In the aftermath of the Galliano scandal, this season's haute couture has been met with tense anticipation by fashion's insiders. How on earth would couture look with the industry's greatest showman out of the picture? But last weekend, just before couture week kicked off in Paris, it received some great free advertising. First of all a rock 'n' wedding featuring fashion royalty, and then a real royal wedding, where the bride and guests were dressed head to foot in in the stuff.
Couture represents only the top of the fashion food chain. It serves a tiny number of Arabian princesses and oligarchs' wives who will think little of spend the average family's income on a cocktail frock, and yet it remains essential to the fashion ecosystem. And here are five reasons why it shouldn't go anywhere:
1. It's the ultimate showcase for star designers like Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld, Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci and Giorgio Armani. Near limitless resources and an army of workers assigned to execute a single garment allow designers to realise their visions in ways that would be impossible within the cut and thrust commericialism of ready-to-wear. It allows space for experimentation, for superior and often truly innovative fabrics and fabric treatments, dyes and trimmings, leading to mind-boggling cutting, embroidery and hand stitching details.
2. This is slow fashion. Haute couture's offering might seem excessive, but when "wear it once, throw it away" rules apply to the modern fashion mindset, it's pretty unique as an area of the industry where quality usurps quantity. Buying haute couture might even be seen by the super-rich as an investment (just don't dwell too long on the "price per wear" policy).
3 .There is also a veil of mystery surrounding haute couture: The women who regularly buy it never advertise themselves (très vulgar), while the fashion houses will not reveal their client lists. If you go to a couture show, you get a PROPER seat (not even a bench). Everyone is dressed impeccably but without the please-photograph-me-because-I'm-wearing-a-gimp-mask insecurity that permeates the audience at ready to wear shows. It's like stepping back to the initimacy of Christian Dior's atelier in the 1940s.
4. Many of the orders placed will not even hit the red carpet, and instead serves their purpose as tailored suits for billionaire wives, but haute couture shows have a 'trickle down' effect on everything within the fashion house, from ready-to-wear collections to nail polish. This is where trends start because it's a platform that gives designers the space for experimentation. The latest It models and fashion's new silhouette, colours and themes will all be there.
5. Haute couture might generate next to no profit to the small number of houses granted the highly covetable title, but its prestige is actually part of a much bigger business strategy. The more outrageous the piece, the more publicity they will get. And that almost always leads to higher sales in the designer's ready-to-wear collections, which can often include more affordable and wearable versions of couture pieces. This goes back all the way to infinitely more accesible makeup and perfume. And these are what really make the coffers sing. And, cynical as it might sound, that's really the whole point isn't it?
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