Yesterday, Viktor & Rolf (who recently visited The Bay in Toronto) announced that they would be returning to the Paris couture calendar for the first time in thirteen years. Last week, Diego Della Valle finally made a sure-footed step forward with the house created by legendary designer Elsa Schiaparelli: Christian Lacroix will be designing a one-off 15-piece couture collection under the name to be presented in July alongside the other haute shows.
In the endless debate about whether couture is relevant anymore, I’m firmly on the “all for it” side. The rest of the industry functions at warp speed—four seasons a year, fall clothes in stores in July, endless production and deliveries (I mean, when you think about it, you have to read magazines just to keep up)—with biannual fashion weeks in excess of a month long with hundreds of designers showing, and those are just the major cities. But haute couture is a reminder of the reason we follow fashion with such obsession to begin with. Forget the accusations of couture’s elitism, snobbery, exclusivity. Couture is joy. It is unsullied, unselfconscious celebration of fashion and its most talented craftspeople and ateliers. It’s a distant fantasy. It’s appreciation of art. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t appreciate couture, you don’t appreciate fashion. Wearable clothes are all well and good (and I’m about as wearable as it gets—for the most part my uniform rarely leaves button-ups and jeans territory), but couture is fashion is art.
While I’ll miss Riccardo Tisci’s usual splendor this season—he announced that he wouldn’t be showing couture in July—the returns of Viktor & Rolf and Lacroix will likely inject large doses of avant-garde conceptualism and bigger-is-better vibrancy, respectively. Neither are strangers to the calendar, and both were celebrated for their unmatched artistic expression and also for bringing couture to a wider audience (interesting, as their signatures are so very different). Alas, couture isn’t a moneymaker and Viktor & Rolf gave up the form to focus on RTW and fragrance (Flowerbomb, anyone?), while Lacroix left the industry all together when his company folded a few years ago. Hence why his return, especially under Schiaparelli’s name, is so exciting.
Thanks to the MET’s Costume Institute exhibit last year, at which Schiaparelli’s clothes were shown beside Prada’s, there’s major interest in the contemporary direction of the brand. Lacroix himself has an old school vision, which makes for an interesting match—one that could be explosive, but over too soon. “Her heritage is too often reduced and simplified to only the crazy, surrealistic, and caricatural side of her clothes,” he said to Style.com about carrying the Schiaparelli torch. “[People] ignore how close to the practical, modern, pure aspect of a wardrobe she was, especially during the war. We have to epitomize this image of her.” If that’s the goal, then we should be expecting something completely different: no shocking pink, trompe l’œil effects, and none of the more-is-more flash that epitomized Lacroix’s namesake label. Then again, maybe he’ll surprise us.