Another London-based couturier, Deborah Milner, who for many years worked with Alexander McQueen and since 2004 has been a consultant with the house, opened her own small studio a couple of years ago in London’s Pimlico, where she makes exquisite pieces (from about £5,000) for her band of faithful clients. Milner believes the new wave of fashion designers and talented graduates keen to work in couture are key factors in its revival, along with their enthusiasm for reimagining couture for the modern age. “They are interested in the craft, they want to learn how to do it and to make beautiful things,” she says. “It’s not just about the sketches – they want to learn all about pattern making, the cut, the finishing details.”
As for couture’s appeal to its new generation of clients, Milner says, “It’s about showcasing the artistry of couture. Being able to have something unique that can’t be easily copied. The high-end, ready-to-wear designs are imitated so quickly and cheaply by high-street chains. Our challenge is to adapt designs and make them relevant to today’s world.”
Giles Deacon duchess silk and ostrich feather dress, price on request
Milner started out working with Philip Treacy at the late Isabella Blow’s house and there she was introduced to women who became her clients; many are still with her today. Perhaps the best known is Daphne Guinness, who has been a fan for over 20 years. “She is one of the few people I know who actually understands how a piece of clothing should be made,” says Guinness. “She is an architect. She is one of a kind, an artist. She’s up there with Vionnet, Madame Grès and McQueen.”
Her clients come to her mostly for suits, jackets, tailcoats (she’s made an extraordinary one covered in sequins for Guinness) or evening dresses and she has a host of specialist artisans she turns to for the embroidery, beading and handmade lace.