The annual Asian Couture Federation gala last Thursday night was a properly global affair: a dinner hosted by an Asian fashion organization held at a deconsecrated Church of England church in East London, with a showcase of a new collection from a brand with an Italian name, Couturissimo, that is a modern interpretation of haute couture, a thoroughly French concept.
The first Couturissimo collection, which has since been worn by the likes of Rihanna and Beyoncé, was shown in Paris in July during the couture shows, where Dubai-based Filipino designer Michael Cinco and Indonesian designer Sebastian Gunawan presented alongside looks from Parisian couture label On Aura Tout Vu, whose designers Livia Stoianova and Yassen Samouilov, are Couturissimo’s creative directors.
The second Couturissimo collection made its debut at the gala, which was cohosted by BFC chief executive officer Caroline Rush and attended by ACF honorary president Kenzo Takada, blogger Bryanboy, The Saturday’s band member Mollie King, TV presenter and model Laura Whitmore, former “Ladies of London” cast member and founder of the Digital Shopping Channel Noelle Reno and actress Morgane Polanski.
In a runway show of 38 exits during the dinner, Cinco, Gunawan and On Aura Tout Vu returned, and were joined by Korean label Songzio in the lineup of wallet-friendly looks that retail for between around $220 to $890.
“We’re trying to democratize the exclusivity of haute couture, which I think is a little bit superfluous in this day and age, it’s an extravagance that not many people can indulge in, and I think it’s a waste of the particular designers’ creativity because we’ve seen a lot of amazing couture designers who have had to shut their businesses because they can’t make the commercial aspect of it viable enough,” said Dr. Frank Cintamani, who founded Couturissimo but is also founding president of the Asian Couture Federation and chairman of FIDé Fashion Weeks.
Which is where Couturissimo steps in. As a project that is completely backed by the Asian Couture Federation, it aims to support global haute couture designers to expand their base “beyond just couture by translating and diffusing their lines.” While there are exceptions, Couturissimo selects designers that have had at least 20 years in couture because (“the idea here is to protect the craft”), then it works with manufacturing plants and mills owned by members of the Federation, to produce and distribute and wholesale the collections at accessible price points.
Cinatmani added that chief among the ACF’s objectives is to “protect our designers and to promote, protect, inspire the rest of the industry,” adding that in order to do so, organizations need to more than just celebrate and award couture designers but provide a practical recourse to revenue.
“We need to provide [couture designers] with a commercial platform that is meaningful and, at the risk of being gauche about this, people need to make money in the fashion industry,” he told WWD. “You need to balance the creative aspects of fashion with the commercial, or you’re not really a designer. Otherwise it’s just a hobby.”
During the evening, legendary couturier Renato Balestra was formally made a member of the ACF and Jean Paul Gaultier — introduced as “the original rock ‘n’ roll designer” — was presented with an award for outstanding contribution to the global couture industry.
“The rock-star attitude is in the brain. A lot of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll? No, it’s not like that. Not anymore, anyway,” Gaultier told WWD. “I am good, alone with my cat.”
In an impromptu speech, Gaultier recalled how, while working for Pierre Cardin in Manilla in the Seventies, he had been dispatched to the Kenzo show. “There was two Japanese people and they made me, who was knowing couture, they made me go to the défilé Kenzo Takada,” he said. “And the show of Kenzo an introduction to Asia, was something fabulous, very modern, with French girls that were running with Champagne. And I should say that he influenced me a lot. He influenced me about, like, freedom and to show the show not in a normal way but in a more free way.”