Haute Couture was made for times just like these. Enduring two world wars, worldwide economic crashes, and now Covid-19, maisons, their creative directors and their teams far and wide are adjusting to the unavoidable changes in the world of fashion and design owing to the pandemic. English couturier Suzie Turner and Lebanese haute-couture duo, Azzi and Osta share how their maisons are pushing on in the time of COVID and how challenges just make couture more grounded.
July saw Haute Couture Week, famously held in Paris two times per year, however it was held through an alternative, more adaptable medium this time around. 33 maisons, certified by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, demonstrated their collections, or, gave us sneak peaks of collections to come. While the world has been reeling from the pandemic, it has left some doubting the pertinence of couture, particularly now, in the wake of so many deaths, unemployment, and with no vaccine ready to be sold. In any case, on closer inspection, we find that couture is still strong and thriving, because it is much needed in the fashion industry, especially amidst the sustainable revolution.
English couturier, Suzie Turner’s outfits are made-to-order and as the world has turned upside-down, her atelier has adapted and remained innovative. “We have taken this amazing opportunity of downtime to create new techniques and designs without the pressure of wedding deadlines.” Turner makes custom couture pieces for Middle Eastern eminence and her Western customers, just as for one of America’s First Daughters. The previous summer, when President Donald and First Lady Melania Trump were on a State visit to the UK, Turner made two of Tiffany Trump’s outfits, one of which was worn at Buckingham Palace for the state dinner.
With regards to the importance of couture, Turner is certain. “For us and our clients, couture is an environmental choice. Rather than deciding to purchase fast fashion, our clients choose unique detailed items that truly represent who they are, spanning decades not just seasons. Therefore, our industry has never been restricted by red carpet events.”
Washington, D.C. inhabitant Teri Galvez, an authority of couture, asserts couture’s resilience. “There is a need for couture like there is a need for luxury automobiles, fine champagne and beautifully constructed homes,” she muses. “I like my clothing from Zara and H&M but I love my couture items and I seldom discard items I love. Fast fashion is easy to toss aside, there is no sentimental value.
”For the Lebanese, couture marks their history, an amalgamation of the legacies left by empires such as the Roman, Greek, Ottomans and French.
One maison from Lebanon’s capital city Beirut, Azzi and Osta, begun by designers George Azzi and Assaad Osta, has been adjusting to the difficulties of the previous months. “It is a very challenging experience to go through, one that there isn’t any past reference to learn from so we had to plan day by day,” they say. “A main motivator has been to decide to invest more in our own archives, and, recycle and create from our own library of fabrics and embroideries. To go back to the roots, we focus more on our digital communication, keep in touch with our clients, we check on them and tell them we are all in this together- and we’ve been working hard, from home.”
In years past they’ve had a great deal of achievement around the globe with Queen Rania of Jordan regularly wearing their creations, and, Beyonce, Kelly Rowland and Angela Bassett have showcased their designs on red carpets. “Couture has never been more relevant in the modern age,” says Azzi and Osta.
“Couture is the idea of creating on demand, made to measure, working with local artisans and producing locally hence lowering the carbon foot print of garments, it is the time taken to hand embroider a piece – true that it shines more thru red carpets and events, however, couture is really a very personal curated choice, which is exactly what this global lockdown has taught us to appreciate and invest in more, to always have a story behind what we are choosing,” they say.
With the world shaken by the effect of Covid-19, haute couture presents a viable solution to the rampant consumerism in modern times. What’s more, maisons like Suzie Turner Couture and Azzi and Osta are adjusting to the immense changes in the business, working hard and meeting the needs of their customers from a far distance.
Come September, Paris will open up again for physical shows, so maybe we could be seeing runways open for Haute Couture week by January. Be that as it may, one thing is without a doubt, couture is irreplaceable, versatile and staying put.