Haute couture is known for it’s luxury, extravagance and luxurious fabrics, so when times are hard how does high fashion fair? What are the pros and cons of going the high fashion way?
Haute couture focuses on the creation of unique hand made garments tailored for specific clients with great emphasis on attention to detail with no compromise on acquiring the highest quality materials. The term was originally used in the 19th Century and in France it continues to be a protected name that can only be used by the most refined fashion houses. With the dawn of the 1950’s and the big depression, Haute couture fashion seen as impractical, took a back seat to prêt-a porter, ready to wear designs. The spending boom of the 90’s saw its return but with the recent recession a focus on traditional lines has seen this rather expensive line suffer.
The elite fashion houses that continue Haute couture designs today must follow specific standards which include making made to order designs for private clients, owning a workshop in Paris and presenting a collection of least 35 unique creations twice a year. Official members include Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior and Givenchy.
One of the distinct advantages of Haute couture, if you can afford to commission a garment, is that you will own something that is unique and unlike any other. Some pieces have been kept in families for generations and can often be auctioned for considerable amounts of money.
Many Haute couture garments are beautiful and the shows are spectacularly theatrical but such garments could never really be worn out to a restaurant unless you were really eccentric. That being said you would own a garment that has been especially made to fit your body and not bought one of a clothing rack.
However, Jean Paul Gaultier is famous for blurring gender divisions by working on creating fine pin striped tailored suits, lacey cravats as neckties and stunning cufflinks reminiscent of the 18th Century. Such concepts which became popular in the 80’s have filtered down into mainstream collections.
Many fashion designers who work in ready to wear collections have a strong desire to work in Haute couture as it is believed that such collections encourage and not restrict creativity.
During times of recession there is a definite switch to more conservative wear that is not as eccentric or opulent. Some garments are as much as $40,000. An embroidered dress may take up to 1000 hours to complete. The luxury fabrics they work with include cashmere, silk, suede and the more controversial skins and furs. Fashion experts have noted that recent designs produced by the Haute couture elite have toned down considerably.
People who are wealthy continue to buy pieces from Haute couture but ones that don’t look like they have just come off the catwalk. Others will say that during times of difficulty it’s important to continue embracing sumptuous creativity and wear such distinct clothing. Many believe that the future of Haute couture is in the fashion houses ability to balance collections with ready to wear garments.