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Friday, April 19, 2013

Haute Couture?

Okay.  I always raise an eyebrow whenever I see the term "Haute Couture" thrown around the prims of Second Life.  Really?  Really you're Haute Couture?

It's not uncommon I suppose.  Terms like Doctor, Engineer and Accountant are thrown around to try and give cred to a product, profession or person because those who are actually in the trade earned a good reputation through lots of hard work and good practice.

So the term Haute Couture has a similar effect.  Associate Haute Couture to your fashion related thing and sell it as something classy and high quality by association to the name itself.

What is Haute Couture?

Paris Haute Couture: Zuhair Murad spring/summer 2013
http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/hot-topics/galleries/TMG9824378/821/Paris-Haute-Couture-Zuhair-Murad-springsummer-2013-in-pictures.html

Actually check out Zuhair Murad's website
http://www.zuhairmurad.com/
It shows how the separation between haute couture and pret-a-porter lines

Literally translated Haute Couture means 'high/exalted' dressmaking.  It is Haute (high or elegant) Couture (sewing).  It was coined in 1908.

It is a protected name that can ONLY be used by companies that meet certain well-defined standards set by the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Paris.

It has, over abuse and wanna-bes, become associated with all high-fashion CUSTOM-fitted clothing.
Most people use it improperly in SL and people get indignant.

Not anyone can be an Haute Couture designer, or sell their fashion as such.
To be a Haute Couture house, you must be part of the Syndical Chamber for Haute Couture in Paris which is regulated by French Department of Industry.  There are 18 members including: Durban - Chanel, Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix, Emanuel Ungaro, Givenchy, Maison Martin Margiela and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Obviously a designer in SL can't really apply to this.  So let's ignore this requirement and see if we can still call something Haute Couture.

Haute Couture is Custom and Expensive
To make (not design) a Haute Couture dress it takes 100 to 400 hours.  A suit can cost up to $60,000 and a dress $100,000.

Couture clothes are made out of highly expensive fabrics such as expensive silks, fine wools, cashmeres, cottons, linens, leather, suede, other skins or furs.  Sometimes a certain fabric is reserved for just one fashion house.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/28/-paris-haute-couture-fashion-week_n_2568585.html#slide=2036387
To me In SL this means that the designer should, at the very least, not just modify existing templates you can find in the marketplace.  The prims or mesh should be carefully crafted to make a piece unique and personal to the customer.  Ideally, to be true to Haute Couture the customer should not have to prim edit the final product.

A Couturer Must Show At Least Twice a Year In Paris
It is not good enough just to do it, but you have to prove it each season (i.e., twice a year) to the Paris press with at least 35 runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.  Consider if it takes 400 hours per haute couture outfit how much effort this is.

A few of the fashion designers/houses in SL are a bit silo'ed.  They don't prove themselves at all and some even go for discrediting others instead of proving themselves.  This goes against the quality control of a Couturer who can stand on their own merits.

Not Everyone Gets Haute Couture
There are only 2000 women who buy couture today, 60% of which are American. There are only 200 people who are regular costumers (maybe less, some articles estimate 100).
Even famous people who wear it do not buy them.  They are loaned out for advertisement.

So if you can buy a dress from the SL Marketplace it really doesn't even closely fit Haute Couture.  It's more RTW and no.. limited edition colours of the same design don't count.

Haute Couture Runs at a Loss
Haute Couture is done for the love of fashion.  Haute Couture is based on special orders and is such a SMALL market that a Haute Couture house does Haute Couture at a loss.  It is easier to sell 100,000 cheap t-shirts for profit than spend months to produce a dress for one customer and make $100,000.

The strategy is to gain attention, oos and ahhs about an exquisite Haute Couture piece usually shown off at a high publicity event that it generates interest and sales in the non Haute Couture products.

Jennifer Lawrence in Dior Haute Couture at the Oscars
http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-style/news/jennifer-lawrence-wears-dior-haute-couture-gown-with-a-backwards-necklace-to-oscars-2013242

check out Dior's webpage
http://www.dior.com/couture/en_gb/fashion-accessories/woman/haute-couture/haute-couture
Why so uptight?

I'm not the only one!

South African designer Marian Fassler (the fashion icon http://www.leopardfrock.co.za/) says she is particular about the language of fashion.

“I’ve found that most people who use the word ‘couture’ don’t know what it means,” she says.

“Despite the French licensing, our garments, by the manner in which they are made, are not couture.

“Couture is handmade, usually by one person from start to finish. There are numerous traditions. At Chanel they can tell you precisely how many stitches go into one jacket for instance.

“While in South Africa we have many good designers who make beautiful clothes, none of these are couture. At best we have many bespoke garments,”


South African designer Amanda Laird Cherry (http://www.amandalairdcherry.com/) wrote her final year paper on a similar topic.

She suggested finding another word for what we view as high-end fashion, if we can’t simply call it that.

“We must acknowledge the great talent we have in South Africa. It may not be haute couture, but there certainly are those a cut above the rest.” - Mercury

Is Haute Couture = Avant Garde?
From http://www.gaiaonline.com/forum/real-life-fashion-style/what-s-the-difference-between-haute-couture-and-avant-garde/t.66332779/

"It's not Haute Couture until it's being designed for one specific person in mind.
Which is why you could consider fashion shows by designers like McQueen to be Avant Garde."

"That's why it's Avant Garde.
It's pushing the limits on what is acceptable for everyday wear.
Avant Garde doesn't mean one of a kind.
It mean "in advance", so anything innovative can be Avant Garde.
Within reason, of course."

And yes Avant Garde can be RTW.  And omg Avant Garde is something else that's misunderstood but I'll let the various SL schools sort that out.

References:

http://attireclub.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/what-is-haute-couture-12-facts/
http://www.infoplease.com/spot/fashionside1.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/jul/03/fashion.hautecoutureshows
http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style/fashion/no-it-s-not-haute-couture-1.1503410
http://notordinaryfashion.tumblr.com/What%20is%20Haute%20Couture
http://www.fashion-era.com/haute_couture.htm

Videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id3izlsuB9Q
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XqTkOpVuI4

Anyone know of any designers true to the spirit of Haute Couture?  I'd love to showcase them.