Haute Couture : Fashion’s grand indulgence

For a very long time now, I have been planning to open a sustainable design brand of my own. But when conduction market survey and analysis, I found out India doesn’t respond very well the concept. For us Indians, wearing something ‘used’ or ‘pre owned’ even if a designer turns it into something else, is kind of an ego issue, or something that puts you on a lower social class. I had a sustainable design workshop back in the 4th semester of college where we had this faculty from Netherlands and the first thing she told us was how when she came to our college, she was surprised by the vast display of brands and an array of designer clothes worn by the students; because in her country, the students didn’t have enough money to spend on designer clothes, they’d rather buy used clothes and design something out of them or change them to their needs and likings, and that, according to her was what made them a better designer; and I think I  agree.

Looking at it at a higher level, Its not only India, all of us have become slaves of fashion. Looking good has  become a business and all of us are a part of it. Come to think of it, what I keep saying about music before and music now applies here too. We are starting to turn into all “good looking people” with no real intellect or purpose   in life. And us designers, are feeding this belief system into people because that is how we conduct our  business.

victor and rolf van gogh ss 15

I attended this workshop recently where this statement was made, “the moment people started wearing stitched clothing, that was when the fall of human being started” and that, when you think about it is true on so many levels. Clothing has had  a long history of being sewn for people of the higher strata, automatically creating a divide between people. Serving as a constant reminder of a person from a better financial background.

 

At its most basic definition, haute couture refers to handcrafted, made-to-fit clothing. Englishman Charles Frederick Worth has long been credited with the establishment of haute couture and the first true couturier, a revolutionary in the fashion world and perhaps even its modern founder. Worth moved to Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century, and found himself entrenched in a society characterized by rapid social and economic  change.

Post-revolutionary politics had crescendoed to a point  where class lines were inexplicably blurred; the bourgeoisie was growing, spending their newfound wealth on leisure activities; traditional barriers to entry into elite social classes had been reduced to mere wealth rather than social status at birth.

Stephane-Rolland-Couture-SS15-Paris-2298-1422372109-mediumbigthumb

 

Haute couture. The term conjures up images of intricately beaded and feathered garments on elegant models strutting down runways — the epitome of high fashion and French sophistication. It extends beyond simple dress and into something intangible, somehow inaccessible and above average, meant for those in the elite know.

This dream of beauty and luxury is part of Haute couture’s aesthetic appeal, but behind the glamour is an economic windfall. These garments are expensive to make, sometimes ridiculously so, requiring thousands of hours of intricate, tedious handiwork by craftspeople. What’s more, the end result is often not for sale. The pieces that are available  for purchase can range into six figures, making them intended exclusively for the wealthy elite. Haute couture is a spectacle (some argue an art form) with the purpose of drawing attention rather than driving revenue. But the   reality is that fashion is an industry, and haute couture requires capital investment. The survival of haute couture in the modern age depends on its usefulness as an advertising mechanism and the ability for couturiers to adapt to a fickle global consumer society.

Couture garments today sometimes bring in over six figures, are made through thousands of hours of intricate handiwork using materials that range from  unconventional (doilies, lycra) to extravagant (diamonds, feathers, furs). I recently saw a video where it took upto 200 hours to make an ensemble in the latest SS 2015 DIor resort collection. Some of these garments — or pieces as they are often called — are not meant to be worn, only to be seen. And in fact, being seen in today’s world is one of the most valuable things a designer brand can do.

Today, celebrity endorsement is still valuable; but what’s even more valuable is a runway show at Paris Fashion Week drawing hordes of photographers,   celebrities,fashion industry professionals, business moguls, journalists, and bloggers – many of whom will take the    invaluable smartphone snap and post photos to the internet. Now instead of one socialite wearing a piece in a crowd of eager attendees who all see it, we have the phenomenon of the socialite posted to the Internet a hundred times over, discussed and dissected, allowing the brand an infinite number of impressions. Press coverage, social media dissemination, and traditional media buzz over a truly stunning, shocking, or unconventional couture show make the runway not a platform for selling clothes, but a platform for selling image and reputation. The clothes themselves will never be worn; but the photos of them on the Internet may be circulated infinitely, knowledge of   the brand reaching far beyond Paris and the world of fashion in an echo that builds the brand one click at a   time.

The digital turn has made the snapshot of a couture gown worth far more than the actual garment; social media is  today’s great equalizer, the democratizing factor allowing the average citizen to climb the social ladder and gain clout in the digital social world through the persona of a fashion blogger. Arguably, our virtual selves and what we choose to associate with are becoming more significant than our physical presence. We no longer don a provocative, avant-garde gown when we want to shock; we post a photo of it online. Couture survives through with the same principles: allowing people access to cultural capital that brings them higher on a social hierarchy, giving them entry to exclusive worlds previously barred to all but the wealthy elite. Now, again, couture may serve a renewed purpose, driving social status one click at a time.

But what is the social status we keep talking about? Is all the time money effort we put into making this couture worth it all on a bigger scenario? As much as some of us keep talking about sustainability, the world of fashion has become a vicious circle where all the members feed off each other and help each other out by trying to make the customer spend as much as he/she can. The perfect dress requires the best shoes and the best accessories and  the perfect makeup to go with it. we all just feed the industry step by  step.

Being a fashion designer myself, It might look like a big betrayal to the field but when I think about it all, this is what I feel. We make garments to be seen, not worn. We employ children, labourers, use diamonds and feathers and animal skin to make clothes just to be clicked in, once and never  wear them again, and our industry, it strives to change people from who they really are to which celebrity they want to look like. Is it really all that glamorous to be a part of it all? Not for me. The economy is not all that great to be too and the recession has affected us all bad. Not all of us have that kind of money.

How is it any different than what happened in the French revolution? King Louis XIV of France too wore diamonds on his clothes. And think about it this way, for far is one of the Kardashians or the Jenners from saying ” Let them eat cake?”

  Oh and as for the soundtrack at the end of the blog, I think System of the Down and POets of the fall cover the emotions felt here pretty well. I’m listening  to Heal my wounds : Poets of the fall while writing this  post.

 IMAGE COURTESY :

http://www.webdesignburn.com/2012/04/03/40-elegant-and-sexy-haute-couture-photos/

http://zoomonme.com/v/Fashion+Photography+by+LA+Top+Fashion+Photographer+NYC/Haute+Couture+photo graphy/Fashion_+Editorial_+Commercial_+haute+couture+photography+by+shaun+alexander_+la+fashion+phot ographer.jpg.html

http://peacock.aup.edu/contemporary-couture-how-high-fashion-functions-in-a-global-society/ About these ads

 

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