Oh Haute Couture!

It is Paris Haute Couture week and I cannot help but lament over the fact that I should be sat front row at some of the shows that would have been scheduled had COVID-19 not interfered!! Instead for Fall 20 brands were forced to present in a digital format which did not have quite the same effect.

I have to say I was enchanted by Maria Grazia Chiuri’s presentation at Christian Dior of clothes created in minature doll sized forms which is how Parisienne designers were forced to present their collections during World War II with materials being in short supply. The mini film Chiuri commissioned Matteo Garrone to direct is nothing short of breaktaking and I highly recommend you take a break with a cup of tea in hand to marvel at its wonder here.

Ralph & Russo presented original sketches which is a far cry from the opulent runway shows they usually host, whilst Giambattista Valli held private tours of the collection. As with all of us, designers are trying to find new ways of showcasing and presenting in light of social distancing.

For those of you who may not know, Haute Couture is the epitome of luxury fashion. Garments are exclusively hand crafted from start to finish in a made-to-measure manner.

The materials used are the dearest and highest-quality and are often the most unusual fabrics that are hand sewn and embellished by the utmost skilled and talented artisans in the world.

An haute couture garment is always made bespoke for an individual client and is tailored especially to their measurements, in Paris only.

Considering the skills required to produce such a garment, in addition to the expense and time taken, haute couture garments are described to have no price tag as for the elite few who can actually afford this luxury (no more than 4,000 women worldwide), budget is not relevant.

Haute couture gowns can take weeks, even months to produce so you can imagine that this does not come cheap. Daywear can start at around £10k whilst more heavily embroidered and intricate gowns can reach +£500k. Yes, the mind boggles doesn’t it….the price of one of these gown could help a third world country!!!

It is said that haute couture started as early at the 17th Century by Rose Bertin who was Queen Mary Antoinette’s fashion designer. It is Bertin who can be credited for bringing haute couture and fashion to French culture.

Haute couture has become so ingrained in French culture that the term itself is protected by law and is defined by the ‘Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris’, based in Paris. This is the regulating committee that determines which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses. Their rule states that only “those companies mentioned on the list drawn up each year by a commission domiciled at the Ministry for Industry are entitled to avail themselves” of the label Haute Couture.

There are 15 official members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. These include Chanel, Dior, Gamibattista Valli, Givenchy, Alexis Mabille and Alexandre Vauthier to name a few.

Foreign members include Elie Saab, Azzedine Alaia, Fendi, Giorgio Armani and Valentino. Whilst guest members include the like of Ralph & Russo, Zuhair Murad and Ulyana Sergeenko.

Haute Couture is regularly endorsed by celebrities on the red carpet as a way of raising the profile of designers and showcasing the talents of the craftsmen in their atelier. However, there is a very small group of women worldwide who can afford the hefty price tag that comes with bespoke, made-to-measure clothing.

During the 1990’s it was Kuwaiti socialite Mouna al-Ayoub and Houston socialite Suzanne Saperstein who were touted as being the key collectors of haute couture whilst today clients are most likely to be from the Middle East, China or Russia. These clients constantly seek exclusive, one-of-a-kind products that no-one else has, rendering the price tag irrelevant.

For you to get a better understanding of this client I highly recommend you visit @lebaneseweddings on Instagram…the wedding gowns and dresses are unlike anything you have ever seen before!!

I myself feel privileged just to have had the opportunity to attend the couture shows of Giambattista Valli, Alexis Mabille, Elie Saab and Ralph & Russo and to have bought couture gowns for VIP clients allowing me to touch, feel and appreciate the workmanship of each garment up close and personal. I can tell you that they are true works of art to worship and behold. Oh, one can but dream!!

To celebrate the end of Haute Couture week I will be donning one of my demi-couture gowns and popping open a bottle of champers in the garden (fingers crossed it bloody stops raining!!). Why don’t you join me and do the same?!

Whatever you do my BC Fashionista’s do it in fashion! xxx

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