Ever since it started in the 19th century, the royals and the blue-blooded have been customizing their wardrobe in a way to uphold their special status in the society. Lavish gowns are made by the best couturiers for important occasions like weddings or anniversaries. While that was in the past, the new and the most important clients of couture today are none other than the high-flying socialites and heiresses with a finicky taste in fashion. Think Daphne Guiness and Nan Kempner.
Couture in the 21st century is much less a signifier of royal status, and more of a representation of power and position, where women can own the highest of fashion if they have what it takes. From that, it groups them into a special class of people: the elites.
Other than financial power, donning a piece of couture also enable them to express their sense of well-dressing which would then reflect onto their image.
Though it still sound like elitism, nowadays everyone can appreciate couture with just a click. Once pictures of the newest collections are out, comments and critics would flood in. People from industry professionals to starters can have their tongues in the discussion and judge the pieces whether is it bravo or boo.
Has couture’s image been ruined by technology? Well, let’s just say that it has greater media and community involvement now.
Here are five facts you need to know about couture:
THE BIRTH OF COUTURE
It started in 1858, when English designer Charles Frederic Worth’s work involved one-of-a-kind high-end pieces that are exquisite in details, expensive in fabric and exclusive in custom-fitting. The term Haute Couture, which means “high fashion” or “high dressmaking” in French, was created and it slowly became a well-defined standard for luxury and artistic fashion.
HOW TO BECOME COUTURE
The rules and regulations needed for a house to be included in the couture membership are protected by law in France and they are:
1) A studio in Paris with 15 full-time employees and participate in the couture fashion week each season. Presentation of the collection to the Paris press must comprise at least thirty-five runs with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.
2) At least 75 pieces of work (including non-clothing items) have to be designed by the chief designer.
3) Every single piece has to be limited in quantity and handmade.
4) Design made-to-order for private clients, with a few fittings.
THE STATISTICS OF COUTURE
Approximately 500 fashionable women in this world are able to afford and become regular customers of Haute Couture.
A piece of couture clothing needs about 100 hours to complete. For those with embroideries, it takes around 1000 hours.
A couture gown needes around 50 people to complete.
The price of one couture item runs from £10,000 to £50,000 , but by today’s standard, it has already gone beyond that figure.
THE ROLE OF COUTURE
Even though design houses hardly make a profit from selling couture collections, the main reason for creating couture is to ‘sell a dream’. Not only does it enhance the prestige of the house as the fashion show attracts huge media attention and gain enormous publicity, it also keeps the magic of artistic fashion alive.
HOUSES THAT WERE ONCE HAUTE COUTURE MEMBERS
Yves Saint Laurent
Fall/Winter 08/09 Haute Couture fashion week starts on 30 June.