covid’s impact on haute couture


illustration: macie sadler

Haute couture has been pronounced dead, and then revived, quite a few times since it began. A symbol of French luxury, haute couture is crafted from high-quality, expensive, sometimes unusual fabric. It is sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable of sewers, often with time-consuming, hand-executed techniques. The public often sees these displays of glamour as excessive and out of touch. The buyers, however, cannot get enough. Considering the amount of time, money and skill allotted to each completed piece, haute couture garments have no price tag. It’s impractical, wearable art, therefore budget is not relevant. Yet with complications due to COVID-19 and the global pandemic shutting down the world, the discourse on economic and ethical feasibility of haute couture now enters a new world, and the industry was forced to adapt, overcome and make a drastic change. 

No invitation cards, no limousines, no cameras clicking, no exclusive front row seats, star-studded attendees or street style. In a first among firsts in fashion, the Autumn/Winter 2020 Haute Couture shows, normally held in Paris, were completely virtual. Over these past two years, fashion has endured a time when many people barely left their homes, let alone dressed up. And now, the question remains, where does the industry stand in the age of COVID? After two years, we may finally have an answer. For the first time since the pandemic first hit, haute couture was back in-person and on the runways. The Autumn/Winter 21/22 schedule was packed with big names, new talent and the triumphant return, for the first time in over 50 years, of Balenciaga. The world was looking to the runways to see what the designers would do, to see if they would sink or swim. 

A recurring theme seen throughout the week seemed to be the return to its roots. Chanel was very classically Chanel. Ellie Saab was undeniably distinctive, and Fendi embraced its Roman roots. It did not always work: Dior’s collection had plenty of stunning statement pieces, but plenty of lackluster filler pieces as well, falling somewhere between couture and ready-to-wear. Alia seemed stuck between its timeless legacy and new ideas. Chanel was almost too Chanel. However, despite a few stumbles along the way, Paris’s haute couture fashion week was truly one to remember. All it takes is one look at Ellie Saab’s impeccable draping, or one quick glance at Schiaparelli’s gilded wonder to have your breath taken away. Fashion is more than just what you wear. It is an art, a form of creative expression, and if fashion is an art, haute couture is a masterpiece. It catches the viewer’s eye and forces them to feel something. Haute couture is fun, flamboyant and unique. From veterans such as Jean Paul Gaultier, who released a truly artistic and eye-catching collection, to newcomers such as rising star Yanina Couture, whose bright, colorful garments were beautifully refreshing in such grim times, every collection was unique and true to each brand. 

COVID has impacted every aspect of our life, especially fashion, and the unattainable world of haute couture is no exception. With runways and shows being moved online and the future of fashion uncertain, it was hard to imagine how couture would survive. Yet designers pushed on and worked harder. They returned to their roots and reminded the world what made haute couture so phenomenal to begin with. While much of the fashion industry has endured disruptions throughout the pandemic, haute couture has persevered and is brimming with sensational moments to come. 


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Hi, I’m Grace Avery, the Editor In Chief of A Magazine. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine.