Once upon a time, a young and passionate man about dresses created his own atelier and shop. This took place in London and could not have had in no way an impact on the course of fashion of that time. But it revolutionized the whole sphere of fashion, showing in private presentations for eligible clients special made-to-measure creations worn on young girls (we’ll talk about models in the future). Soon, the success is growing and Charles Frederick Worth is standing as the first couturier, the creator of Haute Couture. But that took place centuries ago, at the end of the XIXth Century. Haute Couture was made possible thanks to aristocrats and high society who were the only customers having the possibility to purchase such unique works. In every society, whether in the XVIIIth or the XXIst Century, there will be a higher class demanding more and more exclusivity and personal services. Haute Couture was created for them, for those who could afford this exclusivity. And furthermore, with the Industrial Revolution, ready-to-wear expanded its wings, allowing anyone to dress cheaply, producing series of identical creations. And the consumer society was thus created. And the Haute Couture was again more powerful, building itself against this idea of standardization of fashion. We won’t talk here about the history of fashion through designers and the stylistic changes through the decades, which could take hours and hours but we’ll try to understand what really fuels this exceptional micro-industry, generating a profitable niche market that is today controversial and highly questioned.
When we think of Haute Couture, we often see Dior as the perfect example. Indeed, the 1950s are considered as the “Golden Age” of Haute Couture with designers like Christian Dior (1947) and Coco Chanel (who came back in 1954) who were the two major trendsetters of that period. Dior created his New Look, hyper feminine, glamorous, with an inspiration taking back from the XVIIIth Century, showing crinoline dresses and bringing forward the opulence of the fabric, right after the World War II where women had to restrain themselves in the quantity of cloth… He gave women what they dreamed of during the war, he gave them back their sensuality. Chanel, for her part, was not that successful in her comeback. She constantly cut the fabric, she was at the opposite of Dior. She wanted simplicity. But women after the war did not search for simplicity, they wanted to feel like women, and here was Mademoiselle’s point: she made them feel their body, and feel comfortable and elegant in the meantime. It was totally new, she designed for women of character. But then, Haute Couture reached its cap with Galliano for Dior in the 2000s, at a time of economic growth and expansion of the fashion influence in a globalized society. It marked the power of marketing and brand-building, reshaping Haute Couture to the next level of show-off, exuberance and creativity. The talent of the craftsmanship was by no one before that mastered and it had as a direct effect, resulted in the saturation media coverage of Haute Couture. Everyone was talking about it, it triggered passions and dreams. And this revolution in the advertisement of Haute Couture drove us to 2015, where crowds of amateurs and fashionistas are waiting outside the shows, watching the dream come true live on the internet and social media. Haute Couture is entering a new era, an era where all want to work in the industry, attracted by a glamorous aspect, and where attending a couture show is synonymous with fame. Today, the reality of Haute Couture is different: it is no more a business, but only a fragment of a past tradition, to keep the legend alive, a marketing tool beyond others, to feed the image of the House.