Couture week feels like a shot of ABC juice on a Saturday morning to those who worship fashion. Despite the drab weather and the quick losing varnish of the promise of a new year–fashion comes to the rescue of its spectators. After a much needed change in guard at most fashion houses, the language of clothing as we know it is evolving. Schiaparelli’s Daniel Roseberry has been the darling of the week for many seasons. Spring 2023 hit different as the creative director delved into the archives of the fashion house and interpreted Elsa Schiaparelli’s love for taxidermy. The hue and cry about representation of game hunting apart, it was a front row guest that ruined it for me.
Irina Shayk walked down the runway in a gown bearing a stuffed lion’s head representing pride only to see Kylie Jenner in the exact same look. Inarguably, the effect is lost when the element of surprise is missing at a show like this. The Kardashians are representational of the hunger our generation feels to own something before a peer. Besides wealth and social currency it means nothing to have that kind of access anymore. Couture has always been an expression where designers shared a dialogue with their muses. Meme generators had plenty of fodder to pit the two women against one another and the larger conversation about craftsmanship was lost.
Houses with bigger budgets get better press–that much has been amply clear. Chanel has made minor alterations to their signature style show after show but still succeeds in pulling the largest crowd. Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino who was once applauded for marrying poetry with clothing, celebrating age, race and successfully shifting the brand’s recall from red to pink has also fallen trap to marketing campaigns. It’s as though nothing original can last for long unless it is Emily in Paris style dumbed down till it's a viral sensation that appeals to the masses. Louis Vuitton’s last India campaign went back to the iconic Diana Vreeland editorial that declared pink the navy blue of India felt like a disservice to the legacy of craftsmanship of the country. How much more pink are we to endure in the name of fashion as decided for us by an American editor?
Gucci’s decision to terminate their contract with Alessandro Michele as sales numbers dropped was severely criticised. Michele created a community for Gucci through inclusive use of talent felt stuck in a visual rut. Fashion houses that are instead investing in talent that’s staying focused on the craft and not in finding ways to keep the business afloat will survive in the long run. Stephan Rolland, Haider Ackermann at Jean Paul Gaultier emerged as true victors–balancing the line between saviour fare and theatricality.
There are of course moments, whether or not crafted for Instagram, will just be remembered in the future. Doja Cat turning up in head to toe red crystals at the Schiaparelli show dedicated to Dante’s Inferno, presumably as the devil herself is certainly one of them.