Just what the public needs. Further affirmation that the fashion world is an exclusive, frightfully snobbish, mystical with a big massive 'members-only' stamp all over it. On first appearances, that's what Couture Lab would be deemed as. It requires an application process before you can be granted full access to the website. In a nutshell, Couture Lab is...
‘Beyond seasons or trends: the individual lifestyle of Couturelab’
About living in style: catering to the discerning customer. It is a laboratory of research and ideas, of different couture lifestyles. It was developed with both famous and undiscovered designers, artists and artisans worldwide.
Whilst haute couture shows are to most people exactly what it says on the tin; 'shows' that are merely fantastical spectacles to behold, ooh and aah at, it's easy to forget that couture is also about technique, exploring fashion as an artisanal craft. With a lowly press pass, I entered Couture Lab intrigued by their mission statement and eager to find out whether their choice of designers reflect my understanding of couture as an age-old craft.
I don't think I was disappointed and I immediately understood why there is that initial application process. It's literally impossible for these designers to meet the demand if everyone and anyone was granted access to the site. You can explore the designers in several ways; by culture. For example Duro Olowu takes African and Latin textiles and incorporates them into his work:
You can explore Couture Lab's designer by lifestyle. Ex model L'Wren Scott who has now turned fashion designer has given Couture Lab an exclusive to her Little Black Dress collection.
The names mentioned above may be vaguely familiar but Couture Lab is not really about showcasing big names so as such, you won't find the 'names' one would associate with couture (Chanel, Dior etc... ) but rather, it's about independent design that work within the intricate confines of haute couture. Maurizio Galante's accordian pleat jackets are fantastic and are unsurprisingly, the sell-out pieces on the site.
Old-fashioned crafts like crochet, beading and lacework are fully exploited Mina D'Ornano.
Quite possibly my favourite part of the site is the Vintage Lab. So called because Couture Lab have enlisted the help of Paris-vintage label E2. Husband and wife Michele and Olivier Chatenet take rare, vintage finds from Chanel, Madame Gres and YSL and re-work and renew them to a contemporary, highly wearable state. It's restoration and re-interpretation, something that fashion thrives on.
Marion Chanet // Hermes - both reworked by E2.
It's not a ladies-only club either as menswear gets some loving courtesy of Kris Van Asche (now getting much attention for his new position at Dior Homme). His own label though is a little less 'trend-conscious' but more about getting back to basics.
Couture Lab is also about exploring couture as a lifestyle, as well as a wardrobe choice with home, travel and gift products available to buy.
Couture Lab's own label shawl // Karry'O necklace // Ducas luggage
Of course, this isn't going to have everyone racing to apply for entry, not least because of the prohibitive prices of everything. However, for those that are discerning and have that ability to afford it, it wouldn't be the most foolish thing to hand your dosh over to Couture Lab's carefully researched and passionate homage to good old-fashioned craftsmanship.