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By special guest writer Philippa Campsie, Toronto, Canada

The fashionistas are sharpening their stiletto heels in readiness for the upcoming Semaine des Défilés, January 25 to 28, 2010. This one is Haute Couture – the Ready to Wear (Prêt-à-Porter) takes place in March.

Little Black Dresses LBD Paris France Haute-Couture fashion week fine art painting Barbara Redmond Fashion

Famous Little Black Dresses by Barbara Redmond

Haute couture is the made-to-measure, one-of-a-kind fashion created for the few hundred women in the world who can order originals made especially for them – at $15,000 or more per outfit. As of this year, 11 French fashion houses still provide this service and will have shows in January: Adeline André, Anne Valérie Hash, Chanel, Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix, Dominique Sirop, Franck Sorbier, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Maurizio Galante, and Stéphane Rolland.

No, we didn’t recognize all the names either. Barbara and I aren’t among those few hundred.

But the two most interesting to us are the first two – the only women in a list dominated by men (Chanel doesn’t count, since her line is now designed by a man).

Adeline André and Anne Valérie Hash

Adeline André registered her brand as a fashion designer in 1983, and and has been presenting haute couture since 1997. She sketches her designs quickly in pencil or watercolour, just as Barbara creates the illustrations you see in this blog. You can see a little film about André’s sketches on YouTube here.

André’s signature is wraparound dresses with multiple layers, comfortable and flowing. It takes ages to get into one of these dresses, and, we imagine, they are rather hard to get onto a hanger at the end of the day. (To watch a model being slowly and painstakingly garbed in one of these things, which looks a bit like wrapping a mummy, click here.)

Anne Valérie Hash is a newcomer. Born in 1971, she presented her first haute couture collection in 2007. She’s known for things like jumpsuits (les combinaisons-pantalon) and jackets (les smoking) and has been known to pair tutus and Converse high tops (you can do these sort of things in fashion shows, but don’t try it at your next book club meeting).

Hash has written a book about her designs, which starts with the words “Everything started in March 2001. Suddenly I had the desire to experiment with the deconstruction of men’s clothing.” We experienced some déjà vu reading those lines. She could be Chanel talking in 1911. Isn’t that exactly what Chanel did, borrowing men’s shirts and jerseys and deconstructing them for women?

Fashion Week in Paris

Which brings us to our plans for Fashion Week. Barbara and I are going to be giving a presentation on “A Day With Coco Chanel” at the Alliance Francaise in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We’ve designed a virtual walking tour that takes in several important Chanel-related sites, plus some other fashion highlights in the same area (the 1st arrondissement in the centre of Paris). If you are in Minneapolis, do join us.

Or, if you are in Paris, you can see who is presenting where and when on the website of the Federation Francaise de la Couture. Don’t forget to e-mail us your cellphone pictures: barbara@awomansparis.com.

Fashion Week is called La Semaine de défilés. Un défilé is a parade, so literally, it’s the week of fashion parades. A sketch created by a fashion designer is called un croquis and watercolours are aquarelles. André’s wraparound dresses require multiple armholes, or emmanchures. A jumpsuit is une combinaison-pantalon and a women’s tuxedo-style jacket is un smoking.

Book: recommendation by A Woman’s Paris™

Moments in Time By Anne Valérie Hash

Vocabulary: French to English translations

Aquarelles: Watercolor.
Déjà vu: The experience of thinking that a new situation had occurred before.
Emmanchures: Multiple armholes in a dress.
Haute Couture: Made to order for a specific customer, and it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail.
Prêt-à-porter: Ready-to-wear clothing.
Semaine des Défilés: Fashion Week.
Un croquis: Sketch created by a fashion designer.
Un défilé: Parade.
Une combinaison-pantalon: Jumpsuit.
Un smoking: Tuxedo-style jacket.

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Fine art paintings of Paris

Fine art prints of paintings by Barbara Redmond of famous streets and places and gardens of Paris. Printed on archival 100% cotton paper, each print is signed and dated. Visit us! Or email Barbara at barbara@awomansparis.com. Free shipping in the continental U.S.A.

Text copyright ©2010 Philippa Campsie
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond
All rights reserved.