By Arwa Lodhi
It’s often been said that haute couture is an art. Given the fact that tiny details, such as handmade silk flowers, delicate bead clusters and shimmery sequins are usually incorporated into each bespoke dress, that’s definitely true – but even more so when actual art is involved.
At this season’s haute couture week 2020, we saw 3 haute couture houses parade what can only be considered to be art down the runway. Each maison employed their own slow fashion, artistic couture techniques to express their interpretation of what happens when haute couture meets art.
Iris Van Herpen
Hi-tech fashion pioneer Iris Van Herpen worked with New York-based artist Kim Keever to set the tone for a haute art runway. Her audience was blown away by stunning visuals, including laser lighting effects that transformed the room into a virtual dreamland comprised of of floating clouds, while the uplit models flitted like glittering fireflies.
Her latest collection, entitled ‘Deep Web’, treated her audience to a fully fledged performance, brought together by actress and multimedia artist Signe Pierce, who stood on a stage and explained – with charts and graphs – how technology is taking over design. Models were used to show the various stages of the digital design and machine-learning process, sending what some may consider to be a grim message about the demise of human creation.
New York-based artist Kim Keever created Cosmica dresses in layers of translucent organza printed with coloured clouds, which brought the audience back to how uniquely wonderful human creativity can be. But then, a blue-and-white, cloud-like minidress built from thousands and thousands of computer-cut, scalloped edged layers, reminded us of what machines can do.
Coco Rocha, who attended the show dressed in one of van Herpen’s high-tech creations, summed up the show well: “Everything she does, of course it’s art and sculpture, but it’s also what you think the future would look like.”
As a London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins trained artist, couture designer Gyunel Rustamova began her professional life as a painter before branching out into fashion.
“At school, I learned the skill of painting on silk from the top specialists in the field. In the end though, it’s something quite limited. I still paint my designs using oil paints or watercolours, then I use digital printing to reproduce them on my clothes,” said Rustamova, speaking in a hall of the Ritz Hotel, where she showed her collection this Paris Haute Couture Week.
The designer also has sustainability in mind when she designs, and uses laser cuts and 3D printing to reduce waste.
This season, she was inspired by ‘the Park of the Monsters’ in Rome, and hand painted a depiction of one of the garden’s caves on the bustier of a mini-skirted dress. In the past, Gyunel has put her artistic hand to work by depicting on fine fabric everything from cityscapes to deities riding swans, as you can see below.
It’s hard to get an idea of just how dizzying John Galliano’s collection for Maison Margiela was this season, and that was by design.
“The overstimulation of computer-generated imagery alters reality and degenerates the truth. Chaotic and unsettling, it is a confusion of the senses rooted in an over-satiation that inevitably overspills,” read Galliano’s program notes. He seems to think it’s time for a counter movement; a return to simpler, less overwhelming times.
Using fabric scraps and found objects, as well as custom-made, digitally printed fabrics, the Margiela catwalk encouraged overstimulation, thanks to aggressively graffitied walls and mirrored floor that seemed to make each look blend into the noise of the walls and floors.
Very little of of the graffiti art could be discerned, except for one clear motif: a poodle in vibrant Yves Klein blue. Apparently, this image served as a message from Galliano, who sees the overly clipped-and-groomed breed as a representation of pure decadence, which he reads as the decline of a culture. It was a visual manifestation that embodied the true meaning of this artistic and gender-bending collection.
See the whole show below.