The Style Files: High on freaky fashion

By Penny Hunt

Fashion editor Penny Hunt offers her expert advise on the latest trends, must-have accessories and designer inspiration from the heady world of fashion.

What is haute couture week? And why is it any different to other fashion shows that take place throughout the year?

it be the price tag attached to the clothing? Or perhaps it is because
every piece is rich in appearance and luxurious in feel, unlike many
pieces shown at regular fashion weeks. Couture fashion week is a time
when designers, funded by high-end fashion houses, produce luxury
apparel to exhibit at runway shows held in unique locations and shown to
high-society audiences. It appears that you have to be very special to

When it comes to haute couture, there are rules,
too. According to French law, you have to be a member of the Chambre de
Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris to take part in the couture shows. I
hunted around to see if any designers were skirting the law, but they
are all legit – even John Galliano, who seems to take great pleasure in

The rules go on to state that couture means high-end
sewing: exclusive, custom-fitted clothing made with the highest-quality
fabric sewn with extreme attention to detail and masterful technique. In
other words, most people outside the upper echelons of society can only
dream of owning one of these garments. So what’s the point?

me haute couture is breathtaking, jaw-dropping, extravagant and
inspirational. It pushes me to dress and style with flare – maybe not as
much flare as Jean-Paul Gaultier showed with his violins and animal
creations, or Patrick Mohr with his bald models baring whiskers – but
there are lessons to be learned. 

But naturally I must ask, is there anything wearable in couture?

of the more wearable 2010 collections was Chanel’s Paris autumn show.
It left me wanting divine jewel-encrusted liquid gold luxury fabrics and
boots embroidered with colourful flowers. Perhaps if I don’t shop or
eat for a few months, I could purchase a pair.

Haute couture
seems also to be about size and scale. Consider Karl Lagerfeld’s giant
gold lion centrepiece in the middle of the Grand Palais complemented by
men dressed in tuxedos, and wearing lion heads, escorting models around
the catwalk. Extravagance defined Lagerfeld’s Chanel autumn couture
show, where he presented models circling a giant iceberg imported from
Sweden in a room chilled to 4˚C – the models were wearing fur, but I
hope the guests noted the invite instruction to bring their own blanket!

may seem extreme, but the shows draws aristocracy, the fashion elite
and celebrities from around the globe. This is the part where I just
want to gloat for a moment and share that I spent a few hours with
Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick in Sydney, where he stopped off to promote
Virgin mobiles while en route to the couture shows in Paris.

may wonder what Westwick does at the shows? Like his character, Chuck
Bass, Westwick is a flamboyant dresser. When we meet, he was wearing a
Gucci velvet smoking jacket, fitted Superfine jeans and lace-ups with no
socks. I asked what he intended to do in Paris. He said: “Film the
opener to the next season of the show.”


Now this is the part
when we get back to couture. The entire cast were expected to travel to
Paris, where they were to be filmed attending couture shows. This gives
some insight into the industry; it seems haute couture’s target market
is the cast of Gossip Girl – on and off the set.


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