista Valli, and Elie Saab.

Jean Paul Gaultier may have fallen from his “It” designer status of the 1990s, but is still a legend of haute couture design. The creator of Madonna’s iconic cone bra, this French couturier represents the couture tradition of extravagance and fashion as art with his larger-than-life creations. This season, he showed a palette of somber tones, heavy on black and deep reds. Oversized shoulders, ruffled collars, and lace and leather veils all came down the runway.

Giambattista Valli’s latest collection was a perfect mixture of romantic and ultra-feminine. He represents the made-to-order gowns for private clients tradition of couture. This season, he showed a flurry of floral embellishments and hand-beading on his tulle creations. Ombré dresses fading from red to pink and blue to turquoise were also popular on his runway.

Elie Saab represents the couture tradition of the atelier and expert artistry and craftsmanship.  The Beirut-born designer’s opulent designs have been seen on red carpers on stars such as Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie. Notorious for his sparkling hand-beaded gowns, he did not disappoint this season by sending a delightful sample of his glittering gowns in gauze and silk mousseline down the runway. Expect to see Hollywood actresses in his latest collection come Oscar season.

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