29 January 2015

The Magical World of Haute Couture

Socialites of Paris as well as buyers from Russia, China and the Middle East have descended upon Paris for Haute Couture Week. Once requisite for opulent Parisians in the 19th century, couture houses offered custom-made clothing to ensure that the highly unfavourable situation, in which someone else is wearing the same outfit as yourself, was very much avoided. The luxuriant air of exclusivity still surrounds Haute Couture, with austere regulations in place to protect the majestic tradition. A fashion house is only an Haute Couture label if it maintains the standards of near perfection, required by the French Department of Industry and the Fédération Française de la Couture. A designer must produce custom garments for private clients and offer fittings as well as hold in their possession a workshop in Paris employing at least 20 staff. Lastly, the design house must present two collections a year - in January and July - including at least 35 separate outfits for day and evening wear.

Of course items which are designed specifically to your measurements are going to be expensive, however price points of Haute Couture collections has consequently made it a niche industry. Pieces can take 700 hours and then some to create which is evidenced by the exorbitant price tag. Staff employed to produce these garments are artisans. Complete masters of their craft, they hold often rare skill-sets which allow them to create these pieces by hand, to the very highest of unrealistic standards. Daywear pieces are priced at around £8,000, with evening and formal wear greatly superseding that. 

Chosen fabrics are of unimaginably high quality and the use of rare materials, intricate embellishments and glistening jewels all add to the list of costs to produce these individual garments. Only around 2000 women in the world buy couture clothes with a mere 200 being regular clients. This results in companies often working at a loss which leaves you asking, why do they continue to serve as a Haute Couture house?

The answer of course lies in the end product. The pieces are simply breathtaking. When watching a Haute Couture show, not once do you consider how easily she could descend a staircase in that flowing, angelic gown; or how she can possibly breathe in a corset made of delicate feathers, sourced from deep within the Amazonian rainforest; not even how impractical those diamond-encursted shoes are. It's a form of escapism through garments that are simply not the reality of the fashion industry. Attention to detail is something that's so often bypassed in a world of technological processes, mass-production and disposable fashion. Haute Couture allows brands to portray their true creative ideologies with no limitations. Precisely the way it should be.