One Couture Dress Story: Part One
The studio of the couture house Christophe Josse is located on the third floor of 231, Saint Honoré street, a stone’s throw from the Place Vendome and the Tuileries gardens. A more glamorous Parisian address is hard to imagine. Jewelry shops alternate with luxury brands clothing stores and perfumers. Celebrities of all over the world stop in 5 star hotels, which are abundant in the quarter, ready to risk their incognito just for the opportunity to spend a couple of hours in fitting rooms of the boutiques in the neighborhood, where the only “true Parisian chic” is sold.
But we only need to cross the threshold of the studio to found ourselves in a special world, far from that hustle and bustle of the street, invented for wealthy foreigners. Everything here: from the name engraved on a golden plate of the front door, a cozy pastel colored furniture and fabric samples for the upcoming collection, neatly laid out on a table, an immense bouquet of tea roses in a vase by the open window, racks of dresses, patiently waiting their turn, to an enormous mirror reflecting the creative process taking place here, all that is filled with subtle charm and delicacy – the characteristic features of a unique style of Christophe Josse. The Parisian spirit is also concentrated here, but it is real, exquisitely refined, discrete, reflecting the inner world of the master of the house.
Today is an important day in the studio. The first fitting of the top and skirt ensemble specifically selected for our project by the designer himself. All models of haute couture lines are first made of a simplest unpainted canvas – “toile” in French. It is only after trying such “draft” version, the designer and his assistants from the studio and other professionals from adjacent to Couture areas (embroiderers, lace makers, “feathers masters” etc.) select fabrics and colors for the final model.
And exactly the same procedure, canvas drafting, undergo all dresses made for the fashion house’s clients. Thus it is not surprising that the completion of the order may, depending on the complexity of the dress, take up to three months. On average the manufacturing of an haute couture dress takes 150-200 hours of manual work, while the wedding dress, which traditionally closes the catwalk, may require 400 hours.
“How can you wear a work of art?” – you would rightfully ask. Indeed, recalling retrospectives of some collections of legendary haute couture houses, you find yourself more in the field of museum exhibits, rather than a living fashion. This is the main paradox, the uniqueness of Christophe Josse dresses: being the masterpieces of the tailor art according to all canons of haute couture, they are, at the same time, created to be worn! Convenient, comfortable, cozy, lightweight – they not only emphasize perfections of the body and hide imperfections, but, like a second skin, blend with their owner, echo every movement of her body, the slightest turn of her neck.
..Meanwhile in the studio all eyes are turned to the mannequin that came for the fitting. She wears our ensemble in toile. Christian, the head of the studio (première main d’atelier), like a surgeon wearing a white coat, pockets of which are bristling with small pins as hedgehogs, with a needle in his hand and Anna, the “right hand” Christophe, are carefully watching the movements of the girl. For a moment, everything freezes. Christophe is first to break the silence with awaited approval. He likes it – this is exactly what he intended. A sketch descended from an album page and came to life. It is still very young and a long road to the podium lies ahead, but the construction is exact: the skirt is weightless and perfectly tailored and follows the natural curves of the body, the top, according to laws of the genre, is structured and compensates the slim line of thighs. Everything is perfect. Now it’s time to choose the color and start the work – those 150 hours.
Before leaving I glance again at the samples of fabrics and materials. The theme of the collection is kept secret until the day of the show. Christophe is preparing a surprise, breaking his own stylistic stereotypes he creates what no one is waiting from him: this winter collection won’t look alike as any of the previous ones.
Photo credits: Haute Couture News / Russian Couture News by Anna Marion
To be continued ..