Creations by designer Alexis Mabille are displayed ahead of his Haute Couture Online Fall/winter 2020/2021 collection presentation in Paris, France, July 6, 2020.(REUTERS)
Creations by designer Alexis Mabille are displayed ahead of his Haute Couture Online Fall/winter 2020/2021 collection presentation in Paris, France, July 6, 2020.(REUTERS)

Paris Haute Couture: Designers get creative for couture under lockdown

Confronted with problems in fabric deliveries and supplier closures during France’s coronavirus lockdown, fashion designer Alexis Mabille had to improvise to salvage his next collection, turning to materials he had to hand.
By Reuters | Posted by: Alfea Jamal | Paris, France
UPDATED ON JUL 08, 2020 11:59 AM IST

Confronted with problems in fabric deliveries and supplier closures during France’s coronavirus lockdown, fashion designer Alexis Mabille had to improvise to salvage his next collection, turning to materials he had to hand.

Like peers unveiling their creations at Paris’s Haute Couture showcase this week - an online-only format - Mabille began confectioning his looks before restrictions on movement in much of Europe were lifted.

That derailed everything from the availability of made-to-order embroideries to the process of casting models who usually fly around the world for fittings, but provided couturiers with novel forms of inspiration too.

Designer Alexis Mabille poses ahead of his Haute Couture Online Fall/winter 2020/2021 collection presentation in Paris, France, July 6, 2020. (REUTERS)
Designer Alexis Mabille poses ahead of his Haute Couture Online Fall/winter 2020/2021 collection presentation in Paris, France, July 6, 2020. (REUTERS)

“I worked in the opposite direction - instead of working on the design, the material and the colour, I started from the colour of the fabric and then the collection,” Mabille told Reuters, adding that he had sought to project a “bright view on things” with dresses that ranged from vivid purple to yellow and shimmering animal-style prints.

Haute Couture Week features one-of-a-kind outfits stitched by hand, presented by a select club of designers.

A seamstress works at Dior workshop ahead of the Haute Couture Online Fall/Winter 2020/2021 collection presentation by designer Maria Grazia Chiuri for fashion house Dior in Paris, France, July 4, 2020. (REUTERS)
A seamstress works at Dior workshop ahead of the Haute Couture Online Fall/Winter 2020/2021 collection presentation by designer Maria Grazia Chiuri for fashion house Dior in Paris, France, July 4, 2020. (REUTERS)

Even for the biggest brands with huge means, however, Europe-wide lockdowns proved a challenge.

Maria Grazia Chiuri, who designs womenswear for Christian Dior, owned by the LVMH conglomerate, coordinated her collection from Rome via video calls with seamstresses and production teams working at home.

Maria Grazia Chiuri, designer for fashion house Dior, poses next to her creations on miniature mannequins ahead of the Paris Haute Couture week, Paris, France, July 4, 2020. (REUTERS)
Maria Grazia Chiuri, designer for fashion house Dior, poses next to her creations on miniature mannequins ahead of the Paris Haute Couture week, Paris, France, July 4, 2020. (REUTERS)

The label also faced some lost or delayed deliveries as it tried to bring its concept for a collection presented on mini-mannequins together - and Chiuri said she had had to readjust to life without office staff.

“I used my daughter a lot,” she joked.

Seamstresses work on creations at Dior workshop ahead of the Haute Couture Online Fall/Winter 2020/2021 collection presentation by designer Maria Grazia Chiuri for fashion house Dior in Paris, France, July 4, 2020. (REUTERS)
Seamstresses work on creations at Dior workshop ahead of the Haute Couture Online Fall/Winter 2020/2021 collection presentation by designer Maria Grazia Chiuri for fashion house Dior in Paris, France, July 4, 2020. (REUTERS)

Dior’s teams of tailors and seamstresses - all wearing face masks - came together in early July to put the final touches on looks in the brand’s atelier in Paris.

LINGERING UNCERTAINTY

For some designers, the uncertainty is far from over, even as coronavirus lockdowns ease and Paris prepares to host fashion shows again from September.

Couture labels, which sell a small number of outfits to the uber-rich, are unsure when their clients will be able to travel again or what demand will be as the pandemic rattles economies the world over.

Designer Stephane Rolland poses in his workshop ahead of his Haute Couture Online Fall/winter 2020/2021 collection presentation in Paris, France, July 2, 2020. (REUTERS)
Designer Stephane Rolland poses in his workshop ahead of his Haute Couture Online Fall/winter 2020/2021 collection presentation in Paris, France, July 2, 2020. (REUTERS)

“We must propose to the buyers a balance, meaning a good price, good quality and exceptional product and expertise,” said designer Stephane Rolland.

Designing had proved an escape from the stresses of lockdown, Rolland added, a sentiment shared by many peers, including Chiuri.

A seamstress works on creations at the workshop of designer Stephane Rolland ahed of his Haute Couture Online Fall/winter 2020/2021 collection presentation in Paris, France, July 2, 2020. (REUTERS)
A seamstress works on creations at the workshop of designer Stephane Rolland ahed of his Haute Couture Online Fall/winter 2020/2021 collection presentation in Paris, France, July 2, 2020. (REUTERS)

“At one point, I decided to listen to the news for only one hour a day because the risk was that I would spend a lot of time in front of the TV,” Chiuri said.

“For the other people of the atelier, to work, to have a project to make together was helpful.”

Julien Fournie, a French couturier who spent lockdown largely centered on his Paris atelier, said he was even relieved to have a moment to create a collection without distractions.

French designer Julien Fournie poses during an interview with Reuters at his workshop ahead of his Haute Couture Online Fall/Winter 2020/2021 collection presentation in Paris, France, July 3, 2020. (REUTERS)
French designer Julien Fournie poses during an interview with Reuters at his workshop ahead of his Haute Couture Online Fall/Winter 2020/2021 collection presentation in Paris, France, July 3, 2020. (REUTERS)

“For the past decade, I was like a hamster who didn’t stop running,” Fournie said, ahead of unveiling his looks, which include flowing silk gowns with kimono-style sleeves.

“I no longer had the time to enjoy my team, not even to see a dress being set up or take time to choose an embroidery or to design a print.”

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

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