When? July 3-7 2016
What? Six days of invite-only Haute Couture showcases from all the major fashion houses.
Where? Across Paris
Every January and July, the international fashion intelligentsia, models, stylists, socialites and celebrities all descend on the French capital for its semi-annual Haute Couture Week – with Paris Men's Fashion Week falling the week before.
Increasingly, fashion houses seem to be opting to consolidate (or even halt) their couture operations. No surprise here: production costs on hand-sewn, crystal-encrusted gowns and sculptural swan-feather capes are steep, and Haute Couture collections almost never turn a profit. Technically, ‘haute couture’ refers to garments constructed entirely by hand, although in France the word has legal significance: in order for a brand like Chanel to maintain its status as a ‘Haute Couture house’, it has to meet a set of standards established by the French Ministry of Industry, which include catering to private clients and keeping a full-time workshop in Paris with a staff of no fewer than twenty couturiers.
For mostly symbolic reasons, Paris’s Haute Couture houses take the financial hit in order to preserve their standing. And at this point, Haute Couture Week’s shows are just that – shows, their raison d’être being to attract press coverage and publicity for the brands represented. Few buyers turn up to the events, but the fashion journalists and bloggers come in droves. Understandably, as the shows are a feast for the eyes: a chance for designers to explore the interstices of art and fashion, creating magnificent or ‘impossible’ garments, often unwearable (inappropriate as they are for most every imaginable context) and thus free of market or consumer concerns.
The shows aren’t open to people without press passes or personal invitations, but it’s worth swinging by the Grand Palais, the Palais de Tokyo or the Pavillon Cambon Capucines to ogle the week’s best dressed Parisians. A full programme (listing participating designers, times and venues) will be available in French here.