Evolution Secret of the Haute Couture World
In some normal people mind, they might not know what the word “Haute Couture” means because they are expensive, luxurious and exclusive. Haute Couture is actually strictly defined as “high sewing”, haute couture has evolved from the days when it was invented by the Chambre Syndicale de la Confection et de la couture pour Dames et fillettes which means trade-union room of clothes industry and the seam for ladies and young girls in 1868. (Deborah Bee, Couture in the 21th century, 2010:p7).
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It is about the tailoring- the creation of exclusive, handmade garments, after a series of fittings, to the highest possible standard. In the following parts, it is going to show the secrets, history of the Haute Couture world, the contemporary industry running operation secrets and the future prediction of this niche luxury market by research, interviews from the people buying the dress as well as the designers themselves. History and the start of haute couture Charles Frederick Worth (1826-95),the first “King of Couture”. His styles dominates European aristocratic society in the mid-19th century.
Worth was a Paris-based couturier that turned dressmaking into an art form. He designed spectacular gowns famed for their boldly patterned silks, lavish ornament and the innovative use of fabrics. They became status symbols and fashionable clients from across the world flocked to his salon. “We have Charles Worth to thank for starting it all”, said John Galliano 2010 The system of haute couture evolved that stuck to certain rigid rules,set in place by the chamber Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne, founded in Paris in 1868.
It became the routine for the head of a fashion house to select sketches from a bank of freelance designers. At a outure house’s seasonal presentation- Spring/Summer in Autumn/Winter in July which at least 50 outfits were shoen to an audience made up of customers and authorised buyers. The designs were then made up for the clients or sold as patterns, either in linen or paper. The visual look of the old couture This is the main structure of how the early couture looked like. The top part was called corsets and the bottom was called cage crinoline. Photos taken in V&A by myself With the bases underneath, spectacular garments can be produced. The left one was designed by Charles Worth in 1881, it was made by satin, embroidered with silk, chenille and beads, trimmed with machine lace. The right one was designed by Jean Patou (1880-1936) in 1932-4. It was make bu tulle embroidered with beads. *Photos taken in V&A by myself The Couture industry in the early age High fashion at the beginning of the 20th century was extravagant and luxurious, more and more designers were interested to step into the couture industry.
The most significant couturiers well known until nowadays are Christian Dior, Chanel, Lanvin, YSL and Givenchy. Looking back to the 20s, the most shocking pre-WWI fashion statement came from Coco Chanel, with her sporty trend. Having established couture salons in Paris and the seaside resorts of Deauville and Biarritz, she created lightweight clothes with no linings, employed soft jersey for cardigans and sweaters. Chanel’s impact on couture cannot be underestimated as in 1920, she created a craze for wide-legged trousers and matelot tops. Christian Dior was doing the fitting with the client Talented couturier such as Christobal Balenciaga as the Spanish newspapers reported” women from all over the world cross frontiers to buy his creations during the war years. However, in 1947 the fashion world was presented with a revolution. The “new look” Dior’s created in his debut collection was starting point of a golden age of couture on the international fashion scene. Tiny, corseted waists were accentuated with full, layered skirts and padding over the hips, while jackets and gowns were cut to draw attention to the decollete.
Going onwards, Hubert de Givenchy opened up a couture house in 1952. What was so famous about Givenchy was he has a continue relationship with Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy turned her into a style icon and which made Givenchy determined many of the key trends in the 50s. After decades, the original designers kept passing out and made their first assistants such as Yves Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen and more continue the legacy of Couture.
The Haute Couture World of the 21st Century. While the couture market moves to the new century, there are more mixed modern and other century’s elements have been used in a couture collection. What pathetic is the whole industry has been minimized from 106 in 1946 to only 12 in the latest Haute Couture fashion show of Spring/Summer 2011. Although some of the large brands which used to produce very extraordinary such as Lanvin and YSL have stopped to participate in recent seasons’ couture shows, the rest of them and some new brands are doing a great job.
Nowadays, there are actually a private couture club members which only have 200 members in the world as the price of the gowns are too expensive which only the seriously rich women can afford the price. According to the video “The secret world of haute couture”, it claims that couture is the most expensive clothes for women to buy and one of the buyer said that “Couture are very light nowadays like the second skin which fit on body very perfectly”. Until now, Paris is still the head quarter of Haute Couture because most of the famous couture brands such as Chanel, Jean Paul Gautier and Christian Dior are located in Paris.
Regarding the absolutely expensive price of the couture, why women still willing to pay US$400,000 to buy a dress? The ex-directrice in 1971-2002 of YSL, Baroness Helene de Ludighauser said it is because of the quality, the good reason of purchasing the lavish old couture is because the hand works are extraordinary. How the members and buyer purchase the couture? As to make the club members feel more exiting and looking forward to the couture show, the theme of every brand is the “top secret”.“Focus religion type of movement to create couture” said by Ralph Rucci, an American designer.
By managing the front row of the sits, the PR of the company mentioned that it is actually a hard decision but as they do not need to promote their couture so most priority would give to those club members because they are the one going to purchase the couture so they have to respect them. After each fashion show, media and those buyers and club members would rush to the backstage in order to find a chance to talk to the designer or knowing someone as they might actually be the friends of the designers.
Haute Couture are not selling in open stores but they will be ready in the stores next day after the show. The important procedure of buying the couture is to make an appointment, then the store assistants would help you on introducing the garments and to choose which looks better in specific occasions. There is an interesting fact that if the customer body size can fit with the original garment, the customer will have a 30% off discount while others need to measure the size of the bodies to make some changes to look best on customers.
There is another club rule of selling couture which is there are no price tag on the garments. Moreover, the designers themselves seldom really communicate with the customer as John Galliano said “Part of the mystery of couture is by not too connecting with their customer. ” (The secret world of haute couture,2009, youtube) Although the Haute Couture is really expensive, wealthy women would think it is the investment of art for whole life.
Contemporary Couturiers brands Analysis. From the latest season of Haute Couture which is the Spring/Summer 2011, there are 12 couturiers in total which is Alexis Mabille, Bouchra Jarra, Chanel, Christian Dior, Giogio Armani Prive, Givenchy, House of Worth, Iris van Herpen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Elie Saab, Stephan Rollan and Valentino (Vogue). Frankly speaking some of them might not be so wearable first of all may be because of the concepts, the designs, the styles or even the colours. Betsy Bloomingdale’s husband has been once asked her to buy anything she wants for Christian Dior just because Betsy is a big fan of Christian Dior.
Of course there would be always some loyal fans such as Carroll Petrie, a Christian Dior couture fan, “I couldn’t believe what he had done with fabric, it is extraordinary! ” Members would always have their favourite designers but through the research, you will find the most frequently appear in those couture club members’ wardrobe is the Chanel’s as their gowns are more wearable but decent. Both Chanel and Christian Dior are amazing on doing totally different styles of couture but both so popular, so there are some people describe Dior’s couture as Opera and Chanel’s couture as musical. Coco Chanel and Christian Dior were absolutely masters of couture. They captured both luxury and elegance in the public’s mind and left a strong legacy. People continue to refer to them even decades later. ” From Maria Grazia Chiuri & Pier Paolo Piccioli, creative directors of Valentino. (Valentino, Couture in the 21th century, 2010:p131) After mentioning the characteristics of Chanel, the opera like Christian Dior is actually have a reason of why their couture usually more exaggerated but really elegant and luxurious at the same time.
We can not miss out the most creative John Galliano, the ex-creative director of Christian Dior, he had once worked in a theatre for years that is why in his earlier collections the garments are full of stories and the designs are kind of theatre like. So as the runway show, the models are telling stories which can enrich the aesthetic feeling of the gowns. John’s inspiration is inexhaustible and endless that his creativity brings him make the dreams come true. This is a very ordinary example from S/S 2011 collection, he turned Bell from the Beauty & the Beast onto the runway which interpreted in a more privilege and decent way.
The next couture master we cannot miss out is Valentino. Valentino Garavani was a master couturier whose influence remains as strong as ever. The designers Maria Grazia Chiuri & Pier Paolo Piccioli agreed that “Fashion is about dreaming, and couture is where all the dreams come true. They believe that couture has to be one of a kind, that it has a sense of uniqueness and excess. ”. And they think some designers limit couture to the red carpet, but they prefer to think that elegance should be accessible to everyone. A couturier who can interpret the dreams and longings of every woman is the one who will be successful in the long term.
In the collection of S/S 2011, the whole collections seem to get more and more delicate and this time it was so so light. “All the ruffles and feminine wiles that this duo have made their own were fine floral prints, girlish butterflies at the neck, a spectrum of nude tones all as sheer as can be in breaths of organza, chiffon and the finest tulle” (Dolly Jones, show report,jan 2011, Vogue). Apart from the ordinary old famous couturiers, we have some couturiers enter the couture world later such as Elie Saab in the 70s. My job is to make women happy. More than financial gain, my impetus is to create beauty” byElie Saab. His style is for feminine couture dresses with brightly coloured silks , chiffons, pearl beading and embroidered lace. He thinks if a woman knows about couture and if she has an appreciation for couture, then than she won’t want to buy from a boutique because she can feel different when she wear couture. The collection in S/S 2011 was pretty and feminine as he displayed a lighter touch than in recent seasons and the dress were all the better for it.
The colours and the fabrics choices are so beautifully matched and the embroidery was less heavy on lovely chiffon full length dress and this new focus suits him very much. (Dolly Jones, show report,jan 2011, Vogue). Conclusion In some normal people mind, they might not know what the word “Haute Couture” means because they are expensive, luxurious and exclusive. But the time has changed, there are many media that can let more people know about more about fashion and Haute Couture, they will fall in love with them once they watch any of the catwalk shows.
Although the creation of exclusive, handmade garments, fittings are all in the highest possible standard and extremely expensive that only small part of women can afford them, “Haute Couture should be experimental, handcrafted, extensively researched and unique. In a sense it is where trends originate in their purest, most unrestrained form. Also, the couture houses help to keep traditional craftsmanship and tailoring alive. This is why it is so crucial that we must jealously protect it” from Maria Grazia Chiuri & Pier Paolo Piccioli. (Valentino, Couture in the 21th century, 2010:p132)