Couture Fashion Week in the 90s, in 28 chaotically fabulous moments behind the scenes

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“It’s about the proportions and luxury of Chanel taken to the extreme of a nervous breakdown!” Karl Lagerfeld’s right-hand man Amanda Harlech said VogueHamish Bowles backstage at the house’s Spring 1997 couture show. As Vogue reported, this particular January in Paris, the lobbies and hotel suites at the Ritz (unofficial Couture Fashion Week HQ) were buzzing with the word of a “showdown.” The day before, a 27-year-old British designer named Alexander McQueen presented his first couture collection for Givenchy, titled In search of the Golden Fleece. The result ? McQueen had captured the attention of the world press with his no-bullshit demeanor as much as his razor-sharp corsetry.

“He has a lot of common sense” Vogue Journalist Kate Betts wrote about her pre-show meeting with McQueen in a lengthy clip, which I urge you to read in its entirety. “We’re sitting in the large living room, an elegant room that has fallen into a certain disrepair, vases of half-dead flowers perched on an ugly makeshift coffee table,” Betts continued.

37 breathtaking couture jewelry moments from the original mannequin era

“McQueen seems happy with the way things are going, especially with the workshops. “You know, I worked for Marc Bohan when he was at Hartnell, and it was the worst experience of my life. He was so arrogant with the workshops. I think they really like me up there, ”he said, pointing to the ceiling and the Givenchy study rooms beyond. “They don’t think I’m a little London idiot who deals with hemming.”

Unsurprisingly, the feathers of the powers of the old world of dressmaking had been ruffled. Exactly a year earlier, another British star of the news the avant-garde, John Galliano, had unveiled his first couture collection for Dior and the once serene salons were now resolutely teeming with Hollywood celebrities, mingled with rock stars, pop stars and royalty.

Image may contain: Human, Person, Clothing, Apparel, Fashion, Wedding Dress, Wedding, Dress, Dress, Stage and Chris Carlin

11 years later: remembering Alexander McQueen’s most fantastic moments on the catwalks

It was in the 90s that the splendor of couture was varnished with rebellion. The models prepared their own makeup backstage, the movie star Rosanna Arquette took a seat, alone, for the presentation of the Chanel Couture show and waited patiently for the start of the show. It was the decade you could spot Sylvester Stallone (again, minus the advertising entourage) strolling near the backstage entrance, and Richard Gere might be passing by to meet Cindy Crawford. Imagine an era of unattended high jinx. Mariah Carey saw her ’90s fashion shows while cuddling her puppy and late model Stella Tennant was arriving on the back of a motorcycle. It was chaotic – but it was the right kind of chaos, which we all miss in 2021.

This is what it was Actually likes to go backstage at Couture Fashion Week in the 90s.


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