Fashion’s highest expression of creativity – the Paris haute couture season – kicks off Monday morning, with the profession rarely in finer fettle. Pascal Morand outlines its continued importance.
There is ever increasing competition to win a coveted place on the official calendar, dominated by some of the most legendary brands in fashion like Chanel, Dior, Armani, Schiaparelli, Fendi and Valentino. It is truly the pinnacle of the several hundred billion luxury industry.
All told, there are 30 houses listed on the calendar of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, French fashion’s highest authority, which controls all six annual runway seasons in Paris: two each for couture, women’s ready-to-wear and menswear. And there are almost as many houses staging off-calendar shows in embassies and mansions. Testifying to the vibrancy of couture – custom-made creations for the world’s richest women and most famous movie stars.
The four-day season will debut Monday morning with Schiaparelli inside the Petit Palais, and end Thursday evening with Maison Margiela – featuring spring/summer 2024 collections. And due to the fact, these shows come less than eight weeks before the Academy Awards on March 11, stylists and stars fly into Paris searching for the best red carpet looks in these collections.
Fashion loves few things more than a debut, and editors will be keen to discover newcomer Peet Dullaert on Thursday. Plus, all eyes will also be on the house of Jean-Paul Gaultier, whose novel policy is to invite in a guest designer each collection. This season, it is the turn of Simone Rocha, the brilliant young Irish designer – and British Designer of the Year winner – who will be making her Paris debut.
So, with so much happening, we caught up with Pascal Morand, the Federation’s executive president, to discover his predictions about the upcoming season.
FashionNetwork: What are you most excited about seeing this week in Paris couture?
Pascal Morand: Like each season, I am keen about witnessing the unparalleled creativity, diversity and savoir-faire showcased. The official calendar of Haute Couture Week brings forth a unique blend of artistic expression and singularities, as well as stimulating materials and shape innovations.
FN : What is it about Paris that ensures this unique creative form?
PM: Haute couture is an exceptional French tradition starting with Charles Frederick Worth, which has been embodied by a number of highly creative talents and maisons. The legally protected status of haute couture since 1945 has established France as a guardian of creativity, singularity, craftsmanship, and innovation in the sector. This status involves an entire ecosystem of professions and education, where artisanal skills and atelier hold a central place. It has benefited from the constant engagement, in particular, of established and worldwide renowned houses along with smaller ones. And Paris gives off the flavor or refinement reflecting the couture culture and has naturally a pivotal international role.
FN: How do you guarantee that there will be a new generation of couturiers?
PM: Becoming a couturier can be very attractive for young talented designers. The combination of uniqueness, craftsmanship, creativity, matters more than ever in the digital era. Haute couture also symbolizes a kind of intimacy and relative quietness in a society where everything is constantly accelerating. All this generates a strong motivation to be part of a the new generation of couturiers, that we actively support. Fostering them requires a global, collective effort. The haute couture calendar, comprises three statuses – members, corresponding members, and guest brands. The latter status provides a platform for younger, less experienced, and international newcomers to showcase their work to the entire ecosystem.
FN: You have invited in one new couturier, Peet Dullaert. Why him? Being listed on the official FHCM is notoriously difficult to achieve. Explain why?
PM: The Haute Couture Selection Committee convened, as is customary each season, to review new applications and reassess previously invited brands. The selection criteria, encompassing both the creativity of design and the technical innovation and precision of craftsmanship, intertwine with the extremely limited number of slots available each season. The committee acknowledged the exceptional quality of Peet Dullaert’s work and officially welcomed his brand to the official calendar as a guest.
FN: How important is the couture season for the local economy and for France?
PM: The couture season plays a pivotal role in the local economy and in particular for craftsmanship and métiers d’art. With a very exclusive clientele, haute couture not only drives economic transactions but also solidifies Paris as a global center for creativity. This dual impact positions the couture season as a crucial driver of economic, artistic and savoir-faire excellence for France, captivating imaginations worldwide.
FN: Given current geopolitical pressures, have you taken any special security measures this season?
PM: We work closely with the Préfecture de Police. Each season, we share informational guidelines that outline legal obligations for organizing shows and presentations, including recommendations from the Préfecture de Police. This ongoing communication emphasizes the importance of addressing security concerns and, in particular, managing crowds outside shows and presentations venues.
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