As Grazia's style director, Paula Reed, sets off for the couture shows in Paris, she reflects on how couture will cope in troubled economic times and what it's really like seeing tens of thousands of pounds of gown go down the catwalk. Paula will be tweeting live from Paris and reporting on the shows, news and moments too fabulous to miss here all week. So check back for regular updates.
8.30am, Monday 6 July: am sitting in the Pain Quotidien café in St Pancras station drinking a bowl(!) of tea and waiting for my train to Paris for three blissed-out days of fashion fabulousness. It's the couture! Seven shows in three days. It's practically like being on holiday!
The couture is fashion's most exclusive club. Even at the best of times (pre-Madoff, pre-crunch) there were estimated to be a mere 200 customers in the world able to pay the stratospheric sums for outfits lovingly crafted over hundreds of painstaking hours by specialists in dying arts. Goodness knows how many there are now. It hardly matters.
There was a time when couture was justified as research and development for the more accessible ready-to-wear: the Formula 1 of fashion, if you like. Now it's hard to imagine that factories in far flung provinces of China, who churn out hundreds of garments a day, could possibly be interested in learning anything from the men and women who make a living producing one exquisite outfit in a month.
So, what I am coming to the Paris couture for is nothing more than the most fantastic fashion moments in the business; tear-jerking gorgeousness and the opportunity to dress up at 11 in the morning like nothing so pedantic as deadlines or pressure or stress even existed. In the genteel world of couture, no one queue-barges, everyone smiles, says please and thank you, provides thoughtful little gestures like fans on your seat in case it gets hot, and delicious dainty macaroons in rainbow colours in case you get hungry.
And then there are the 1,000 people whose awe inspiring skills would be redundant if the couture didn't exist to employ them. Frankly, in a world where everything is increasingly disposable, I am full of admiration for the individual who can make dreams by hand. Christian Dior is my first show today, pretty much as soon as I get to Paris. More soon...