For all the strides that have been made on the diversity front in the ready-to-wear shows the past several years, couture has been much slower to adapt. The houses are still largely set in their old ways, particularly when it comes to casting the same thin, white model on their runways (as many observers pointed out just this week with the Dior and Chanel shows).
So it was refreshing to see New York-based indie label Area upend those traditions with a bang today at the reveal of their first couture show. (Though not an official member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture — Paris' governing body that decides which brands can take part — Area debuted the category on the final day of the official schedule.)
Shown as a 14-page lookbook and video, the collection was inspired by the body adornment of ancient civilizations and incorporated almost 500,000 Swarovski crystals. Despite couture's exclusive connotation, Area founders Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszcyzk wanted to show that rigorous, handcrafted design made to order should be open to all body types and sizes.
"We feel like every type of body is beautiful and unique in its on way," the designers said in a statement. "We wanted to highlight that by playing with a range of silhouettes created to complement the wearer, showcasing that beauty and craft can feel exclusive in it's core but at the same time include a range of body types. We like to create our own visual fantasy through fashion and craft, but on the other hand it's important that our viewer can envision them selves in our pieces."
To that end, the duo enlisted Yasmin Wijnaldum and plus-size beauty/model of the moment Precious Lee to show off the couture wares, which included a cake-tiered confection, tuxedos embellished with extravagant metalwork and pannier dresses with a chandelier of crystal fringe.
Speaking to the couture process, the designers shared how slow, careful and methodical planning was key in the lead up to this moment. "Every look in this collection has been developed over an extensive time of 6 months, and has been an ongoing collaboration between our studio in New York and our embroidery partners in India/globally," they said. "We are proud of all the hands that where involved in creating every single look, craft truly comes to fruition through a collaborative community and passion."