In a clichéd way haute couture comes across as frivolous and indulgent to the untrained eye. An expensive show of artistic vanity meant to indicate wealth and status in the mammoth fashion industry.
But there are a few things that we should contemplate on before defining it with a few adjectives.
Looking at the collections is a sensory experience meant to leave us astonished, to make us marvel at the unstoppable abilities of the human hand to create breath-taking pieces. In terms of jewelry it could mean either using innovative setting in a simple piece that differentiates its entire look, using different mediums like metal, acrylic, etc., using rare choice of gemstones, their cut, etc. The roots of couture is a means of drawing attention; the attention from a single garment/ accessory that would win new clients and thus bringing revenue several times over. This is usually done by using exaggerated silhouettes and virtuoso craftsmanship.
Haute Couture may be the best example of the trickle-down effect, as high fashions began to influence low fashions. Model as a mode of presentation of everyday fashion and style originated in couture houses.
So here’s a glance at what it takes to make haute couture. Clothes that are considered haute couture by French law and they are approved by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and often require a thousand hours of work. It’s all about technique and not about price. For the fashion houses to call their pieces couture there are certain criteria they must meet. To begin with, a few of them are that they must have a workshop in Paris which employees at least 15 full-time staff members, work on made-to-order designs for clients with at least one fitting, and publicly present collections.
So much that goes into making Haute Couture and yet we see the word couture used everywhere, with little regard to its true meaning.
Couture jewelry can be understood as the interpretation of art through the eyes of a master jeweller. Creation of such jewelry requires an amalgamation of the finest minds and exceptionally skilled craftsman. It’s like a transmission of artistic skills through craftsmanship and expertise in cutting and setting precious fragile gems with precision. These days couture jewelry from brands like Chanel, Dior, Chopard, Van Cleef & Arpels, etc. are spotted on actresses on the red carpet.
Haute couture may be an expression of art or it may be advertising or both. But the public still craves the alluring dream of couture. Today as “the public” has expanded into a global audience, social media has taken over and proved to be a great equalizer. Due to the digital turn a snapshot of a couture gown is now worth a lot more than the actual garment; A picture of a socialite wearing the necklace is more valuable than the socialite wearing it to an event in a room full of eager attendants, as it floats in the world of internet long after the event has ended; the reach is unlimited and endless. It helps to build brand value through clicks. What we choose to be associated with and our virtual selves are becoming more significant than our physical presence. Late-nineteenth century couture was a statement of wealth and social status. A way for the average citizen to climb a higher level on the social ladder. Today, couture in a different manner still serves the same purpose. While consumers may not be able to buy the clothing, they can buy access to in different forms like an invitation to the runway show or exclusive parties, launch, Press Release, etc.
It’s intriguing to see how the core hasn’t changed over decades but everything in its perimeter has.