Fashion: Couture shock

In the past three years the rarefied world of haute couture has been turned on its head. And illustrator Richard Gray was there to capture the drama

Three years ago, the slumbering world of Parisian haute couture witnessed a chain of momentous events that shook the establishment and walloped it into the future. And here was the rub: it was an Englishman who did the honours.

When John Galliano was appointed design chief of Givenchy, the fashion world knew irrevocable changes were afoot. It was a golden moment for the British press, who positively twitched at the thought of their home- grown talent taking over. The French press bristled, and designers from Hubert de Givenchy to Yves Saint Laurent expressed their concern.

However, far from keeling over, couture had been resurrected. It appeared to shed its cobwebs overnight as the media hyped its new raison d'etre: as a laboratory using an ancient craft to push the boundaries of fashion forward. What happened next prompted more intrigue. After working for just a year at Givenchy, Galliano was given creative control at the creme de la creme of all couture houses, Dior. And who should fill the throne at Givenchy? Only the prince of the British avant-garde, Alexander McQueen.

The French establishment was furious, but in 1997 the country's most irreverent designers stepped in to redress the balance. Jean Paul Gaultier, peeved at missing out on the Dior job, launched his own self-funded couture house, and Thierry Mugler soon followed his lead.

But couture has also lost some of its greatest stars recently. Gianni Versace took his final bow on the world fashion stage at his last couture show in July 1997. And Paco Rabanne, certain of his prediction that the Mir space station would land on, and obliterate, Paris, at 11.22am on 11 August, retired to the country after the most recent couture shows this July.

Richard Gray, the fashion illustrator, was there to capture couture's magic moments. He was commissioned to draw every one of McQueen's 55 outfits for his first Givenchy couture show. "Being so close to these creations, you really appreciate the truly mesmerising art of couture," he says. Gray also illustrates for Anna Piagi, grande dame of Italian Vogue. "She always says, `Do what you want, Richard. But I need it tomorrow.'"

Christian Dior

It was January 1997 and the 50th anniversary of the unveiling of Christian Dior's "New Look", one of fashion history's most talked-about creations. The monolithic task of rejuvenating this venerable house had fallen to John Galliano who, in his first couture show, presented updated versions of Dior, the master's, work, along with his own fantastical creations: Last Emperor Chinese satin- crepe evening dresses and fantasy ballgowns. Galliano received a standing ovation. Givenchy

Alexander McQueen's first couture show, for Givenchy, held in l'Ecole des Beaux Artes in January 1997, had to be produced in just 11 weeks. The all gold and white collection took its inspiration from Greek mythology. High up on a rafter sat the tanned, waxed body of male supermodel Marcus Schenkenberg, replete with Icarus-style wings. Beneath him strode Naomi Campbell in this strapless, corseted dress, made from gold silk.

Paco Rabanne

They might call him Wacko Paco, but he will go down in history as one of the designers who spearheaded the futuristic fashion of the Sixties. Sadly, he will be entertaining us with his space-age creations no longer. His final offering before retiring to the French countryside, in July this year, was a heady mix of fibre-optic dresses, trompe l'oeil effects and of course dresses crafted entirely out of metal - nuts, bolts and all. This satellite dress was one of the collection's finest.

Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier launched his own couture label in January 1997 in a gallery in Paris's bohemian quarter, le Marais. In front of an audience which included Elton John, Gaultier poked fun at the elitist nature of couture with his irreverent creations: a denim jacket and jeans (the designer's own cast-offs) had been embroidered by Lesage and transformed into works of art, and a parrot had been stripped of its brightly coloured feathers and stitched into a jacket.

Thierry Mugler

Haute camp was the order of the day for this resolutely Eighties designer, Thierry Mugler, whose first couture collection was presented in July 1997. Models were transformed into insects: beautiful butterflies, or wasps with deadly stings in their tails. Tightly laced corsets were provided by Mr Pearl, Britain's diminutive corset creator, himself a 17-inch-waist man.

Versace

Gianni Versace's last ever couture collection in July 1997 was his signature mix of figure-hugging leather, chainmail and lace, emblazoned - some thought horribly ironically - with large crucifixes. As always, celebrities filled the front row and the man who put the glitz into haute couture way back in the Eighties, received a rapturous response. Less than a month after the show he was shot dead outside his home in South Beach Miami on 15 July. n

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

    C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

    £55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

    AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

    £450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home