While much of the fashion industry has endured disruptions throughout the pandemic, haute couture has persevered and is brimming with sensational moments to come. The upcoming AW21 schedule, from 5 to 8 July, is jam-packed with not only the usual big-hitters, but also fresh talent, broadening the spectrum of the oldest and most prestigious of fashion weeks. 

The history of haute couture 

Just after the war, in 1945, the most revered of maisons — including Chanel, Christian Dior, Schiaparelli and Givenchy — were invited by the Chambres Syndicales to present couture collections. Members were expected to create one-of-a-kind pieces adhering to specific rules, including excellence in creativity, painstaking detail and a minimum number of hours spent making the creations, in order to qualify for the schedule. Since the first event, couture week has made its mark on fashion history with exquisite pieces and enchanting spectacles — Versace’s high-octane AW95 show rife with dazzling supermodel glamour and Chanel’s AW13 post-apocalypse presentation spring to mind.

This season, expect a mixture of major physical and virtual moments. Storied houses such as Dior, Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier, whose collaboration with Sacai’s Chitose Abe (the first in a series of  guest designers), and Balenciaga, set to make its hotly anticipated return to the haute couture schedule after 53 years of absence, have opted to present live shows to a limited guestlist. Fendi, Maison Margiela and Schiaparelli, meanwhile, are sticking to a digital showcase. 

Other unmissable moments include New York-based label Pyer Moss’s virtual inaugural couture presentation, making creative director Kerby Jean-Raymond the first Black American designer to show on the schedule. Young designer Charles De Vilmorin’s second couture collection will also be shown digitally. Away from the official line-up, creative director Pieter Mulier — Raf Simons’ right-hand man at Jil Sander, Dior and Calvin Klein — presents his first collection at the Alaïa Maison (remember how warm and humble he came across in the 2014 Dior And I documentary? Yes, we fell in love with him then, too). And, how can we forget Valentino, which will be showing its collection to a live audience, several days after the official schedule concludes, in Venice? 

Who said there could be too many fashion moments? No one, ever. So take your FROW seat in your lounge for the fantasy and theatre of haute couture here.