Why We Cover High Fashion
When people ask me why I like covering fashion, one of my answers (and I have a couple) is always that clothes are one of the very few universal subjects: Everyone has to think about food, shelter and what they put on their bodies. Even nudists think about what they wear — they just reject the idea of wearing anything.
That’s why, as Harold Koda, the former curator of the Met’s Costume Institute once told me, the decibel levels are measurably higher at a fashion exhibition than at any other show the museum puts on. Everyone feels entitled to have an opinion.
But there are, unquestionably, parts of the clothes conversation that are less accessible than others. Most notably, the haute couture. The what?
Quick crib sheet: haute couture (or let’s just call it “couture” for simplicity’s sake) is a twice-yearly five-day show fiesta in Paris where a select handful of brands produce hand-made-to-order garments that cost approximately $10,000 to $100,000 a piece. Yes, you read that right.
To qualify as a couture house, which is an official designation like champagne, a brand must maintain an atelier of a certain number of artisans full time and produce a specific number of garments twice a year for a show. There are only a very few that can fulfill the requirements, including Chanel, Dior and Valentino. A lot have dropped out over the years (Balmain, Versace, Saint Laurent), and the governing organization that adjudicates this has relaxed some of its rules to admit younger, less resourced or guest designers, like Iris van Herpen and Guo Pei, who made Rihanna’s Met Gala sunny-side-up egg cape.
高定品牌和“香槟”一样，是一种官方称号，为了符合这个标准，品牌必须拥有一个工作室，由一定数量的全职工匠构成，并为一个展览每年两次生产特定数量的服装。只有极少数品牌能满足这个要求，包括香奈儿(Chanel)、迪奥(Dior)和华伦天奴(Valentino)。多年来，很多品牌已经退出了这个行列，包括巴尔曼((Balmain)、范思哲(Versace)和圣罗兰(Saint Laurent)，而负责裁决的管理机构放宽了一些规则，允许一些较为年轻、资源较少的设计师或客座设计师加入，如艾利斯·范·荷本(Iris van Herpen)和郭培，后者设计了蕾哈娜(Rihanna)在大都会艺术博物馆慈善舞会(Met Gala)上穿着的单面煎蛋斗篷。
Anyway, there are only a few hundred clients in the world who regularly buy couture, including Middle Eastern royalty and American businesswomen. Guests often sit on gold ballroom chairs. At Chanel, the designer Karl Lagerfeld has a tendency to recreate gardens from around the world, from Versailles to Norway, as his sets.
Sounds like the ultimate let-them-eat-cake event, right? In a world struggling with income inequality, riven by tides of immigration and deep social divisions, where streetwear is on the rise, why cover it at all?
The usual answer from most fashion people, and brands, for that matter, is it’s “the dream”: the ultimate escapist fantasy. But that always struck me as weird, especially now. Don’t know about you, but it was never my dream to wear a giant ball gown and run through the Hall of Mirrors.
And it’s not the “Devil Wears Prada” argument, though that does hold true: In a world where everything goes into the Instagram soup and from there seeps into the cultural digestive system, what might appear on a runway in the Musée Rodin (where Dior holds its shows) in July will affect what H&M does in August.
这也不是《穿普拉达的女魔头》(Devil Wears Prada)的观点，尽管这确实是正确的：在一切都进入Instagram大杂烩，并从那里渗透到文化消化系统中的世界里，罗丹博物馆（Musée Rodin，迪奥就是在那里主办它的走秀）7月的T台上出现的服装将影响H&M在8月的产品。
For me, it’s never been about imagining myself in the clothes, or even being able to buy the clothes, any more than watching great sports is about being able to play soccer like Lionel Messi.
It’s about using this particular craft form as a wormhole into what’s going on in the world. The gowns themselves may not seem that relevant (especially when they reimagine a woman as, say, a lavender bush). But the issues they raise are.
Like, for example, the fact that to a certain extent any women’s wear collection, at any level, should be a treatise on female identity at that particular moment in time. At least if it’s any good. That’s why Karl Lagerfeld made his Chanel bride wear the pants last January, not the corseted meringue; why at Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri paid homage to Leonor Fini, an early 20th century Surrealist (I don’t think anyone would dispute the surreal nature of our current era); why at Givenchy, Clare Waight Keller protected gowns dripping in silver fringe with military greatcoats.
例如，在某种程度上，任何级别的任何女装系列都应该是在特定时刻的女性身份论文。至少如果它有任何用处的话。正因如此，卡尔·拉格菲尔德去年1月让他的香奈儿新娘穿着裤子，而不是紧身胸衣长裙；正因如此，在迪奥，玛莉亚·嘉西亚·基乌里(Maria Grazia Chiuri)向20世纪初的超现实主义者列奥诺·菲尼(Leonor Fini)致敬（我认为没有人会质疑我们当前时代的超现实本质）；正因如此，在纪梵希，克莱尔·怀特·凯勒(Clare Waight Keller)用军大衣包裹点缀银色流苏的礼服。
Like the fact that the mostly French gatekeepers of couture, the most rigid of fashion sectors, have increasingly lowered barriers to entry to woo and admit designers from China, Lebanon and Russia. Fashion is acknowledging the value of porous borders, even as its Western European home grows more skittish about them.
Like the fact that this is as good a way as any to talk about the current tension between the handmade and human (and historical) and the technological. It’s the fashion equivalent of reading books versus watching YouTube.
After all, these are all garments created entirely by hand (except in the case of Iris van Herpen, who tends to 3D print a lot of her materials), as part of a long tradition. Last season at Valentino, the designer Pierpaolo Piccioli named every dress after the person who made it, practically fetishizing the artisan in the face of … well, Facebook.
Sound familiar? Though if you’re still wondering what this has to do with you, I’ll leave you with two words: Melania Trump.
She wore Chanel couture to the French state dinner. And all those gilded pigeons suddenly came home to roost.