Anyone remotely interested in design should visit “Paris Haute Couture”, the fascinating exhibition currently on at Paris’ Hotel de Ville (Town Hall).
Highlighting the artistic side of fashion design, the show features more than one hundred items that come from the leading fashion houses of the 20th century and shows haute couture in all its splendor.
From rough sketches to elaborate gowns, the exhibition also provides insight into the creative and technical processes in designing, and takes visitors into the designers’ imaginative world.
One can follow the path from idea to finished product, meeting the artisans along the way who don’t get to be in the spotlight, but without whom the garments, shoes and other articles couldn't be made.
“Behind the scenes, it takes countless hours of painstakingly precise work by thousands of skilled artisans to make such grand visions a reality,” says Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, in an introduction to the exhibition.
“It is these unsung heroes, as well as the world-famous designers they serve, who have contributed to the development of an industry which has become such an integral part of our city’s identity,” he adds.
Paris hosts more than a hundred catwalk shows every year and is home to 20 haute couture fashion houses. The city also has 7,600 companies working in the fashion sector, and the exhibition evokes this lucrative industry.
But it is the sumptuous and innovative garments that are the real stars of the show. Retracing more than 150 years of fashion, they conjure up both the past and the future with their timelessness.
From gowns by Charles Frederic Worth, considered the father of haute couture, to creations by the eccentric Martin Margiela, the outfits express undeniable artistry. Visitors will want to step into dresses by Channel, Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Balmain and of course Yves Saint Laurent.
Some of the items - such as a burnt topaz double satin dress by John Galliano for Christian Dior, and black suede gloves with gold metal false nails by Elsa Schiaparelli – will make one smile with their daring and playfulness.
“Successive generations of creators have made haute couture an art form in its own right, as rich in meaning and sheer beauty as any of the classical disciplines,” says Delanoë, and visitors will most definitely be inclined to agree.
The items come from the collection of the Musée Galliera, a museum dedicated to fashion but closed for renovation until Autumn of this year. Entry to the exhibition, which runs until July 6, is free to the public but visitors should be prepared for long lines especially on Saturday. - J.M. DE CLERCQ and L. MCKENZIE