This week Paris welcomes a new season of Haute Couture, an annual parade of intricate embellishment, ruffles, bustles and the first Schiaparelli runway show by new creative director, Marco Zanini. To celebrate, AnOther is looking to homegrown fans of the art, namely the couture and antique vintage collectors of London. From Grays Antiques, Rellik and Tin Tin Collectables (Alfie’s Antiques) to Jane Bourvis’ vintage bridalwear and Virginia Bates’ renowned emporium, London houses a wealth of couture that tells a tale of opulent dress tracing back over a century.
“Everything is so fast and disposable and couture is the exact opposite of that,” explains Sophie Merchant of Merchant Archive, Notting Hill. “The allure of the couture world is in the many hands that have worked a garment.” Merchant, whose family are Somerset farmers, initially started selling from her home, where a chance meeting led to Sienna and Savannah Miller being her first customers.
"The allure of the couture world is in the many hands that have worked a garment"
“I guess I started collecting in my early 20s, particularly Victorian trim. I inherited an incredible 1920s Azute dress with Victorian jet spiders on the hips. I was sat beside Mr Pearl when I was wearing it at the Crazy Horse and he fell in love with the dress, which led to a day spent together in my store admiring the couture nature of vintage garments and the handle of Victorian silk velvet. It was one of the most special moments of my career.”
“The first dress I purchased was a 1960s Sarmi ballgown,” recalls William Banks-Blaney, who founded WilliamVintage, Marylebone in 2009. “A wonderful, modernist, luxurious thing which I sold to a great friend for her wedding dress.” Other memorable pieces include a 1967 Chanel suit hand-stitched by Coco for one of her best friends, a 1965 Courrèges mini photographed for Vogue in that year and a 1947 Dior suit from the ‘Bar’ collection. “Those are the great couture moments but I have equally found some crazy, wild, unlabeled pieces on my travels that I have loved just as much.”
“Couture is a vital part of the fashion industry as while it is incredibly niche and terribly expensive, it allows creative freedom,” Blaney states. “It is the idea from which all pret-a-porter is born and it is a true form of art.”
Here, AnOther present a gallery of some of the magazine's finest vintage and couture moments, featuring pieces from Merchant Archive, Rellik and Grey's Antiques amongst others.
Text by Mhairi Graham