An embarrassment of riches

chanel haute couture SS09/getty

“Bling is over. Red carpety [sic] covered with rhinestones is out. I call it ‘the new modesty’”. So noted Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld in The New York Times on January 15th, a fortnight after Chanel announced 200 job cuts (reportedly one percent of its 16,000 workforce). Here are some early shots of the company's haute couture collection that was just shown on Tuesday morning in Paris. Australia's Myf Shepherd stars once again (^), her second haute couture outing after yesterday’s Christian Dior show.

Difficult to call from these first few shots but the backdrop to the show looks to have been a massive installation of white paper flowers.

The white flower theme was echoed in the whimsical millinery, which frockwriter assumes was created by Maison Michel, the 73 year-old Parisian milliner that was acquired by Chanel in 2002, along with several other specialist suppliers, including embroiderer Maison Lesage. (Correction: The millinery was created by Japanese stylist/makeup artist Katsuya Kamo).

chanel haute couture SS09/getty

Had it not been for Chanel, these houses would no doubt have disappeared, like so many others before them, taking jobs, and of course, skills, with them.

According to the above-linked NYT story, the luxury business in France still employs 200,000 people.

It is easy in this dire economic climate to look at these bespoke, hand-made and highly labour-intensive garments, whose upper prices soar into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and scream “obscene”.

But haute couture is about master craftsmanship and it represents the absolute nadir of fashion creativity. Paraphrasing a quote from the late Christian Dior, Dior's current creative director, John Galliano, told yesterday that the job of couturiers “is to make people dream”.

At the end of the day the super rich will always be among us.

And without them, let's face it, we wouldn’t have the pyramids, Rembrandt or Versailles.

Here’s a video of the Christian Dior show from the UK Telegraph:

For millinery enthusiasts, a video on Maison Michel.

And more on the work of Katsuya Kamo, who was most recently showcased in the November edition of London's Dazed & Confused magazine.