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The dying art of haute couture


What do Dior, Chanel, and Jean Paul Gaultier have in common? They all take part in the creation of impeccably handcrafted gowns that make up the intimate world of haute couture. As indicated in the documentary The Secret World of Haute Couture, the number of individuals who purchase these luxurious fashion pieces is small. 200 people in the entire world make up the members of this elite club.

The film gives us a glimpse into the glamorous and secretive world of haute couture club members. These are the women keeping the business alive. According to the movie, Chanel is one of the only couture fashion houses who claim to turn a profit from their couture collections. If this is the case, then what is the reason these designers pour their creativity and time into their collections if it doesn’t generate profit?

“Think of it like a pyramid”, says Dior’s former head designer John Galliano. “Everything takes its inspiration from the haute couture which eventually has a trickle down effect on everything that we create at the house of Dior.”

According to Galliano’s statement, despite the cost and time it requires to create a single haute couture piece, it’s worth it because it is the foundation to everything that we know in the fashion world. I believe this to be true; however, it is becoming less relevant as the years go by. People are flocking to fast fashion. They aren’t seeking out pieces that are timeless and high quality. The majority seeks inexpensive and disposable items.

This is the biggest difference between club members and the majority. The haute couture buyer considers a couture piece to be an investment. They want high quality, impeccable craftsmanship and one of a kind. “What you see on the runway is never ultimately what goes on the customer’s body. It’s done for you. Once you get into the Atelier and say less sleeve or drop the waist, it becomes a very wearable piece of art. It is a piece of art,” says club member Becca Cason Thrash.

Becca has summed it up. The creation of haute couture is a true form of art. Regardless of its cost, there is a lack of appreciation for clothing that is handcrafted with such refinement and detail. After watching The Secret World of Haute Couture, I have a better understanding of what it truly means to call something haute couture and I appreciate the individuals who allow it to exist in a world of fashion that is crippled by fast fashion lovers.

Natasha Duffin, JCI Fashion Student

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