Have you heard of Haute Couture? I’m pretty sure you have. What do you feel when you purchase something from a store whose name has Couture at the end. I’m sure you get a good feeling of prestige and exclusivity. We live in a world of misused labels, musings and really good marketing strategies.
Where does this term come from? Haute Couture pronounced \ˌōt-ku̇-ˈtu̇r\. Listen here. Haute is the French word for “High” and “Couture” means dressmaking. It is a term used to describe a garment that is exclusively made by highly skilled seamstresses using top quality fabric. Now, holding truth to those words is not a business for everyone.
Do you know who this man is? Not a painter, if that is what you thought. But close enough.
He invented "Haute Couture". He was English and lived from 1826-1895. You see there was a time when women from New York and other parts of the world would travel to Paris(saying that with a French accent) to get the latest and the best of the best. So, how did "Haute Couture" start? I hope you don't mind I share some romance. Charles, after being hired by well known Parisian Drapers, he married one of the models, Marie Vernet.
He then started designing and making clothing for her. Soon people started inquiring about them. Well, that is not where "Haute Couture" took off. After getting some funding to his idea for high dressmaking, famous women from across the world traveled to him for his trendsetting ideas and superb work that flattered their siloutte with top quality fabrics. He did something that if you are seamstress would know that takes headaches away. Instead of letting the customer instruct the design, he made a couple of shows yearly with his designs and women would just chose what they liked.
This is some of his work.
pictures via Met Museum.
Back to "Haute Couture" Now, to some really interesting facts about it. Did you know that in order to use the label of "Haute Couture" in France you have to meet certain criteria. Yep! or otherwise you are breaking the law. So, why is the rest of the world using it? Well, other then the apparent fact that it only applies within France, maybe the answer is greedy business practices and aggressive marketing. Wait! almost forgot, people's lack of knowledge. So, what's the criteria to use the labe 'Haute Couture'? A design house must have its private clientele who need to have one or two fittings, have a shop in Paris that employs at least 15 people, and twice a year present a collection to the Paris press with at least 35 outfits that include evening and daytime wear. Tops standards to meet, wouldn't you agree?
So, what does "Haute Couture" look like?
Something like this, but not limited to.
Elie Saab also a member. Picture via Ib Times.
Now, this makes one think and do some comparison. It is clear that the the label of "Haute Couture" has come a long way and somewhere down the road is loosing its meaning of exclusiveness and excellent quality of fabric and workmanship due to the saturated and misuse of the label by shops, greedy business people, people who lack knowledge and some unethical marketing people who all ride on our emotions. And in the same road consumers are getting confused of what "Haute Couture" really means. So, let's just get it very clear: Haute Couture clothes are completely handmade by highly skilled dressmakers that have been trained and schooled using the best quality of fabric and are not made by the masses. By the way that drapery, intricate cuts and folds we see, not any seamstress is able to pull it off. It requires highly skilled dressmakers.
"Haute Couture" designs have revulotionized throughout time and members of private Haute Couture clubs have deminish. If you want to see a bit on the inside of what Haute Couture is really about, I recommend this documentary here. Who knows if it will ever make a full come back. The members of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture are countable now and many designers have seized their Haute Couture lines because it is quite expensive and the profit is less versus making more practical clothing that are ready-to-wear and mass produced. The world is taking a more relaxed approach at cloth making, wearing and business men are becoming more greedy leaving us with just a sold feeling of the labels.
Maybe some designers and clothing business people throw this label around without really knowing what it means. Maybe for the sake of relating their clothing to the glamours and exclusivity stigma that the term'fashion' and 'Paris' bring on. Maybe others use this label to work on their customers wallets through their feelings. Or maybe "Haute Couture" is revolutionizing to a completely new meaning. What I suggest? Enforcing the same law of "Haute Couture" in France throughout the world. Then again my thought might just be a musing. Well, at least now you know some standards to be met when it comes to the use of any or part of the term Haute Couture. What do you think?