On couture, fashion round-about & the new normal


Chanel Couture Spring 2016 via www.fashionedbylove.co.uk
Is couture really fading away? I asked myself this question over and over again after reading an article on BOF saying that the culture of couture is vanishing. Perhaps, there's a grain of truth in that statement, but frankly, I wanted to disagree.

In my mind I travelled back in time to the mid-1960s when, around 1966-1967 due to the changes in economy and society, the fashion industry began to evolve forcing designers to adapt and create ready-to-wear lines. Some, like Saint Laurent, did it fabulously. Others - either closed their houses or moved show locations, from Florence to Rome to Paris. 

Did it mean that our ability to appreciate couture suddenly evaporated as a result? No. Because regardless of the era there were always people seeking sublimity and fantasy and, most definitely - there was always, always that part of the society, the inevitable 5% of the population, who would wear couture regardless of any changes because it was something as habitual as, say, brushing teeth (that unforgettable story told by Diana Vreeland about three fittings for a nightie!). More over the latter also had the lavish means to pass the custom onto the next generation without making it obvious to the outer circles while the aesthetes would always appreciate the allure and refinement associated with couture.

Stating that the entire world would slowly lose an understanding of and appreciation of true couture is, to me, equal to saying that we can no longer admire art or any form of artistic expression for that matter.

Fitting for Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda Couture collection / Making couture at Chanel
From the financial point of view, it's been ages since the historic maisons stopped relying on haute couture that takes 1% of the total luxury market as the main bread winner, so while the ateliers were busy creating glorious custom-made clothing for the wardrobes of the high society, the daily dose of cash was flowing from the lest obvious, but very reliable sources that most of us could afford - a bottle of perfume here, a lipstick there, some fabulous bags, shoes and pretty trinkets, you name it.  Ironically, the clothes never came first, even the ready-to-wear, let alone couture. And yet, neither seized their existence.

To me, what is happening right now is nothing more than another fashion cycle, a normal state of things that occurs every 25 or 50 years. On a large scale of things we turned to the 1970s for style inspiration, on a small and privileged - haute couture. Does it mean that couture is in danger of becoming obsolete?

Making Dior Couture dress
I don't believe so. Regardless of the mess that happened on some of the catwalks this season, couture will always be there with the Ecole de la Chamber Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne that trained the best of the best including Valentino, Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, Scherrer, Miyake and Courreges, and the petit mains - the life, soul and hands of every atelier. But, just like it was fifty years ago, couture seem to become a more intimate and private affair between the house and its clientele without the need to please certain celebrities and celebrity-driven crowd who require a spectacle and not necessarily the substance (and I think, this is the true reason that triggered the BOF story). 

If the art of couture were to fade Gaultier, Giles or Viktor and Rolf would not close their ready-to-wear lines in order to focus on what good designers are born to do - create, without any extra pressure, for a woman who knows and understands the skill and talent that goes into a simple pencil skirt and a magical evening dress.

True, the change is here, but this doesn't mean all gloom and doom. In fact, I feel that the new decade brings the new names, new vision, new codes and new beginnings: think of Bouchra Jarrar or the fresh blood - Aouadi, Ronald van der Kempt, Yiqing Yin, and, most recent, Isabelle Moser, the former Galliano's assistant who launched her first couture collection last week. And why not? Why not let go of the old, keep the tradition and legacy, look for the new stars instead of desperately trying to revive someone or something that's not there anymore?

Another important point worth remembering is that it was the couture that moved fashion forward, from Chanel's dress, Dior's New Look and Yves Saint Laurent 's smoking, the Fortuny's pleats and Rochas's guepiere to Versace's Oroton chainmail and Schon's double-faced cashmere are just a few examples of what a mind of a designer can result when given time and resources.

Couture atelier behind the scenes / label of Christian Dior couture 1969
What saddens me is the fact that it may be left for the very few to see and appreciate it, but on a positive side I hope that somehow the shift will not only move the fashion forward, but, as a ripple-effect, calm down the madness of ready-to-wear and, as cruel as it sounds, reduce the bulk of "stuff" and Celine-inspired collections we are visually forced-fed each season, just for the sake of it. 

This shift is a kind of change that to me feels like a part of "the new normal", a reference that might become known thanks to the latest campaign for Giorgio Armani (who, supposedly just like couture, faded away into the fog at the end of show... and, just like couture, Lagerfeld and Chanel 2.55, will remain one of the fashion constants), but I'd like to use it on a greater scale. Because I sincerely believe that it makes a lot of sense.

What do you think? And thank you for making it to the end of my ramble.

Photo source: Chanel Spring/Summer 2016 Haute Couture via vogue.com, fitting for Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda couture dress via Telegraph Fashion, making Christian Dior couture grown via Vogue & close-up of Christian Dior 1969 couture label via 1stdibs


    1. So o so gorgeous! I love all of these pictures!


    2. You did an excellent job explaining your thoughts Natalia. I don't think haute couture will ever go away. Over the years, we've witnessed the designers that have brought us such wonderful masterpieces in clothing. Some get older. Some die out. But there's always someone there. Maybe not as many as in the past, but we never know what the future holds.

    3. I think people in all industries tend to think in doom in gloom - that we tend to see change always in a negative light because we are comfortable with things the way they are. The economy will always have an impact on fashion but that hardly means that couture will disappear; on the contrary, I think that the 95% of us who can't afford couture either way become better able to appreciate it, just like we do art and literature, when times are more difficult because in those times, art becomes more poignant.

    4. To me couture will stay forever, we can't just let go this beauty! It might change a bit and look slightly difference way, but it will be here for sure!


    5. Beautifully written article! I think haute couture will never become a lost art, there will always be people who appreciate its beauty.

      Bella Pummarola

    6. I love how they do the details! devil is in details :)))



    7. i hope it doesn't fade! but i agree--just the cycle of fashion.

    8. The industry is dominated by fast fashion and the need to get things out to the public immediately. On top of that, certain members of the industry that make these clothes (seamstresses, in particular) are no longer around, as we are left with old ladies who once they "die off" so to speak will not have many predecessors. It's true celebrities are now wanting to be a part of the couture world when they probably have zero loyalty to the designers and will most likely wear it for free at an event, to the point where an anonymous wealthy buyer may be put off because it has been seen everywhere on someone famous. Like the Chinese designer Rihanna wore (the yellow gown). Beautiful but no one wants to be seen as a copy cat. I'm glad couture is part of social media because at the end of the day, it may inspire the younger generation to bring it back to life, so it's only a matter of time until we see what happens.