Tired of a world gone mad? Can’t watch the news or scroll down your phone for fear you’ll see one more upsetting thing? Well, get ready to enter the land of dreams, Haute Couture to the rescue! In one of the best couture seasons in recent memory, designers answered the call by delivering the very best in fantasy, feathers and the phantasmagorical.
For years, fashion followers have asked the question, “is Haute Couture still relevant in today’s day and age”? And, while many articles have been written about the ‘imminent death’ of couture, today, nothing could be further from the truth. Haute Couture is alive, well and thriving as it now appeals to a new generation of clients. The one-of-a-kind creations are no longer exclusively for the aristocratic old-moneyed doyennes, even if the cost of buying these clothes lies within reach of the extremely wealthy ‘one- percenters’.
The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture (the regulating commission that determines which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses) sets strict criteria for its classifications of couture, counting just 14 members alongside a host of guest designers each season. As of 2022, there are only 14 fashion houses that are considered couture, such as Dior, Chanel, and Givenchy. Although a lot has changed in the fashion world since the establishment of the House of Worth and La Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the qualifications of a couture fashion house have not changed. Despite the old rules, designers like Daniel Roseberry of Maison Schiaparelli and Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond, who showed for the first-time last season, are bringing a fresh point of view to couture.
Truth is, there are only a handful of individuals around the world that could afford the couture level hyper-luxury price tag. And, it’s also a fact that most houses shy away from publishing their prices. For example, a gown from Valentino’s Haute Couture runway show can cost approximately $95,000, and that is one without intricate embroidery or beading. As the old saying goes…”“If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it” ~ U.S. financier J.P. Morgan (1837 – 1913).
While the cost may be out of reach for most of us, one can at least appreciate Haute Couture, which at its best, is fashion where true artistry and craft are allowed to shine without the restrictions of commercialism. Haute Couture is a celebration those rare skills that we at the University of Fashion LOVE so much. We hope that the couture will be preserved for generations to come, as the ateliers employ thousands of specialists, tailors and seamstresses, all of whom are master craftsmen and without the couture would be considered a dying art form.
For Jean-Noël Kapferer, a professor at the leading French business school HEC (Hautes Etudes Commerciales) and the author of several books about management in the luxury market, Haute Couture is definitely still relevant today. “It’s the sign of absolute luxury,” he explains. In a sector where differentiation is essential, it “offers luxury brands an additional means of influence. A Couture show is art. By extending the limits of what is and isn’t feasible, Couture gives Houses a way of creating emotion, and of reawakening desire and the ability to dream – which is essential, as the latter inevitably starts to fade in the face of commercial success.” The challenge is to transform desire into action, and want into purchases, particularly for the benefit of other product categories. “The aura of Haute Couture brings a glow to other activities and transforms the perception of a brand. If there is one area where the ‘trickle down’ effect actually works, it’s in Haute Couture! Its daring and creativity will benefit the ready-to-wear segment, as it allows Houses to set high prices and thereby increase their symbolic authority.”
Didier Grumbach, honorary president of France’s Haute Couture Federation (FHC) and a leading figure in the sector for over 50 years, recognizes this effect, having witnessed its impact from a close proximity. “Even if they never actually get worn, Haute Couture pieces increase the status of the House presenting them. In particular, Couture is a real help when it comes to launching a perfume offering.”
Couture’s ability to be in touch with its era is, of course, at the heart of its ability to create value. Claudia D’Arpizio, a luxury sector expert at consultants Bain & Co. points out, it is “in synch with today’s lifestyles. There is a desire for exquisite pieces that are no longer reserved for special occasions but can be worn for any occasion when that person wants to feel special, which might be in the daytime and not just the evening.” Moreover, Haute Couture embodies the very highest level of “the human touch, which can sometimes be lacking in the luxury sector.” Her point is shared by Jean-Noël Kapferer, who emphasizes how Haute Couture’s characteristics are modern, and a reflection of the aspirations of the younger generation: ultra-creative, ultra-personalized, sustainable, timeless, and experimental, with new forms, new materials, and new volumes.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF HAUTE COUTURE
Haute Couture dates back to 1858, when designer Charles Frederick Worth, an English couturier based in Paris, created his “special House of new confections” at number 7, rue de la Paix. Worth was the first to create collections under his own signature, to see himself as a creator, and to present his collections by having the clothes worn by models who sauntered the floors of his luxurious salons. Worth was the first to offer new collections each season, he invented today’s fashion cycle: spring-summer and fall-winter. Within a few years, the foundations for Couture were laid, with the help of other pioneers such as Paul Poiret, the first to launch his own perfume House in 1911, Jeanne Lanvin, Jean Patou, Madeleine Vionnet and Gabrielle Chanel, who notably introduced the concepts of boutiques, accessories, and marketing. It was the start of a golden age of unprecedented creativity with exceptional know-how. However, the arrival of ‘ready-to-wear’ in the 1960s and 1970s challenged both the business model of Couture and its place in the world of fashion.
HAUTE COUTURE FALL 2022-2023 TRENDS
Haute Couture designers played with denim this season, as the “all American” favorite was found on everything from a feathered strapless dress to corseted suit.
Couture designers are seeing green this season as the hue made its mark all over the Paris runways. From emerald suits, to pistachio gowns, one thing is for sure, you’ll be going green this season.
Frothy confections made their way into the Haute Couture collections as these dreamy numbers will make us all feel like royalty.
Designers had nothing to hide as they played up the transparency trend from utterly see-through to subtly sheer.
The classic white button shirt gets a glamorous yet phantasmagorical make-over this season.
Power babes stalked the runways as they flaunted strong shoulder silhouettes on everything from mini dresses to jackets.
Fringe was all over the couture runways, from Seventies inspired to futuristic motifs, these stringy looks are playful yet chic.
Innerwear-as-outerwear continues to intrigue designers as corset-inspired looks were found all over the couture runways.
Silver and gold ruled the Fall 2022-2023 Couture runways. The metallic hues could be found on everything from dramatic evening dresses to bold jackets, and even sexy minidresses.
Calling all post-modern goddesses! The return of the elegant, draped gown is back and they are even more glamorous than ever.