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Every year Paris Couture Fashion Week displays the devastatingly beautiful creations that we later see draped across the world’s most famous at all the popular awards ceremonies. This year’s Oscars didn’t disappoint with notable praise going to Jennifer Lawrence’s simple, elegant, and stunning Dior couture gown. Couture was also worn by Zoe Saldana in Alexis Mabille and Sandra Bullock in Elie Saab. While we can pass many an hour drooling over these beautiful creations in magazines I hear you ask the question; what is the point of couture when a single gown is likely to set you back more than a yearly wage?
This custom service, which literally translates to “high sewing,” first came about in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century. It’s roots have firmly remained there thanks to the Chambre de Commerce et D’Industrie de Paris, who compose a yearly list of which fashion houses are eligible by law to be classified as Haute Couture. The list not only comprises of official members (French national houses) but also correspondent members (foreign houses) who must all adhere to rules laid out by the Chambre which include having a workshop in Paris, along with presenting collections there.
Despite prices being unarguably high, so too are the costs; metres of the most luxurious fabrics and embellishments, constructed with the highest level of detail, at the hands of the most talented in the industry. Couturiers insist they do not make a penny out of their designs, seeming to question further the relevance of these pricey creations. However, Couture isn’t about the economical or rational, it’s about luxury and fantasy creations that allow the designer freedom over creativity, which is essentially what fashion should be about. Couture commands press attention from its image and exclusivity and ultimately drives sales to the more profitable ready-to-wear lines. Despite the need for Haute Couture, designers themselves are beginning to question the long-term prospects, many fashion houses do not see a future for it. Nonetheless the likes of Dior claim their order books are full, and while the lack of profit remains, so does their determination to continue producing dream garments.
I can’t afford a Couture gown and probably never will, but every time I apply my Chanel lipstick, I, like millions of women, have bought a little piece of the Couture dream. For me the death knell of Haute Couture will have tragic consequences impacting the industries heritage, future, and design talent.