Redefining Haute Couture: Michaela Stark’s Radical Designs and Body Acceptance

When thinking about couture, especially haute couture, names like Dior, Balenciaga, or Chanel might come to mind, but few people truly understand what haute couture means and where it originates. In this article, we delve into the world of Australian designer Michaela Stark, who not only challenges the long-established rules of haute couture but also redefines societal beauty standards. Her extraordinary lingerie pieces celebrate and accentuate perceived imperfections, serving as radical acts of body acceptance and self-love.

Before we introduce you to the fabulous Michaela Stark, here’s a little description of what haute couture is all about:

Understanding Haute Couture

Explanation: Haute couture, derived from the French term for ‘high dressmaking,’ represents the pinnacle of fashion craftsmanship. Garments that qualify as haute couture must adhere to strict rules set by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, a governing body under the French Ministry of Industry. These rules include creating made-to-order garments for private clients, requiring multiple fittings in a Parisian atelier staffed by at least fifteen full-time employees. Additionally, designers must showcase a collection of at least 50 original designs during the biannual haute couture week in Paris.


Introducing Michaela Stark

Background: Australian designer Michaela Stark stands apart from traditional haute couture practitioners. She challenges the established rules of the industry, earning the title of ‘counter couturier.’ Stark’s work not only defies conventional norms but also questions society’s beauty standards, celebrating the very aspects that conventional designers often seek to hide or make people feel insecure about.

The London-based designer creates extraordinary lingerie pieces, which don’t cover up but accentuate perceived imperfections, such as back rolls, fat in general, body hair, uneven features, bumps, etc. Her designs can be seen as radical acts of body acceptance and self-love – two concepts that are often used ineffectually for advertising strategies in the fashion industry.

Although Michaela uses the same techniques as her couturier colleagues, she uses them with an inherently different goal in mind and might even achieve the exact opposite to the mainstream. For example, some of her corsets, she laces in the front, while some of her other garments squeeze and crave into the fleshy bits of her body. Furthermore, she juxtaposes these extreme almost grotesque silhouettes she creates with very fragile and soft materials, like silk, organza, crystals, and flowers.

Michaela Stark’s designs are certainly not ready-to-wear, they are an extravagant fantasy with an important aim and message. Her lingerie creates an alternative reality, maybe even an escape from a world, in which bodies are judged, subjected, and prejudiced. Her couture is based on her personal experiences and shows what the work of self-love with an approach to haute couture can look like.