FASHION INDUCTION: HAUTE COUTURE VS READY-TO-WEAR

 As I was thinking about a what my new article would be about, one thing was definitely on my mind- I’ d like to write about fashion.

It is well know to many that London is one of the leading cities in the fashion world, proof of that is the fact that  around 46,400 people are currently employed by the fashion industry in London in one way or another.

I kept starting my first paragraph and then deleting it, not being sure of what I want to say or how i wanted to start. I kept thinking, should it be about new trends? Colours? Shapes? At that moment, I gazed upon a book which lies on my coffee table “The dictionary of Fashion”. Then it occurred to me that I would like to write about the basic things. Haute couture is the first thing that came to my mind as many of us have heard it but don’t know exactly what it is (I am sure many have googled “what is Haute Couture” at least once!). 

Everyone has heard and read this French phrase without being completely confident in its meaning. Haute Couture is the art of “high sewing”. Started in the 19th century in Paris, it is fashion at its finest and most elaborate. Garments are made by hand from start to finish and custom-fitted to the wearer’s body, involving teams of designers, seamstresses and highly specialised artisans trained in legacy couture techniques.

 So far these are things that most of us know -more or less. But did you know that only Houses accredited by the French Ministry of Industry (a specialised body) are legally permitted to bear the haute couture label? Did you know that the Houses, in order to be considered worthy of this label, should meet a long list of requirements? First, a designer must create made-to-measure clothing for private clients and offer personal fittings. Also, they must also have a full-time workshop in Paris that employs no fewer than twenty staff (APPARENTLY ONLY IN PARIS -so my good friend designer, if you meet all the requirements but your work-shop of twenty employees was in New York for example, it ain’t gonna happen!). Finally, the fashion house must present two collections a year, one in January and one in July, comprising both daytime and formal evening wear.

Many of you would ask, who would buy those clothes that we see on the runways at the haute couture fashion weeks that usually are beyond extreme and what’s the earning for the Houses? Actually fashion houses receive very little profit from Haute Couture; in fact, they often lose money. Extreme expenses and a tiny clientele (there are only an estimated 2,000 female customers globally) perhaps explain why, in the past 60 years, the number of couture houses has decreased dramatically. Nonetheless, couture is seen by many as a long-term investment, augmenting brand image and raising the profile of ready-to-wear collections. Therefore most of the Haute Couture pieces must be examined as a piece of artwork rather than an actual garment, as those creations are used as a marketing tool to enhance the brand awareness.

On the contrary, Ready-to-wear or prêt-à-porter, as it is also known, is the most profitable line for Houses as well as Designers where clothing is produced, intended to be worn without significant alteration because is made in standard sizes that fit most people. They use standard patterns, factory equipment, and faster construction techniques to keep costs low, compared to a custom-sewn version of the same item. Some fashion houses and fashion designers produce mass-produced and industrially manufactured ready-to-wear lines but others offer garments that are not unique but are produced in limited numbers. This is where the big difference, between those two options, occurs price-wise.

Summing-up you can image Haute Couture as the spoiled, elegant and rich cousin of ready-to-wear. The cousin who wears only 12 inch heels, eats three times a day in restaurants and never use public transport. On the other hand, ready-to-wear is fresh, popular and walks everywhere on her high heels looking cool and effortless. 😉

Until next time.xxx

 

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