What’s Old Is New Again?
Following Paris’ couture week earlier this month, there was a general wringing of hands: Whither couture? With a reduced show schedule, Givenchy moving from the runway to an appointment-only salon, and critics like Cathy Horyn decreeing that “Couture is slipping off people’s radars faster than a U.F.O.,” it’s enough to send métier seamstresses running to update their résumés.
What to do? Adapt. That’s what Worth and Paquin, two of couture’s most storied houses, are doing, with fall entries into ready-to-wear—with their traditions, the designers insist, firmly in hand.
For couture, Worth designer Giovanni Bedin showed corseted, “shell-like” redingote coat-dresses overlaid in gold lace and jewels or lavish flora—precursors, as it turns out, to the return of the line (which is known as Courtworth in the U.S.) to ready-to-wear. “We’ll be keeping the ideas, fabrics, and shapes, but expanding them to ready-to-wear,” Bedin noted. The lavish Elizabeth I-inspired dresses are indicative of his direction, a pastiche of historical references but “with more modern details.” (The dresses previewed left and below are from Worth’s Fall ’10 RTW collection.) The launch coincides with a trip into house fragrance archives, too: An updated version of the 1932 scent Je Reviens will be unveiled at Harrods’ Perfume Diaries exhibition in August.
Unlike Worth, which has continued through recent years, the house of Paquin has been shuttered for half a century. But now under the designer and perfumer Libertin Louison, the label is preparing to reenter the market, first with fragrance (updated versions of two 1939 scents, Ever After and 9×9) and then fashion. “Jeanne Paquin was a true avant-garde designer,” says Louison. “She was the first to organize shows in unusual places, like a race track, and the first designer to travel to New York to show her wares. She knew what she wanted, and a century ago—before Chanel—she succeeded as a businesswoman in a man’s world.” He’ll channel the founder’s spirit with “simple, pure clothes with close attention to detail.” (An exclusive sketch of one of his designs for the revived label is below.)
“The idea is to do capsule collections in limited runs, with some one-offs and small series of ten and in any case no more than 100, but with a modern and accessible ‘couture’ approach,” Louison continued. “Now is not the time for jackets that cost €3,000 euros, even if it’s a nice piece of work.” It’s also time for something lighter. “Paquin is chic and airy, she is a femme fraîche. I am not returning to the dark, slightly rock-depressive stuff I was known for before.”
Louison’s design sketch for Paquin.
More from Worth’s Fall ’10 ready-to-wear collection.