Paris couture week is well underway. Kicking off proceedings was Schiaparelli, under Daniel Roseberry. The show quickly went viral for its collection of intricate, bold gold looks. From orbital constructions to all-gold head bags, the brand demonstrated the craftsmanship, time and effort that couture required, all to the wonder of the onlooking fashion community.
Couture requires a strict set of rules to even be considered and showcased under that name, though. ‘Haute couture’ is a legally protected term, and fashion houses are only able to be granted the designation by the French Ministry of Industry – who decides which brands meet its rigorous requirements on a case-by-case basis.
To get the label, brands have to abide by the many rules: they must maintain a Parisian workroom with a minimum of 20 employees, and it must produce at least 25 outfits per season. Although these rules have been changed a number of times, they were first formalised after World War II.
With such a lengthy vetting process, couture has been seen to alienate some fashion fans who favour quick releases and constantly-updating trend cycles. What’s more, with today’s emphasis on underground brands, designers and businesses, the process of becoming a couture house has read to some as archaic.
So is it relevant? Well, let’s discuss. Perhaps surprisingly, couture makes virtually no profit – even often operating at a loss due to the time, effort and process of creating the garments. Haute couture pieces are mostly constructed by hand, and prices regularly range in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single piece.
What’s more, couture’s relation to fashion at large is arguably minimal: prices restrict the couture client base to around 1,000 people worldwide. However, it does come to define some brands: just look at Schiaparelli’s gold constructions, or the abundance of couture pieces on the red carpet. However, Vetements, which has shown as part of haute couture previously, saw the Federation bend their own rules to allow them onto the schedule – suggesting that there is increasing room for change within the Ministry.
We asked our community on TikTok to weigh in on the debate – asking if they felt couture was still relevant. Somewhat surprisingly, lots of people were all for it, citing its likening to art as a reason to keep celebrating it. @O_ratzz commented that “its an art form, (and will be) forever relevant”, and @politeshock pointing out that “its art and makes sense to be treated like art”.
However, @moeblackx rightly draws attention to the issue with accessibility and elitism that the couture industry prescribes, adding that “fashion is sooo pretentious – things like getting “permission” to create haute couture gatekeeps from POC and lower income designers”.
Where do you sit on the debate?