Extravagant, Experimental, Daringly Down-to-Earth : Sarah Mower Reports on the Couture Shows


Spring haute couture week in Paris—once a sedately dainty affair of flowers, fantasy, and fragrance—this time was more like standing in the middle of a gale of change.

Photo: Gianni Pucci / Indigitalimages.com

Photo: Gianni Pucci / Indigitalimages.com

Première parution Vogue

Everything in fashion is being tossed up into the air and is swirling around. The week was invaded by the march of the Pre-Fall collections—we saw Balenciaga, Balmain, Chloé, Céline, Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, and more. New people have snuck in, doing disruptive things. Gossip about designers—hirings, firings, resignations—has been flying like litter in the wind. Meanwhile, trying to make sense of it all, critics have been racking their brains over what haute couture is or ought to be: Should it create dreams or register reality?

I came away thinking I don’t care what I’m looking at, as long as it’s good. I like being set on edge by new things. I like extremes, whatever they are and whomever they’re coming from. When fashion is extravagant or experimental, it has the potential to be fantastic and memorable; if something’s done to the nth degree of sincerity, skill, and conviction, then I’m always up for it. It’s the banal and timid in-between I can do without.

Bouchra Jarrar is a designer whose couture shows send a frisson through her women viewers, a sensation I classify as “reality chills.” Quite possibly there is not a female journalist in the audience who can afford to order her beautiful gilded tailoring—something between Prince, Napoleon, and Sergeant Pepper. That’s not the point—she made us want to be able to. Indifference is death to any collection—one way or another, it needs to stir you. Jarrar’s way is a combination of simple, down-to-earth, and daring. Her models walked so close, their navy coattails practically brushed our knees. At that distance, a couturier needs courage: There is no hiding any mistake in cut, fabric, or fit, and there were none here. Jarrar is one of those people who meets that criterion of doing what she does excellently. She is also French, the only French designer on the Haute Couture schedule, apart from Jean Paul Gaultier, in point of fact. I don’t understand why the Paris establishment doesn’t put her on a pedestal as the channeler-in-chief of the mystique of French womanhood every foreigner envies.