It’s that time of year again where magical creations grace down the catwalks in Paris and leave us all in complete awe as we look down to our uninspiring jeans and turtleneck combo. That being said, couture is hardly appropriate for everyday wear. A Valentino silk gown doesn’t exactly scream 9am lecture or a fairytale worthy Elie Saab tulle masterpiece isn’t the most practical thing to pop to the shops in when you’re out of milk. That being said however, we still lust over the latest couture because it is literally ART.
What is haute couture I hear you say? The term “haute couture” is French. Haute means “high” or “elegant.” Couture means “sewing,” but has come to indicate the business of designing, creating, and selling custom-made, high fashion women’s clothes. It’s not as simple as just designing and creating for a customer, however, there are strict regulations. To be termed a haute couture house, a business must belong to the Syndical Chamber for Haute Couture in Paris, which is regulated by the French Department of Industry. Members must employ 15 or more people and present their collections twice a year. Each presentation must include at least 35 separate outfits for day and eveningwear.
The syndicate has around 18 members, including Coco Chanel, Christian Dior and Pierre Cardin. They generate more than $1 billion in annual sales and employ close to 5,000 people, including 2,200 seamstresses. Made from scratch for each customer, haute couture clothing typically requires three fittings. It usually takes from 100 to 400 hours to make one dress, costing from $26,000 to over $100,000.
Today only 2,000 women in the world buy couture clothes, but only 200 of those are regular customers. Often, designers will loan clothes to film stars or other public figures for publicity. Back in 1958 an English couturier, Charles Frederick Worth, established the first haute couture house in Paris, providing exclusive luxury fashion for the upper-class woman, but it wasn’t until 1908 when the phrase “haute couture” was first used.
Since then, fashion history is made year on year as new season couture continually improves in both design and technique. Last year, in one of the most memorable fashion moments, Karl Lagerfeld staged the Fendi AW16 couture show on the Trevi Fountain in Rome. To celebrate the house’s 90th anniversary, the models in the show walked on water for the ‘Legends and Fairytales’, including Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid.
This year, we have been wowed by every fashion house and it’s hard to see exactly what stands apart from the rest. Lily-Rose Depp dominated our Instagram feeds as industry designers, journalists, stylists, bloggers and fashion lovers snapped and reblogged the infamous photo of her in the pink tulle dress. Dolce and Gabbana to Valentino, each piece made my heart burst with joy.
There was one collection that sticks out in my mind, though it’s more for the reasoning behind the collection just as much as the final product. John Galliano combined art and fashion simultaneously with his Artisanal collection for Maison Margiela. He captured how now ‘reality’ is veiled in a technological bubble, which is left to the viewer to interpret.
You realise that John Galliano has absolutely no interest in being the latest thing. Instead, he’s committed to the timelessness of couture. So, if selfie culture is all about building up a perfect image ‘in the moment’, with filters, Galliano deliberately de-filtered his designs. The most perfect moment in the collection was the face constructed in tulle by artist Benjamin Shine, bursting out of a long white coat, which looked almost Picasso-esque.