As the spring 2020 couture season is underway in Paris, Olivia shares her ongoing admiration for the craft as she models extraordinary designs throughout the city. Fashion — Jan 20
Fashion historians often consider Paris to be the unrivaled capital of the industry, and today the glamorous city anchors the ready-to-wear schedules. However, when one looks back at the culture and powerhouses established there, a vital part of the prestige can be attributed to the art of haute couture.
To be considered a couturier is an impressive feat that's more than about the ability to construct handcrafted, custom clothing. Since 1945, the tradition and the right to use the term is protected by French law and governed by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. This council sets the requirements necessary to be labeled as such, and two rules include establishing an atelier and presenting collections in Paris biannually.
Ever since the start of her career, the extraordinary details and innovation seen at these shows have captured Olivia Palermo's imagination, which is why she's returned season after season. "There's such a unique history to haute couture," she explains. "In comparison to prêt-à-porter, this tradition dates back further (by centuries in fact), so there's something extra special about witnessing this level of craftsmanship in modern times."
On her most recent trip to see the collections in July, Palermo paid homage to Paris and the talent that's to be discovered there by wearing four international Haute Couture labels. "We could all use a little fantasy, and those involved in this métier make it a reality." Read on as she reflects on what makes each house so distinctive and her love of the art overall.
First is Valentino, a Maison founded in 1960 by Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti. After 2008 the house was led by Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri, and in 2016, Piccioli was named the sole Creative Director. World-class artisans in Rome make each one-of-a-kind couture piece, and key descriptors of Valentino are the use of embroidery and drapery—all with a cinematic-like quality. Olivia notes, "Piccioli's work is always filled with intricacies as he has incredible access to the house's archives. I love learning what his inspirations and references were, whether they be from the late '60s or onward. Each collection is not only beautiful but thoughtful, too."
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Giambattista Valli is another Italian couturier hailing from Rome. He founded his Paris-based eponymous line in the early aughts and, in 2011, presented his first Haute Couture collection. "Achieving membership in the historic Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture is impressive for anyone. But, especially so when you've done it through your personal label," she says, "Valli creates pieces with lots of movement and over-the-top proportion play as seen with his signature 'mullet' high-low gowns. His statement pieces have a youthful look, bringing the awe-inspiring qualities of couture to the eyes of a new generation."
Next is the house of Ralph & Russo, founded by Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo. The atelier is located in the heart of London, and in 2014, the brand became the first British guest member invited to show in Paris after nearly a century. Olivia wore one of the brand's crisp tailored pieces while cruising the river Seine. "Tamara herself is a fourth-generation couturier and was nurtured in the craft from her mother and grandmother. Passing on this skill of impeccable construction while striving to infuse new techniques is Ralph & Russo at its core."
Last but certainly not least is Elie Saab. At the young age of 18, the Lebanese designer launched his label, and today he's known for ornamentations and feminine silhouettes. In 2003, he was invited to become a member of the Chambre Syndicale and has been a favorite at fashion week ever since. "Elie Saab creates truly wearable pieces for women that we love to have in our closets," notes Olivia, "You can immediately tell that a piece is his from the use of jeweled tones to the embellished details to the intricate beadwork or even these feathers. His Haute Couture is the epitome of glamour."