The clothes in these photos are some of the most unique in the world. Almost no one can afford it. Then a good part to use is not created either. However, huge amounts of money and labor are invested in it, and it is associated with great prestige. But how much time and effort should one put into making clothes for…nobody?
This week, the so-called high fashion shows went off the rails during Paris Fashion Week. Haute Couture means “high tailoring,” and these shows will showcase the best that fashion houses have to offer in terms of tailoring and design. Stars like Zendaya and Jennifer Lopez sit in chairs in the front row.
Both old fashion houses and newcomers show what they can do, but they often have very different styles. At the Chanel, Dior and Armani Privé shows, there were a lot of relatively classic pieces, which it's not hard to imagine real people actually wearing. The “high” here lies in craftsmanship and design.
For other fashion designers, such as Thom Browne and Iris van Herpen, haute couture is about experimentation. They are clothes that show the human body in new ways, and are more reminiscent of works of art than commercial goods.
Then you have those who realize that the age of Instagram, with its small images consumed quickly and fleetingly, does not set the conditions well for showing detail in stitching and draping. They are fully committed to creating shows and moments designed to go viral.
This was certainly the case with Schiaparelli. There, a model was sent onto the catwalk holding a robotic baby covered in pearls in her arms. It was clearly a doll, not a living baby, but that didn't stop the somewhat disturbing photos from being shared at the speed of light.
The term “couture” may be thrown around by many people, but it has been a protected term since 1945. You must meet several requirements to be able to use this term for your collection.
The high-end fashion houses were selected by the French organization Féderation de la Haute Couture et la Mode. In order to be selected, they must create costumes for individuals, i.e. outfits of which there is only one. They must have a studio in Paris where at least fifteen full-time employees work.
A minimum of 50 original designs must be presented at least twice a year. Both daywear and evening wear should be included. Many fashion houses that used to hold haute couture shows have stopped doing so, including Christian Lacroix and Thierry Mugler. To date, only 24 fashion houses meet the requirements.
One of them belongs to the Dutchman Iris van Herpen. Anyone who asks what the future of high fashion looks like will often get her name in response. Van Herpen's famous dresses are not dresses at all, but wild creations where fashion and science meet.
Modern technology such as 3D printers is used to create paintings and decorations that resemble flower petals, wings, or the bodies of strange creatures. It's very beautiful, all together, but the models also have something annoying about them. They have become a kind of mixture of humans and mythical animals.
There are a few stars who manage to dress up on the red carpet without being overshadowed. But longtime Game of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie has proven time and time again to be a good source for Van Herpen's violent visions.
But apart from the stars who borrow clothes on the red carpet, who is really suitable for high-end clothing? The Kering group, which owns luxury brands such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, is constantly trying to reassure the industry. On their page, “Luxury Highlights,” they write about their target group, which is called “Ultra High Net Worth Individuals.”
These people have more than $30 million available for various investments. The gang is supposed to trade luxury goods worth about 80 billion euros annually. This may be music to the ears of those whose job it is to sell these luxury goods, but in a world where more and more people care about sustainability, the question is whether this sounds like a desirable situation.
It's something of a paradox. The pool of wealthy clients is needed to preserve an art form that should not care about the client. Couture is about many things, but it's also about seeing how clothes can go beyond being a commodity.
The creations submitted to the platform are not primarily a response to a request, nor are they primarily part of a trend. They have to try something, develop something, work on the margins. To the world, they hardly cause more harm than the millions of clothes flown from continent to continent. What's called Fast fashion is just that, fast. In a world full of fast things, that's one of the advantages of high contact: it's slow.
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