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At the moment, haute couture—that most rarefied and rule-bound niche of the fashion industry, which is protected by law and governed by its own chamber of commerce in France—is the hottest thing happening. The front rows at last week’s shows in Paris, attended by both fashion-fan celebrities and the very rich people who actually buy couture, were animated with conversations about how couture is cool. Its scaled-back, more tasteful spectacles, the thinking went, allow designers and their fans (and, at couture week, their actual customers!) to think more about the clothes, the technical finesse, the champagne-buzzed wow factor.

Just look at Celine Dion, who has revitalized her whole public persona by being the woman who believes in the dream of the dress; who will wear the wild outfit, convenience or weather or occasion be damned; who will conjure Richard Avedon photographing a Balenciaga model with her big Parisian dog in the big poofy Richard Quinn dress with her two weimaraners. The runways are in on the dream, too. Pierpaolo Piccioli continues to expand on the fantasy of Valentino’s well-traveled but chateau-bound hostess; the house’s fabric sculptures in bold color combinations and ’70s floral prints almost look like an alternative medicine for calming the nervous mind of the global citizen. But couture isn’t just a plaything for the .01%: along with Giambattista Valli and his “big pink dress,” these designs have in fact set an agenda that’s rippled through the most commercial strains of women’s ready-to-wear, as the racks at Barneys, Bergdorfs, and Nieman’s are stocked with affordable versions of this dress for the woman who serves a whole fish barefoot while making jokes about Robert Mueller. Or, well, imagines she does.

For the most part, the dream remains a woman’s domain. Men are having a lot of fun pulling from the silhouettes, attitude, and business apparatus of womenswear in ready-to-wear, but at a few houses—Margiela, Dior Men’s, and Givenchy—designers are daring to combine couture with fashion’s other darling of the moment: menswear.

Last spring, John Galliano showed his last standalone men’s show for Maison Margiela and quietly launched a revolution. “It’s the highest form of dressmaking, but for men,” he said at the time on his podcast, a behind-the-scenes, rhapsodic soliloquy on fashion theory that arrives with each collection. The event may have been Paris Men’s Fashion Week, but the clothing, Galliano contended, was genderless. Take his extensive use of satin-back crepe in that collection: the body’s temperature warms up the fabric, breaking it down, causing it to mold to the body. This is anathema, of course, to men’s tailoring, which posits the suit and all its descendents (like, idk, chinos!) as sacks of fabric that either render the human form a mostly straight line or are cleverly cut to disguise its flaws and play up its strengths (shoulders!).

Article written by Rachel Tashjian #GQ