Haute Couture gowns have been de rigueur on the red carpet for some time — with actresses (dressed by stylists) fawning in intricate, hand-made creations by the houses of Christian Dior, Chanel or Valentino. Recently, the couture movement has taken literally to the streets, with full looks from these esteemed collections worn by a few true devotees of the atelier.
Although Ulyana Sergeenko is not a “celebrity” in the standard nomenclature, it would be disengenous to cateogorize the arresting designer from Russia as anything hinting at plebeian. Sergeenko has become a mainstay on the street style beat, donning high drama looks that range from an ensemble from Louis Vuitton's Richard Prince’s "Nurses" inspired collection — complete with face mask — to straight-from-the-couture-show looks and her own couture designs. “I prefer the [couture designers] who are dreamers, storytellers… I love the old couture shows,” Sergeenko explains.
Fashion is doubtlessly a commodity, especially when its proverbial price tags meet those of some single family homes, but the women who wear it are more likely passionate collectors rather than economic investors. "I never thought of couture as an investment. For me, it's about beauty, fantasy, emotion. I dare to say even the art of fashion. The pieces I own were chosen because I liked them immediately," says Sergeenko.
Nasiba Adilova, a Russian editor from Buro24/7 who has been a recent sartorial standout amongst the bold names front row, feels similarly about couture’s investment possibilities, also attaching an emotional contingent to the transaction, "I believe these pieces can be cherished for years and handed down from generation to generation." Rising star Miroslava Duma, also of Buro24/7, has a bona fide belief in couture-as-heirloom, "I would say that I have a strong admiration for Chanel and Valentino Haute Couture. My mother owns beautiful gowns which have now been passed down to me and I treasure them very much."
Whereas the highly primped ladies of Hollywood hit step and repeats in borrowed gowns, these women subscribe to a personal style belief that even scales couture-level pieces. "I always believe in mixing it up!," Duma contends. "If one is in a position to buy couture, purchasing really classic pieces or key pieces in the collection is best," Adilova adds. Sergeenko shares a high-end version of a cost-per-wear system as well, "Couture is not for one-time wear, they are such beautiful, powerful pieces that it would be a shame to not wear more than once."
With talk of its demise endlessly bantered about, the question of where Haute Couture is headed is one Sergeenko has a vested interest in. "I think the notion of couture is timeless. So, the future of couture would be the same as the past — it would be the place for fantasy and superb craftsmanship," she says. Duma and Adilova take less romantic, but no less optimistic approaches. "It has been around for decades and it will continue to be around for future generations to come," explains the former, while the latter contends, "I think as long as there is a demand, there will always be a supply. The scale of it may change, but it will always be around." On the streets outside of the collections for seasons to come, presumably.