Last week we were treated to the couture shows in Paris, where designers like Iris van Herpen and Jean-Paul Gaultier presented their exquisite one-off creations, all of which seemed to be just aching to grace the red carpet.
These delectable pieces were made to wear this winter, as haute couture gowns can take between one to three months to make, and usually require up to three fittings, so if you want something for this winter, the order needs to be placed now.
unlike ready-to-wear, haute couture is often made exclusively for a specific client, tailored specifically to the wearer's measurements and body stance. In fact, in the hay day of couture, designers used dummy's that exactly replicated their clients’ figures, stoops, bulges, lumps and all.
Haute couture .is protected by law, with the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture (Trade Association of High Fashion) acting as "The regulating commission that determines which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses.". Their rules state that only "those companies mentioned on the list drawn up each year by a commission domiciled at the Ministry for Industry are entitled to avail themselves of the haute couture label."
Being on said list is a true honour for any fashion designer, and will remain so as long as Parisian high-fashion still reign supreme. But of course, the application process and the acceptance into the fold, is based on a strict and select set of criteria, including the presentation of a collection 50 original designs that feature both daywear and evening garments. Personally, I didn’t see anything that I would categorise as daywear on the catwalks, but I guess in that client bracket it's subjective.
Designers who make the haute couture cut must also have an atelier in Paris that employs at least 15 full-time staff members, and has at least 20 full-time technical employees. So, it's not surprising that the cost of these beaded beauties can start at 280,000 euros for evening wear.
Being invited to one of these shows is a quasi-mystical experience and sends frissons of excitement all over my body.
The materials used for these spectacularly surreal and magical pieces come from purveyors of the crème-de-la-crème. Lemarié for the very best quality exotic feathers; Lesage for the finest and most intricately detailed embroidery; Jean Bracq for the most delicate lace – the list goes on. And of course, all of these materials are crafted lovingly by hand.
In fact, although Jean Paul Gaultier does have other lines in perfumes and interiors, at the spring/summer 2015 show, he announced that he was closing the ready-to-wear labels to focus solely on haute couture.
The exclusive world of haute couture is not accessible to all of us, which is part of its unique appeal and mystery. And due to the pricing of the pieces, recently the haute couture clients have been mainly the high-net-worth elite in India, Russia and Brazil, Korea and New York.
Due to the intensive workmanship and the cost that goes into creating the one-off pieces, haute couture is not a direct money maker for a Maison, (in fact quite the opposite), however, these whimsical and often extravagant works of art do serve to raise
a brand’s status, and allows the designer to let their imagination and creativity run wild, creating unique pieces that help to fund the continuity of some of the world’s finest workmanship.
And although we can’t all afford these beautiful garments, just being at the shows, marvelling at the stunning pieces, and maybe buying just a little trinket from the label – like a perfume or an accessory – still makes you part of the magic.
Article published in La Provincia july 14th