Paris Haute Couture AW 2020

New Drawings for a New Era

In conversation with artist Richard Haines

Chanel Haute Couture AW 2020 by Richard Haines

New York-based fashion illustrator Richard Haines sketched his favourites silhouettes from the AW 2020 Haute Couture collections in a new series titled ‘New Drawings for a New Era’, a project commissioned by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM).

Known for his on-the-go charcoal sketches capturing fashion moments from the streets of New York to the Paris runways, Haines worked on a small collection of drawings illustrating his singular vision of the couture houses’ virtual presentations. “Every designer is sending a message, my goal is to find out what the message is,” Haines told A Magazine. “Couture is wonderful to draw because it is by nature an exaggeration, a dream”.

‘New Drawings for a New Era’ gives a fresh perspective on Haute Couture by adapting the age old tradition of fashion illustration to the digital age. “When I told friends 10 years ago I was going into illustration, they thought I was crazy”. Surprisingly, his practice has found a new momentum today, despite the increasingly mobile consumption of fashion in the digital age. Faced with this apparent oxymoron, Haines places his practice in the bigger picture: “I think because people are exposed to so much digital content, illustration provides a refreshing contrast. It’s a very human connection that can’t be replaced. An illustrator can edit in a way that lets the viewer fill in with their imagination – I love that interaction.”

Chanel Haute Couture AW 2020

Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture SS 1988

Dior Haute Couture AW 2020 from ‘Le Mythe Dior’

Dior Haute Couture AW 2020 from ‘Le Mythe Dior’

Dior Haute Couture AW 2020 from ‘Le Mythe Dior’

RVDK Haute Couture AW 2020

Amalia Vairelli wearing Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture SS 1982

Suzy Parker wearing Givenchy Haute Couture, 1953, from a photograph by John Rawlings for Vogue

The sketches include silhouettes from the Dior, Chanel, Valentino and Ronald Van Der Kemp collections. “My choice of silhouettes is really emotional and instinctive. I knew the flounced dress from Chanel would be great to draw because of the exaggerated shapes”. Haines illustrated Ronald van der Kemp’s collage-like silhouette using a mix of oil crayons and colored pencils. The Chanel silhouette, as well as the other sketches from the series – including a selection of three images from the ‘Le Mythe Dior’ film – were completed using a nib pencil, India ink and acrylic paint. All sketches were posted daily on the FHCM online platform during Haute Couture week.

Haines also chose to dive into fashion archives and revive legendary dresses from two major Haute Couture houses that didn’t appear on this season’s schedule. These included the house of Givenchy, absent due to new scheduling following Matthew Williams’ recent appointment as creative director, and Yves Saint Laurent, who presented his very last Haute Couture collection for Spring 2002. Narrowing down his choice to two looks, Haines selected Saint Laurent’s famous SS 1988 Picasso-inspired Cubist dress and his SS 1982 India Collection evening ensemble worn by model Amalia Vairelli. He explained this inspiration by his recent interest in French literature: “As I get older I’ve become more interested in the history of fashion. I started reading 19th century French literature, Zola and Balzac, and that just fed my interest in the significance of clothes.”

Valentino Haute Couture AW 2020

Valentino Haute Couture AW 2020

Valentino Haute Couture AW 2020

Valentino Haute Couture AW 2020

Valentino’s creative director and A Magazine N°20 curator Pierpaolo Piccioli presented his ‘Of Grace and Light’ collection days after the official calendar week drew to a close, with a live performance at the Cinecittà studios in Rome. Haines and Piccioli go back a long way, and the Italian designer proudly hangs numerous sketches from the American illustrator in his Nettuno home. “The first time I saw a collection by Pierpaolo for Valentino I was just astounded at the beauty – the shapes, the colors, the historical illusions – I couldn’t wait to get to my drawing table to document it”. As an extension to the ‘New Drawings for a New Era’ series, Haines sketched four of the all-white, 5-metre-long, aerial Valentino silhouettes presented as a collaborative effort with photographer Nick Knight.

Words: Maxime Der Nahabédian

All drawings by Richard Haines for Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode.

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