Why strange? Well, although times may be hard, the few who are probably insulated from the vagaries of global stock market fluctuations, oil prices tanking, or even meteorological insecurity, are the tiny, climate-controlled percentage that buy haute couture. Oxfam estimates that 62 people hold wealth equivalent to half the world's population: I'm betting those 62 number amongst the clientele of the couture, generously estimated at 2,000. And if the world's population stands at, roughly, 7.4 billion, we're talking less the 1 per cent than the 0.00002 per cent, at even the most optimistic. At Elie Saab, where princesses sat front row and applauded a silvery recreation of the Indian raj in a Maharani's ransom of embroidery, a few models carried filigree silver purses. They were empty. I think that was a first for the couture.
Nevertheless, the designers creating couture were this time aware of what was going on in the outside world. The haute couture may be Paris fashion's oldest institution – but it needs new blood, new ideas, and fresh outlooks to survive. Otherwise, its houses would be mausoleums to a staid form of luxury no one really wants to purchase. Craft isn't enough – clothes have to be imbued with a sense of the now to appeal.
That was always the idea, for instance, of Raf Simons's work at Christian Dior. Simons sought to bring haute couture into the 21st century. His first Dior show opened with the house's Bar jacket transposed to slick trouser suits. Simons left Dior back in October, and the collection staged on Monday was overseen by a half-dozen strong team headed by a named duo, Serge Ruffieux and Lucie Meier, who had worked under Simons.
It would be interesting to see the fractured Dior couture collection – some clothes good, some clothes bad – as reflective of a wider cultural panorama of upheaval, confusion and conflict. However, it was more insular, mostly indicative of the difficulties facing Dior who will show, at least, a ready-to-wear collection in March before the new artistic director takes control of its womenswear. Making do and mending was a thread that ran through the clothes, too, which played with patchwork and surface textures, with embroideries and shapes reminiscent of the modernist aesthetic of Simons, and with plenty of reiterations of the Bar jacket, a silhouette recognisably Dior regardless of designer. This collection wasn't timid, which was in its favour – the staging was grand, and some of the garments were good, particularly the long, lean coat dresses either bell-shaped or nipped into Dior's hourglass.