Playing It Safe Or Taking A Plunge: What’s Best For Couture in 2021?

Couture no longer belongs to the iconic houses to gatekeep. It has emerged, evolved and entered a zone where all bets are off. This season, seasoned designers helming the big league brands, like Maria Grazia Chiuri (Dior) and Virginie Viard (Chanel) were overshadowed by a new batch of couturiers like Kerby Jean-Raymond (Pyer Moss) and Daniel Roseberry (Schiaparelli).


 Pyer Moss and Schiaparelli fall/winter couture collections 

These labels with a century-old legacy have trademark styles that make them identifiable, but does that mean the reigning creative heads have to colour within the lines? In their recent presentations, couture appeared to be calculated. While the ensembles were chic, functional and elegant, they lacked drama and diversity in terms of design.

Chanel and Dior fall/winter couture 2021

Who remembers John Galliano’s 15-year long tenure at Dior that disrupted its core house codes that were etched since its inception in 1947. His designs were a refreshing departure from Christian Dior’s rules of femininity.


John Galliano’s 10th Anniversary collection for Dior

Similarly for Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld’s early couture collections since his appointment in 1983 carried Coco’s essence but not her aesthetic. Case in point: Christy Turlington’s black cocktail attire at the Haute Couture show in 1992 came caged with chunky gold chains scalloped at the bustier and waist. The timeless LBD was now sensual and even the lady-like tweed suit was spruced up time and again.

Christy Turlington and Naiomi Campbell during Chanel’s shows in the ’90s

On the contrary, head honchos of brands like Balenciaga and Gucci with an equally powerful lineage are more interested in rewriting history instead of reliving in it. Both Demna Gvasalia and Alessandro Michele’s couture lines are a testament to the changing times and audiences. So in this Catch 22 situation should designers take the leap of faith or continue taking calculated risks? We asked three fashion stylists to weigh in.

Pranay Jaitly and Shounak Amonkar, Founders Of Who Wore What When


Valentino fall/winter couture 2021

“We definitely feel that the new lot of couturiers are more risque as they are showcasing looks on the runway that haven’t been seen before. This season had a series of interesting presentations. Pyer Moss was one of them, his debut collection as the first black designer invited to couture week gave the audiences a peek into his history and community. But at the same time, his designs were out of the box and distinctive. Schiaparelli, even though it’s one of the oldest couture company, they are constantly pushing the envelope with heir surrealistic sartorial sense. On the other hand, Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino did play safely in their space, so new or old I think the level of experimentation comes from the brand’s authentic aesthetic and recognising the target audience for the same.”

Edward Lalrempuia, Celebrity Fashion Stylist, Consultant


Balenciaga and Jean Paul Gaultier fall/winter couture collections 

“I think the new generation of couture creators are definitely dialling it up a notch with their lines, while the renowned designers continue to do what they know and are comfortable with. They have a set demographic which is happy with what is being produced season after season.  Balenciaga was amongst my favourite presentation this fall, I loved the fact that there was no music and the construction of the clothing was so sublime, I also enjoyed the Sacai X Jean Paul Gaultier line. The beauty of couture is unparalleled and versatile, brands like Fendi and Valentino are even including menswear pieces. Hence, no two brands can have a similar definition of it. For some, it’s in larger than life construction and ornamentation, for others, it’s all in the detail.”

Sheefa Gilani, Celebrity Stylist

Bella Hadid at the 2020 VMAs

“I feel like a lot of newer and upcoming designers have been way more experimental since they’re introducing themselves to the fashion industry. Designers like Nensi Dojaka went viral with their risqué provocative 90’s inspired look for Bella Hadid’s appearance at the VMAs in 2020. Iconic brands are not too far behind—they tend to play it safe with their silhouettes and designs since they have already created an identity for themselves within the fashion industry. For the fresh lot of fashion designers, the sophomore collection is about making an impact while the industry veterans have already done that. As the world is slowly moving towards wearable luxury, I think couture will end up becoming more archive designs/ museum artefacts inspired, art will play a crucial role in it.”

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