Text by Marino Bombini
When it comes to haute couture a multilayered sense of unexplainable springs out.
At least once in a lifetime each of us has wondered and questioned about what haute couture is for.
Plus: given the eccentricity that some famous ateliers cast down the catwalk it is inevitable to ask ourselves who could ever wear those apparently ’unusual’ dresses.
Well, before dipping in the darts of the aforementioned unexplainable, there’s quite a few things to know.
It’s very common to see haute couture pieces worn by super soldiering dolls of any star system. But, as some of you maybe already know, those dresses are not made for them. Yes, haute couture actual clients are people, women precisely, whom you will never ever meet in your life, not even broadcasted. They are like invisible, they do not want to be visible, as they have no reason to want to.
It’s a – let’s say casual – circle with though unspoken strict rules, for its members (a bare two hundreds heads in the world) are quite officially unknown one to the other.
Soon after World War II, before prêt à porter era boomed, fashion and haute couture meant the same thing: collections were presented as a défilé in which lovely models wore enchanting dresses in a quiet environment. Those défilés are no longer nowadays, ready-to-wear universe (and all its infinite shades of grey) roars through any sort of amplifying media, re-shuffling the playing cards of the fashion game, and then gripping the basics of marketing rules (which – as well-known – are getting more and more unpredictable). So haute couture immense shows have become a sort of promotional strategy for the brand, only in a small percentage a display of collections to potential customers. In fact the huge efforts to master such amazing performances almost never pay off. Anyway, recent news about withdrawals by Gucci and Jean-Paul Gaultier from the ready-to-wear weeks in Milan and Paris must have cleared up a bit more about what really makes money to fashion brands. Though extremely expensive (prices can reach six figures) haute couture dresses are not supposed to swell the coffers of any maison. That’s why, although the evident decline of this romantic naiveté, parisian couture week will always survive while the Alta Roma carousel won’t.
Philosophical thinking, whether fashion is a form of art or not, has most of the time no conclusion, but whatever haute couture may be it is the closest to art. And rare statements by clients, who at times accept to speak about it, do confirm that to buy a dress, one of those precious dresses, is like to possess a painting: an investment.
Is that it? No. «I think it’s mostly a question of quality. That’s the good reason to buy couture» Baronesse Helene de Ludinghausen (former Directrice de la Haute Couture chez Yves Saint Laurent) says, «And I think… I wouldn’t call it the bad reason, but maybe the more superficial reason [to buy couture] is wanting to be part of a certain world».
Quality of haute couture dresses is beyond any imagination, the results are always impeccable. Craftsmanship superb (a dress might require hundreds of hours), materials are the finest. Suits and dresses not only enumerate complicated purpose-made textiles but they are also engineered as a single piece, which then will be different right in details from an eventual other one, in case of rare multiple orders. Two or more orders of the same dress might diminish the sense of haute couture, as well as the case of famous people impersonating it. Daphne Guinness has no doubt: «To get your clothes onto a movie star is going to be advertising, in one form or another. And if I see something in advertising I don’t want that anymore, that’s for sure! I don’t want to see somebody else wearing what I wear».
Though extreme, what legendary Daphne states is that haute couture is really the last room left in fashion where something magic could happen, where designers may dare to trespass boundaries and at the same time turn the unwearable into the most comfortable second-skin-like dream. In a way it’s like a fairytale with your own happy ending, which would never fit any other’s one.
Still, is this dream worth that particular expense? Till the last penny, members agree.
After all have you ever questioned about the price of any of Jackson Pollock’s paintings?
* Any opinions expressed in this report are solely those of the author.
All photography Maison Martin Margiela, Artisanal by John Galliano © Marcus Tondo / Indigitalimages.com , courtesy of Style.com