Before launching his namesake haute couture line in 2009, which now has a major A-list following that ranges from Rihanna to the Hadids, Alexandre Vauthier paid his fashion dues working for Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier. “I learned numerous techniques with Thierry Mugler. He supported me from the start, as it was my first job in fashion,” shares Vauthier who started apprenticing at Maison Mugler in 1993. “We worked together for four years, and he trained me on the importance of precision tailoring and to play with the shape and cut of a garment.” Surely, Mugler’s influence and training are visible in Vauthier’s sharp-as-a-knife silhouettes. “I consider Thierry like a godfather, or an older brother who encouraged me to start my own collection,” he says.
In 1997, he began an eight-year run as head designer for Jean Paul Gaultier Couture. It was there that Vauthier further pushed himself to develop his skills as a designer and gifted couturier. “It was very challenging, but it was also one of the most rewarding experiences,” he says.
While the French designer’s prêt-à-porter collections offer his laser-sharp tailoring to a more aspirational clientele, it’s haute couture that holds a special place in Vauthier’s heart, and is his favourite to design. “Haute couture is the ultimate vision of fantasy where I can play with extremes. It showcases the artisanal skills of so many of these dedicated seamstresses, tailors, embroiderers, and other specialists who are truly capable of making these beautiful artworks and sculptures by hand,” he attests. “It is—and will continue to be—a true expression of the art and craftsmanship behind the fashion industry.”
By distancing himself from the traditional confines of haute couture, Vauthier has distinguished himself as one of the most influential designers continuing the craft. For him, couture surpasses ball gowns, and should be varied in its execution and purpose. “There are women of all ages and globally from different cultures who are looking to haute couture for special occasions, but also for more modern occasions,” he says.
“[Couture] can be a beautifully tailored tuxedo suit or a cropped ball gown top with denim shorts, like what Kendall Jenner wore to the Cannes Film Festival [this year]”. Like any good—in his case exceptional—couturier, Vauthier is obsessed with the intricacies of fabrics. He credits top ateliers Maison Lesage and Maison Lemarié for elevating his vision every season.
Not one to shy away from challenges, Vauthier recalls his Spring 2017 season’s finale look, which was worn by Jenner and took 1,400 hours to complete, all due to the 17,000 Swarovski stones that had to be applied—all worth it, of course. For Fall 2017, he wanted to focus on a collection that celebrated Paris haute couture, but with a twist. “I really wanted to create the fun and carefree spirit of Studio 54, reviving the excellence and enthusiasm of ’80s haute couture by taking the best from the past, while still advancing forward,” he explains. The high-impact collection felt like Vauthier’s sweet spot, featuring liquid-esque, draped jersey dresses; Parisian polka dots, chapeaus, and a finale look worn by Bella Hadid that redefined concepts of appropriate hemlines.
Some question the importance of haute couture and it’s strength as an institution. Rightfully so, with a skyrocketing price point, it feels incredibly inaccessible and out of reach for most. That said, thanks to forward-thinking couturiers like Alexandre Vauthier, the future of haute couture has never been brighter. His focus on innovative fabrics and techniques, coupled with his innate sense of fit and social media presence, has modernized and disrupted the industry, and in many ways, made it relevant again.