Paris: Haute Couture

A year ago I visited the Paris couture summer shows for the first time. Unfortunately I am unable to go this year, but the anniversary has made me reflect on a trip that helped me see the close relationship between art, artistry and fashion. The visit began with the Madame Gres exhibition at the Musee Bourdelle. This was inspirational not only because of the beauty of her clothes with their exquisite draping and timeless yet contemporary qualities, but because they were so brilliantly juxtaposed against the power and presence of Bourdelles’ sculptures.


Models in the Gardens at Couture 2011

It was this concept of the relationship between the artist’s visions – whatever their discipline – and the power of work that has vision, craftsmanship and integrity, which characterised so much of what I saw during my stay. Like Gres, the couture shows were often hosted in the wonderful historic buildings of Paris. Whether a monastery, museum or historic house – painted ceilings, carved staircases, marble and gilt all formed the perfect backdrop for the skills, artistry, vision and elegance of couture. The venues reinforced for me, the role that fashion has played in the development of western culture and society.

The visit also made me disappointed that for the majority of us, clothes have lost their capacity to startle or inspire awe. The showroom displays and the exhibitions of jewellery and accessories – all made to the highest of standards and craftsmanship – made me see just how vital the role of couture is in setting the aspirations for what fashion might be.

This trip also made me determined to demand the highest quality of design, make and artistry for clothes, whatever their price range, and to also hope that awe inspiring clothes will continue to have some place in our lives.