Haute couture: the diversity and inclusion debate

Between tradition and modernity, the latest haute couture shows brought about the debate on diversity and inclusion.

Haute couture shows were back with physical events, and the chit-chat was all about stars and starlets attending this or that one. Well, not just being present, but also walking down the catwalk.

Therefore, the lens pointed to celebrities and not to design or style. Perhaps it is a successful strategy in terms of sales but has no significance for us. Instead of making the show more appealing, it makes us lose interest. Though it demonstrates that you can be rich and famous, it doesn’t mean you have style.

Haute couture and modernity

According to Business of Fashion, diversity and inclusion were missed in Paris. Also, “couture codes are out of sync with the times.” “Big hats, corsets, and taffeta represent a snap back to the old days” – so they say. The only house that featured progress was Balenciaga.

Since we find Balenciaga’s vision quite scary and nonsensical, we prefer to leave modernism to the experts’ authority. And not that the world isn’t distressing as it is right now, but because it is so, it makes sense to work for something more positive.

Haute couture: art made by skilled hands

Haute couture is about beauty, top quality and perfection in execution. Art made by skilled hands. Indeed the show that mastered this concept at its best was Valentino on the steps of Piazza di Spagna in Rome. “The beginning” – back to where everything started for the brand.
With his stunning designs and marvellous silhouettes, Pierpaolo Piccioli’s show was an ode to beauty, colours and mastery. Furthermore, his focus on diversity and inclusion is a political message: people coming together for a better future.

We adored the maxi gowns with flat shoes or kitten heels.
However, experimenting with the future while acknowledging the past is where a truly contemporary vision resides.

Haute couture, diversity and inclusion

Of course, diversity and inclusion are valuable elements, but haute couture can not be inclusive.
Though we may sound boring in repeating this concept, haute couture will not be less elitist because they include plus sizes or different races in the show.

Haute couture is elitist by definition. The price makes it not accessible.

The truth is that you buy haute couture only if you can afford it and if you have a lot of money. Really a lot. Not because you feel represented.

Paris Couture Week

Sadness takes it all

Boring was the fil rouge of the Paris Couture Week, to the point of taking a nap. With very few exceptions.

The negative sentiment prevailed.
Paris for couture has always meant creativity at its peak. Maybe clothes you wouldn’t wear every day. Or not even once in a lifetime. But couture was the dream, the beauty of creativity skillfully made.
This time, brands told a flat story of bland uniformity. In order to sell in a difficult moment, they’d rather lose idiosyncrasy. What made them special. The reason we recognize them.

Infused with the fear of losing share, or determined to transform themselves into economic giants, they trampled on their own heritage.

Paris Couture Week
The tedious

Dior: perhaps wearable, but now it looks like many others. In fact, we still see Red Valentino in there more than Dior’s heritage.

Chanel: the DNA seemed watered down.

Gaultier: we understand the collaborations, but where’s the Gaultier spirit?

A partial exception
Schiapparelli: designs weren’t all his ideas, but, at least, the collection was impactful.

The exception

Valentino: this is Couture. Italian creativity.
Suzy Menkes wrote that Piccioli had a strong statement to make: women are not all the same. Yes, definitely. But even more, whatever the body shape he represented, women were dressed with elegance. And now that elegance is not in fashion anymore, that stood out most.

However, the idea of showing diverse body shapes in couture is good. But you may wonder if all those women who bought couture so far had the same silhouette of the models. Of course not! But they bought it anyway! You don’t buy couture if you feel represented, you buy it if you can afford it.

Because that’s what couture is: made to measure – made to order for very few lucky ones.

In the end, we understand this is not a good time for creativity, and lowering the bar is a way to reach the masses. But transforming brands into a blob deprived of any identity makes no sense.