Haute Couture tells the story of Esther (Nathalie Baye) being retired from her position as head seamstress at Dior Avenue Montaigne workshop in Paris. One day Esther has her handbag stolen on the metro, by none other than our protagonist, Jade (Lyna Khoudri). Jade is compelled to return the bag because of Esther’s gold ‘Star of David’ necklace. She believes in the superstition of stealing religious icons bringing bad luck. Not wanting to take any chances she returns it to Esther and instead of calling the police, Esther puts Jade’s nimble fingers to work as an intern in the workshop.
This is Sylvie Ohayon’s second feature film. It showcases the importance of passing on skills, hard work and women helping each other succeed and allows for the dynamic representation of the mother-daughter relationship. The theme of ‘motherhood’ is shown examined through a range of situations, with Jade’s own mother struggling with depression and Jade having to mother her; to Esther having no relationship with her own daughter and using Jade to almost fill that void in her life. It showcases a humane side and why she trusted Jade to continue in the atelier. One thing that struck me was the dedication at the end of the film, ‘To Jade’. Jade is Sylvie’s own daughter, who Sylvie had a tricky relationship with during her teenage years and this is certainly reflected within the film.
What is refreshing about the film is Ohayan’s ability to display socio-cultural issues such as class and race, while not being wildly out of depth and obvious. The juxtaposition between the well-known, Parisian landscape and the ‘banlieue’, the outer suburbs of Paris is noticeable. With Jade being of Arabic background and the Dior atelier being predominantly white, Jade feels out of place. This is indicated by her quick-witted remarks about race and religion throughout the film. You can’t help but fall in love with Jade (and her quick-witted remarks) as soon as she understands the dedication required to be a seamstress. The love that is shown throughout the scenes allows the audience to be drawn in by the craft of Jade’s own personal journey. We soon realise that Esther gave Jade an opportunity to find a skill, leading her away from a life of crime.
Haute Couture is a beautiful, funny and heartfelt story about love, passion and finding your craft. Out in cinemas nationally from June 30.
Words: Claudia Floros