couture redux

One of the things I wanted to do while I live in Europe is attend and sketch at a Haute Couture week in Paris. Last week, I ticked that box… sort of. One of the things I’ve discovered about traveling is that your intended destination is ever-elusive. You can never reach where you’re going because no place is ever what you expect it to be. Even though every journey teaches you lessons, they are almost never in the subjects you thought you signed up for.

Anyway, I wasn’t that optimistic about my ability to attend any shows on my own modest merits. I put in my requests to every single show on the calendar, and when I picked up my mail in Paris I was surprised to open four invitations, three of which I was able to attend. None of the invitations were for designers I recognized.

There are so few haute couturiers, it seems a bit strange that some of them are wholly unknown outside of Paris. But what I was about to discover is that there is no correlation between official accreditation by the Syndicale and great fashion design. That “Haute Couture” can be every bit as provincial and uninspiring as any other fashion week – maybe even more so because the expectations are expanded by half a century of hype. I sketched at three shows, and none of my sketches turned out any good at all. What I saw either failed to ignite my imagination or offended my sense of taste. I didn’t even feel like sketching what I saw.

I sat outside of the Chanel Haute Couture show to watch the crowd, and it was a street-style circus as expected. The only difference from any other big fashion show was that sometimes a car would pull up, and photographers would cluster around it until an old woman – a couture customer – emerged from the car and everyone would just turn away.

This time, Paris turned out to be more about seeing friends, attending exhibits, and just thinking, than it did about fashion and drawing.

Once I got back to the office in London, I checked out the major shows on the internet, and sketched the above looks from from the Christian Dior and Chanel videos on my knee, just like I would if I was actually there. After a few tries I managed to get some decent sketches, even though I found both shows to be extremely conservative.

It makes me think that perhaps my reasons for attending fashion weeks are no longer valid. I have now been to fashion weeks in every major fashion city, including menswear and couture. I’ve learned a lot that I didn’t know before, seen how the glamour sausage gets filled, and even got to see a few outstanding shows, but after over five years of this I’ve found attendance is delivering diminishing returns… the more I see, the less any single experience stands out.

While I try to justify my purpose for existing at a fashion week by producing the best work I can, it really doesn’t seem to matter. Fashion shows are about fame and attention – they are for celebrities and pretty young things. Fashion shows are only incidentally about art, creativity, or even fashion. So it follows that very few people are interested in sketches executed at fashion shows.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

13 thoughts on “couture redux”

  1. Good piece, I think you’re right, it’s all about the law of diminishing returns and more about the dressing than the dress. Does fashion still believe in itself? All the extras don’t big it up, they just detract from the main event. As Andy Warhol said “Fashion wasn’t what you wore someplace anymore, it was the whole reason for going.”

  2. I am all about the creative side of fashion and am inspired by both live shows, photos and most definitely illustrations… I love seeing your work 🙂

  3. Hi Danielle! I came across your blog a month or so ago and I’m so glad I did! I really enjoy your writing and illustrations. You definitely bring an inspirational and intellectual perspective to fashion.

  4. I love your fashion illustrations though! I’d originally come across your blog from a link on someone’s website to your paper doll sets. Then my laptop crashed and I lost the bookmark-so I have pretty happy (like a year later) to finally find your stuff again XD I do think that as of late fashion is a bit… not meh certainly but very same samey in general. So what do you plan on doing instead of sketching shows?

  5. thanks Kara and LOLO!

    theperfectnose – so thrilled to have you as a visitor & commenter! Instead of going to shows to sketch I’m going to focus more on… just sketching I guess? I need to daydream on it.

  6. Interesting post. I’m curious about what uninspired you so much about the Dior show. I was almost shocked by it. I have a feeling that it might be very important. Women’s fashion design seems to be hitting some wall, or cross roads or something. Not sure what. We have the death of McQueen, and the disappearance of Galliano, followed by Raf Simons arriving at Dior, and doing this super minimal modern fifties thing, in direct opposition to Galliano. Is it recessionomics? Perhaps. I rather like The Dior show, if only because it was so clean and beautiful, but at the same time, it unsettled me, as if perhaps fashion just lost it’s way. There has been such a buzz around who would replace Galliano, that it almost feels like Dior has become prophetic.

    It feels to me like something has to give, or perhaps, we are about to enter a creative down turn, where nothing really exciting happens for quite a while, a lull if you will, or a fallow patch.

    When I see someone like Iris Van Herpen getting such attention for what is basically wearable (or not!) sculpture, then it leaves me a bit baffled.

    Wonderful blog Danielle, you are insightful, and provocative. You get me thinking.

  7. Hi Simeon,

    Considering I’m a great fan of minimalism, was not a great Galliano fan, and I enjoyed a lot of Simon’s previous work, but I didn’t feel that the Dior show was his best – and why should it be? The first time anyone does a new thing at a new job is rarely their best effort. I felt like it was more buzz than substance, and of course the PR machine behind Dior is so well-oiled we’re all trained to say it’s important without really questioning. If that had been a collection for any other label, would it have created such effusive reaction? I don’t think so. It was a good collection, but not outstanding or revolutionary… it met expectations. And personally, I found the bodices to be quite peculiar… like all the breasts appeared too high or too close together… something about the proportions was odd, but not odd enough to be interesting.

    I totally agree with you that we’re in a “fallow patch” at the moment. It’s like we all want to be excited but there isn’t much to be excited about =/

    The backlash against “more is more” is already several seasons underway, we’re sick of style-blogger arm-parties and cherry fascinators and sculptural shoes. Everyone’s hungry for simplicity and designers like Pheobe Philo were more prophetic on that front than the Dior folks. Dior is not directional at the moment.

    Thanks for reading & commenting!

Comments are closed.