Tailored for Social Change: An Insider's Look at Paris Haute Couture Week

Tailored for Social Change: An Insider's Look at Paris Haute Couture Week

Haute Couture often focuses heavily on handmade craftsmanship.; for instance, each floret on this Chanel Couture coat was folded by hand and then hand applied. Image  via

Haute Couture often focuses heavily on handmade craftsmanship.; for instance, each floret on this Chanel Couture coat was folded by hand and then hand applied. Image via

Haute Couture is a celebration of fashion’s artistic visions. Translated as “high fashion,” Haute Couture pieces are not designed for the sake of sales. Instead these lines are innovative in nature for the purpose of exploring fashion. Unlike mainstream fashion lines, Haute Couture pieces are unique, made for a single wearer. The novelty and creative dynamism of Haute Couture open a new space for designers to pioneer their craft. 

This past week, Paris held its annual Fall/Winter Haute Couture Fashion Week. Slews of Fashion Houses displayed pieces that took laborious hours to design and hundreds more to create. Attending several shows, I was lucky enough to see pieces by designers like Antonio Grimaldi and Patrick Pham up close. While I was thrilled by the decadent and delicate stitch works, I was also witness to many of the high fashion industry’s flaws. This firsthand perspective allowed me to observe social problems and environmental triumphs in the lines I covered. 

Adeline Ziliox’s Black Snow White Storm Champions Sustainability


Black Snow White Storm


Crusading against the tyranny of fast fashion, Adeline Ziliox presents her Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2019 line: Black Snow White Storm as “slow fashion.” By simultaneously using nature as inspiration and celebrating it, Ziliox has made an artfully successfully and socially aware line.

This line victoriously executes creative ambition and environmental consciousness, a revolutionary feat in the haute couture fashion world. Using both recycled materials and reused materials from her previous lines, Ziliox establishes her palette as an innovative and sustainable form. Black Snow White Storm is not limited or diminished by these sources. The recycled materials allow the line to open a dialogue with nature, exhibiting an essential move for all houses and brands in the fashion industry. 

Shape is essential to these pieces. Movement becomes fluid, catalyzed by the geometric forms of each dress. The wearer becomes winter snow, gracefully consuming all else present in a peaceful battle. Moreover, the dresses accomplish a notable feat in creating an innovative space for the wearer. Ziliox dives into geometric forms that engulf the volume around the model. In combination with this, many of the gowns feature exposed elements with chests and faces open despite complex hoods and voluminous bodices. By doing so, this line creates a new space that celebrates and enables the individual to explore their world as themselves. 

Black Snow White Storm is a profound start to the 2019 Haute Couture Week. Going against traditionalist regimes in fashion, Ziliox rebels in both thematic form and industrial practices. Her designs are all thematic connected, with color, material and form consistently complimentary. Pieces manage to stand on their own as works of art but also as elements to one overall landscape of winter storms: encapsulating the oxymoronic beauty of white storms against the backdrop of startling black nights.

Rouge Amour Fails to Find its Amour


Rouge Amour


The La Metamorphose Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2019 line Rouge Amour fails to exhibit the passion and vibrancy of its titular “red love.” Attempting to embody the sensual nature of confidence and floral beauty, the pieces flounder under their ostentatious elements. With no reason and success, forms jump from slinky to flouncy, embellishments disorderly explode in sequins, glitter and tulle, and the palette slumps under the bright lights of the runway. 

In a poor effort to establish carnal confidence, the line is nothing short of flashy and garish. Elements of historic art movements find their way to Rouge Amour mostly unsuccessfully with models slouching under vast skirts and headpieces. The most creative endeavor from the historic nature of the line is the embroidered silhouette of a palace on the black of a gown. However this innovative intention is poorly executed with a lack of contrast between the cream embroidery and white gown.  

The poor execution of the line was emphasized by the illfiting nature of the gowns. Many hung loose on models with some displayed in unflatteringly cut forms. In a pursuit of regal beauty, many of the designs feature hybrid cape-train forms. These sheer extensions create an ethereal element to the gowns. However this otherworldly feature is constrained by their unrealistic portions and form. Models held out capes and tripped over trains down the runway. In order to showcase the gown, the wearer has to give up use of their hands and attention to what is around them to tend to the gown, immediately defeating the goal of the line embodying confidence and autonomy. 

Rouge Amour is a declarative statement on the depths of passion. However, the line is unable to meet any of its goals by attempting to find a middle ground between sensuality and confidence. Confident women are sensual and the models hesitant and constrained by the pieces there’s essential a problem to this line. 

Antonio Grimaldi Gilds Fashion Week

Images Courtesy of Amica

Gilded gowns and suits define the decadence of Antonio Grimaldi’s Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2019 line. With elegant designs brought to life through ornate constructions and simple silhouettes, Grimaldi celebrates the tradition of haute couture. His pieces are regal in nature, with long trains and billowing capes. Models transform into the power of baroque fashion, seemingly immortalized by the gold inlays highlighting pieces.  

Pillared by innovative yet tradition features, the line is a victory lap of Parisian fashion. Luscious fur cloaks are complemented by bejewelled embellishments in complementary patterns. The line matches the fantastical elements of statement colors alongside artistic forms of each piece. Clean cuts offer debonair outlines to the models. Grimaldi’s line is a feat of novel distinctions, notable in the dichotomous materials he successfully combines, and traditional shapes. 

Furthermore, the line uses asymmetry to its advantage. Gowns are enhanced by sculpted wings and collars that jut out into the space around the model. These features offer dynamic dimensionality to the otherwise taut pieces. Geometric cutouts detract from the uniformity of the simple pieces, delivering a stimulating element to the line. 

Antonio Grimaldi celebrates the standards of haute couture through his Fall/Winter 2019 line. His pieces balance simplicity with opulence in perfect harmony through daring decorations and natural forms. 

Patrick Pham’s Pearl of the Far East Show Misses its Beat


Pearl of the Far East


Going back to his Vietnamese roots, Patrick Pham launched his Fall/Winter 2019 Haute Couture Line. The line is bombastic in nature: peacock feathers are Pham’s go-to embellishment, chromatic designs are abundant and every model wears rustically ornate basket heels. The line, inspired by Vietnamese mythology, successfully embodies the vibrance of Pham’s ancestral culture and heritage. However, Pham’s execution of his show did not match his intention to celebrate Vietnam. 

Ranging from sweeping, webbed gowns to prismatic suits, Pearl of the Far East takes the viewer on a journey through Vietnamese history, country and culture. Pham used textiles from Vietnamese weaving villages and accessories he discovered from artisans in Hue, Vietnam. The line celebrates handcrafted silkwork, an international design form that struggles in the face of industrialization. Pieces are inspired by mythology and fables from the country, appearing to bring such ancient lore back to life. Socially, this line appears to champion Vietnam. 

Pham’s Haute Couture show itself does not match his intentions. The majority of the models selected to display the line were of caucasian descent. Sitting in the audience, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable noticing that none of the models were of Vietnamese descent. In his attempt to celebrate his culture, Pham seemingly strays into the realm of Orientalism. 

While I do not think that Pham intended to sensationalize Vietnamese culture, I do believe that a thoughtful implementation of the show was essential for advocating his line. Pham’s pieces are stunning works with a rich backstory to give them depth and life, however, his mode of displaying them did not holistically celebrate his culture.

Whether it be the daring notion of dresses with pockets or stylish practical suits, fashion has accessorized historic social revolutions. However, high fashion has historically marginalized ethnic groups and promoted environmentally unethical practices. In attending Paris’s Fall/Winter 2019 Haute Couture Week, I was able to witness championships of sustainability and problematic executions of eastern culture. In order for high fashion to truly become an essential asset to social revolutions, designers must acknowledge and respect the institutions of its inspirations.

Featured Image via Brinda Rao

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