What a year it has been for Christine Chiu. The Beverly Hills native struck fame globally just over 12 months ago when Bling Empire, the Netflix show she starred in and is a producer of, went viral. Chiu, loved or hated for her on-screen character which is competitive, brutally honest with tongue-in-cheek humor, was undoubtedly one of the most memorable cast. Chiu’s love for couture not only formed a great part of the storyline, but also became a signature thing she is known for.
“I developed my love and appreciation for haute couture in my late twenties, when I first attended the Chanel show, and have been collecting from almost all of the houses since then.” Fast forward to Paris Couture Week 2022, Chiu flies in from Los Angeles as the fashion event resumes its buzzing glory,
As opposed to 14-15 shows she’d attend in previous years, there are only 6 on Chiu’s schedule this season: Chanel, Dior, Valentino, Fendi, Schiaparelli and Gaultier.
When asked about which show she was the most excited to see and which she enjoyed the most, Chiu does not hesitate, confirming Schiaparelli is the one that exceeded all her expectations. “In previous years, I have missed Schiaparelli due it being at the top of couture week, just when I am touching down into Paris.” Chiu explains that she was able to alter her travel itinerary to ensure she did not miss the show again.
“The collection was figuratively and literally out of this world with its unique craftsmanship and surprise design elements. The creativity and fantasy in the collection is very much couture.” Chiu gushes about the most recent collection shown by Schiaparelli.
An avid collector, Chiu’s appreciation for couture goes beyond just “the construction, fit, and exclusivity”: “One of the most important differences between couture and RTW for me is the experience. In haute couture, you are courted by the house, provided opportunities to intimately learn about the pieces and people involved, and spend many moments shaping the looks you purchase to your own body and lifestyle.”
For this trip to Paris, Chiu’s selected outfits which she donned attending various shows have been widely acknowledged by the likes of Vogue and more. From the dramatic Schiaparelli cropped button-up jacket with floor length, poetically billowing cape, to the elegant, simple little black dress defined by Valentino complimented by the oversized feather hat and old-fashioned, elbow-length white satin gloves, to the checkered blazer and skirt look in classic Christian Dior silhouette, Chiu has nailed the Parisian lookbook with only a few color tones.
With the pandemic lingering over the past two years, the fashion industry had to change and adapt fast. How does couture today differ from couture pre-pandemic in Chiu’s opinion as a collector?
One word — better.
“As a result of the pandemic, couture shows have become more limited and intimate if shown in person. I love this! Just before the pandemic, some of the couture shows were starting to feel like RTW — with massive crowds and lacked personal connectivity. The intimacy and exclusivity of midst-pandemic couture shows is reminiscent of the ‘golden ages’ of couture, where presentations took place for a very small and carefully selected group of clients and notables in the houses’ respective salons.” Chiu further explains: “Valentino couture, for instance, only invited 10 of their top clients worldwide this season. Exclusivity is an essential part of the haute couture DNA.”
Ever the articulate speaker who’s not shy from expressing her opinions, Chiu also touches on the much-debated topic of high fashion and sustainability. “Couture is, in my opinion, quintessentially more sustainable than RTW — i.e. very limited quantities in production, man/hand-made vs. mass-manufactured. Couture’s uniqueness, creativity, and quality all encourage multiple wears, meaning less consumption.” Nevertheless, to Chiu, couture needs to evolve further in light of the rise of sustainability and consumer awareness on environmental impact of fashion in general. “To my understanding, the sourcing of special materials and fabrics for haute couture is focused on acquiring the very ‘best’. If we change that focus from sourcing from the very ‘best’ or ‘highest quality’ to obtaining materials and fabrics that represent ‘the very best for our environment,’ we will be taking steps towards a brighter future.”
Having been a fan of Chiu’s hilarious, at times punchy one-liners on her Netflix show (her slimmed down couture week schedule was partially due to filming taking place during the same time for the second season), I couldn’t help delving a bit deeper in what Christine Chiu really is like off-screen. When asked about the one thing people may find surprising about her, Chiu says: “I am very much introverted and prefer to spend time reading and writing vs. attending parties and events. With regards to haute couture, I prefer learning about the history of the house, designer, collection, pieces, designers’ inspirations, people and teams involved with each brand, rather than actually wearing the looks. I purchase haute couture foremost for the education and experience. Secondly, for the collectability of pieces in hopes of one day donation to a museum collection, and lastly, to be able to wear it.”