This Season, Couture Came To Play

Your garden-variety couture review will note the history of the form, the craftsmanship behind it, and the acres of infinitesimal details stitched by the petits mains, or artisans, who are helping keep the tradition alive. And along with it, the enduring question: Is couture relevant?

This is not your garden-variety couture review. Yes, all of the aforementioned tradition was in full effect at the latest round of shows. But perhaps more interestingly, the biannual event got a shot in the arm from designers, many of them young and up-and-coming, ready to question the codes and tear the rule book to beautiful shreds. Has couture ever felt so, well, fun?

In the “new to couture” camp was Pyer Moss’s Kerby Jean-Raymond, showing not in Paris but in Irvington, NY, at the historic home of beauty mogul Madam C.J. Walker. Jean-Raymond became the first Black American designer to be invited by the Chambre Syndicale to show his work as part of couture, and his show celebrated the innovations of Black inventors, elevating everyday objects—from curtain rods to bicycle handles to a jar of peanut butter—to runway status. The outsize shapes gave everything a sense of playfulness, but also reflected a rich history, the pièce de résistance being a stately hooded coat made from curlers that paid tribute to Walker. The collection served as a reminder that, as Jean-Raymond’s show notes put it, “Black imagination is this world’s greatest technology.”

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