Oh hey, didn’t see you there! I was too busy pretending to actually know something about fashion, haute couture and coming up with a very inappropriate title for this post. But come on, everyone has thought at least one time that some of these well accepted fashion situations are actually just f**kery! I’m sure that even Anna dello Russo, late at night, washing her face in front of the mirror after a cool rooftop party in Milan, sometimes asks herself: “What the heck are we all doing here?!”. So I came up with the whole “Fashion F**kery” concept, which is actually just embarrassing questions you always wanted to ask about the fashion world but felt were not allowed to, because everyone of us is faking to know everything about fashion! Hey who am I to judge? I fake it too, we all fake it sometimes, so fake it until you make it to that front row dude.
This time I thought I would eviscerate (“Cool word Lisa!”, “Thank you Lisa!”) one of the most obscure sectors of the fashion industry: haute couture. Haute couture is untouchable, you can’t say you don’t know what it is or you’re out, go home, neeeeext! You also cannot say you don’t understand what is happening on that runway because, dude everyone is enjoying the show and you can’t just ask how much was spent to make that gown and who on Earth is going to buy that solid gold coat! See everyone pretends to know everything about haute couture, but they don’t, they don’t, there are probably 10 or 11 people who actually know what’s going on and, I can assure you, they’re all laughing at us trying to get how the whole haute couture concept works. But don’t worry angel cookies, you’re answers are coming, because I’m here for you. And if I don’t know either we can fake it together, high five!
So Lisa, what in the world is haute couture?
Haute couture literally means high dressmaking, implying that a whole bunch of people worked on that single piece – up to 20 people on a total of 700 hours – and it’s the result of numerous stages of work including the inspiration, design, development of the concept and actual material creation of the piece.
Cool, so I assume it’s not something that you can just go into a store and buy, right?
Right, haute couture pieces are often handmade and tailored upon a single, specific person which means that it’s extremely difficult for the single dress to fit different types of bodies. It is not discrimination, think of it as a commissioned painting, the painter is going to represent you and the painting will look just like you and no one else. Also these pieces, considering the amount of work and skills involved in the creative process, have a very high value, this means we aren’t talking price tags anymore. A haute couture dress can very well be compared to a famous painting: its value stays beyond money. But if you really want an approximate monetary value daywear pieces starts from 8.000$, so you can imagine how the prices sky rocket with formal wear.
But someone has to wear them right?
Yes, apart from models on the catwalk there is a very limited number of women who can actually afford to shop for haute couture, and these very special clients won’t simply walk into a shop and search for a haute couture dress. They have to make an appointment with the design house of their choice, in order to be followed carefully during the fitting, especially because as we said before, haute couture pieces are adjusted to someone’s body. The clients are often from emerging rich countries: Russia, China and the Middle East.
What about celebrities on the red carpet?
Designers find a great way to advertise by landing one of their dresses on a celebrity, their work is seen around the world and they can bond their name to a certain physical figure. Think about what Balmain and Givenchy did with Kim Kardashian. But often the dress comes back to the maison after the night, or it can be a gift to the muse or even purchased, it’s up to the designer.
What happens to the dresses after they have walked the catwalk?
Obviously you cannot just walk the streets of Milan in a haute couture Dolce&Gabbana gown, the dresses aren’t sold in the stores like ready to wear fashion. Dresses from previous collections can become desirable for collectors because their value can increase up to stellar prices and when they become pieces of art, they are exposed in museums and taken all over the world for display.
I hope I’ve answered some of your burning questions and made some very basic clarifications on this argument. I would love to write more and answer your personal question, so don’t be shy and write to me in the comments! Here at Bocconi Students for Fashion we have some pretty skilled fashion students and I’m sure with their help we can figure out a way to solve your fashion doubts!