Describe the history of haute couture. What role does it play in the fashion industry today? Use a couture house or couturier to demonstrate your argument.
Table of Contents
History of haute couture
The role-played in the fashion industry today
Burberry’s role in the fashion industry
The term haute couture primarily reflects the attire of the rich and the famous. In the name itself, the essence of high-class society and money can be sensed and some of the finest designers aspire to design clothing for the rich and the famous around the world. (source) The haute couture is the high-end fashion, which uses the finest materials and most intricate work on the clothing to offer a luxurious experience to whoever wears it. In recent times, the haute couture is seen as a status symbol and most of the rich and the famous personalities set a parameter to success with the individual’s capabilities to afford haute couture.
The essay demonstrates a history of the haute couture industry and the role it plays in the development of the fashion industry. Burberry, which is one of the most luxurious brands of UK, has been chosen for the essay to analyse the role played by haute couture in the success of the fashion industry.
In the 21st century, the designers around the world have to go through a number of parameters and fulfil various requirements in order to ensure that their work is called Haute Couture. According to Pinchera and Rinallo (2017), the fashion history does not adequately explore. Similarly, according to Pouillard (2016), the interwar period was a golden time for women fashion designers. Of course, one cannot deny that royalty had a huge role to play in encouraging Haute Couture in the ancient and the medieval times. However, as stated by Gardetti and Torres (2017), the idea of Haute Couture spread to the rich and wealthy upper-middle-class families only during the rise of industries across Europe during the industrial revolution.
When speaking of the history of Haute Couture, the name Charles Frederick Worth always emerges as he is said to be the father of Haute Couture. According to Eliot (2010), the tradition of designing fashion with the finest raw materials and high-end artisanship had begun sometime during the industrial revolution in the European countries. The House of Worth established in 1850 designed clothes exclusively for the royalty and the nobles. However, the term Haute Couture was coined as late as 1908. (source) The term ‘fashion designer’, was first coined during this time, which separated a normal dressmaker from an artist who designed the best clothes for the royalty. This made the fashion house a place for the nobles and the members of the royal family. According to Green (1998), Charles Frederick Worth was among the first designers in the world who started the fashion of displaying his work on models and mannequins, to create a look book for the nobles to have a look at them, and to sew the labels of his fashion house on the clothes that were designed. Fashion houses like Chanel, Dior and Burberry were quick to follow and they adopted the same policy as that of Charles Frederick Worth. (source)
With the rise of Haute Couture being the best-designed dresses in the world, the concept of piracy appeared. As stated by Hall and Jefferson (1993), the mannequins and the models were photographed, and the designs were copied to suit the local taste and price affordability. Europe in the mid-1900s was filled with middle-class families who were not in the position to purchase Haute Couture but was wealthy enough to pay for the first copy. As a result, the PAIS or L’Association de Protection des Industries Artistiques Saisonnieres to protect the intellectual property rights of the fashion houses. (this line does not make sense) The rule came into existence in the year 1921. This was a milestone in the fashion industry because most of the fashion houses small or big were somewhere or the other feared the problem of their product being copied and sold in the black market (Hine, 2000).
In the year 1945, the designers had to fulfil certain specifications in order to ensure that their product is called Haute Couture. According to Gašović et al. (2017) the yarn needs to be of high quality so that the breaks are minimised. The designers should make the clothes personally for the private clients and they must show at least thirty-five daytime and night times’ attire to the press in Paris. After the revival of France from wartime expenses, the fashion market launched new products that made use of motifs like leaves, flowers and birds to attract new and high-end customers. The last part of the 1970s, however, witnessed a huge drop in the number of Haute Couture houses. According to Carabal-Montagud et al. (2018), there were only 19 couture houses because of the stringent regulations that were imposed by the Le Chambre Syndicale de La Haute Couture. The idea of mass production completely ruined the business of Haute Couture. However, with the turn of the millennium, the industry was about to witness a completely new era in the fashion industry.
With the turn of the century, the globalisation bought a new era in the fashion industry. The fashion houses took advantage of the growing internationalisation of business and as a result, there were fashion shows abroad especially in the emerging markets like that of China, Southeast Asia and Australia. In 2014, Christian Dior organised the first haute couture show in China and the response was increasingly encouraging for the fashion industry (Kim and Sullivan, 2019).
In the modern times when most of the fashion brands make money out of products like handbags, shoes and beauty products, it has become a matter of concern for the influence of haute couture in the industry. Brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Burberry and Chanel have been recorded to lose money in Haute Couture. Burberry representatives have stated that the real money is in the accessories. (source) The clothes are simply a way of attracting media attention. However, the fact that haute couture still remains significant to the designers is something that cannot be denied. The Haute Couture fashion week in Paris is held in the months of January and July every year and it is one of the high-end and glamorous events around the world. The top models around the world an invited to be a part of the event and they continue to display the products that are to be up for sale in the following years. According to Minian et al. (2017), this gives the designers time to make more pieces that can be ordered in the future. The red carpet is adorned with luxurious wedding gowns and dresses. The Haute Couture is adopted by the brands that have been approved of designing these clothes by the French Ministry of the industry. Thus, in order to attain the tag of Haute Couture, the brands and the designers have to fulfil a range of stringent requirements that can be time-consuming and requires huge investments. The Haute Couture can become the final creative pursuit that a designer can undertake. The rules and the regulations coupled with expectations have the capability to push the designer to produce its creative best, which ultimately is very important for the brand as a whole to be successful. The concept of Haute Couture looks beyond industrialisation and mass production and it encourages the designers to develop a bold and an unconventional outlook towards fashion that can affect the overall output of the fashion house (fhcm.paris, 2019). (in correct format)
Presently, fashion has to collaborate with technology. According to VanderPloeg and Lee (2017), the creative directors are responsible to keep up with technology. The Haute Couture is better than the best or rather the best among the best. This way, the designers are challenged to be their creative best. With the growing competition in the fashion industry and the number of customers is limited, the designers are increasingly challenged to develop something that will be different and better from the creation of other fashion houses. The ball gowns that are created depict the hours and the number of luxury techniques that have been put in for the creation. On the other hand, in order to depict the intricacies and perfection, the tuxedos must be given a closer look. Thus, in a way, Haute Couture forms the highest parameter of luxury, creativity and quality in the fashion industry.
It must be pointed out that selling Haute Couture is like a dream. Most of the times, the prices are so high that the people do not have the possibility to buy the products. Further, the fashion houses run on losses due to the Couture. However, the displaying of the Haute Couture attracts a lot of media attention and publicity for the fashion houses. It creates desirability among the celebrities and the high net worth people to purchase the product. This way the fashion house creates a dream that is intangible, and it opens the path to further profits and sales of other products that are produced by the fashion brand. The high quality is often associated with high prices and thus it creates a fashion statement in the market. The individuals are tempted to spend their money on high-quality products. (source)
Burberry is one of the few companies in the world that feature authentic British fashion and since the 1800s; it has played a huge role in the fashion industry. The importance of the brand founder lies in the innovation that was made in 1856 which brought to light the world’s first waterproof fabric called the gabardine. The brand became famous for the breathable and waterproof material that was famous for its trench coats. The exclusive position of the brand played a huge role in contributing some of the finest designs in the fashion industry in the beginning part of the 20th century. According to Carroll (2017), the pleasure of buying clothing lies in the surplus money that the buyer possesses. In the 1950s, the trench coats of Burberry made way to the silver screen and famous stars of Hollywood wore the fabric. It was one of the first brands in the world that used checks to distinguish its products from that of its other counterparts. The checks of the brand are considered as the ideal and desirable print by the fashion industry around the world (burberry.com, 2019). (in correct format)
In the 21st century, Burberry’s major income, however, comes from the iconic bags and shoes that are produced by the fashion house. According to Gibson and Pesce (2017), the celebrity is a source of entertainment to the common public. They develop stories about their personal life and their activities and fashion is a pivotal part of the same. The Haute Couture is still an important part of the brand. According to Cassidy (2017), the concept of luxury is related with that of the high-priced products. Yet, it often terms its clothes as more of an investment than profits. This is because; the money that is invested in hosting the fashion show, developing the designs and storing them is far higher than the sale numbers. As a result, the haute couture produced by Burberry is like publicity to sell finally a bag or a perfume in the end in the duty-free. Further, Burberry representative has clearly stated that clothes have a lower recognition score as compared to fashion accessories like bags and jewellery. The fact that the bags can display the tag of being made in the house of Burberry will increase the overall prestige and pride of the owner in society. The people do not only buy clothes or accessories to look good but also to gain importance in society and the well-known brand of Burberry sells the dream. The catwalk dresses end up in the garbage.
Burberry had hit the dirty waters in the 1990s when it almost lost its exclusivity and the customers treated its products as uniform. This clearly stated the importance of Haute Couture in the fashion industry. Haute Couture ensures the exclusivity of the brands in the market. The couture may be extremely pricey, but it depicts to the people about the capability of the designer and the fashion brand to create a masterpiece. The Haute Couture must be seen more as an investment than as a loss. Burberry’s eventual success after the loss in the 1990s can be seen as one of the striking examples of how important haute couture is to the companies in the fashion industry. The design development by the brand coupled with the ability of the brand to bag in some exclusive models like Kate Moss has helped it to come out of its identification crisis and develop a brand image that is suited for the rich and the famous.
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