Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Riot of Colour in a Grey World

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Riot of Colour in a Grey World

Article excerpt


WHEN a man spends upwards of 10 grand on a car, nobody bats an eyelid. But when a woman spends 10 grand on a dress, the knives are out. I have even heard the word "immoral" used in relation to couture - the argument being that it is immoral to waste such a vast sum of money on frivolities when there are people starving in the world. But there is nothing immoral about keeping an atelier of skilled crafts people in a job they have loved their whole life. Couture may be a crazy spectacle of wealth and hubris, but it is also a cottage industry, beset by the same problems as any cottage industry.

Outside Monday's Dior show, couture workers waved banners protesting about redundancies. They had no quarrel with rich women buying 10-grand dresses, keeping poorer women in jobs.

With war looming ever closer, Paris couture week seemed particularly surreal this January. At Dior, watching a four-year-old girl in blue eye shadow ride a unicycle around a parasol, held up by her father's strong arms, only a cretin could not draw an analogy between the couture and the circus.

Paradoxically, couture's role as a good-time girl really comes into its own in times of uncertainty. The gloomier the world, the greater the need for entertainment.

The problem the industry now faces is one of authenticity. As long as couture can draw gasps from the audience and orders from the rich, it will survive. What must not happen is that any old designer can pitch up and show under the banner of couture, for what will couture mean then?

The industry has precious few experienced designers left who can maintain the necessary high standards: with Yves Saint Laurent now retired, the role played by Lagerfeld, Lacroix, Ungaro and Valentino is pivotal. All four sent out stellar shows. Gaultier, too, sent out a witty and accomplished collection which proved that he is more than worthy of his inclusion on the schedule. …

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