Are couturiers and their ateliers still relevant?

Fashion is not just about high street stores, online shopping and $5 t-shirts. Fashion at its core is about the making of garments to fit and suit your body perfectly.

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Toujours devant: A look from Dior Haute Couture SS18 shows not only the perfection of cut that haute couture is known for, but also the implementation of the imagination that it also describes. Image: Dior via WWD

Who are the couturiers and what is haute couture?
With the current fashion trends focused almost entirely on streetwear and sportswear, it’s easy to forget that fashion used to come first from the delicate hands and exacting minds of the haute couture ateliers – the studios of ‘high elegant sewing’. Basically sewing by hand.

Over the years, however, it has come to be defined as being: ‘fashion that is constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable sewers, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques’ (Huffington Post 2015).

The Chambre syndicale de la haute couture as it is now known was originally founded in 1868, and rigorously chooses a very limited number of 100 members in three groups or Chambres Syndicales – Haute Couture including Grand Couture, Couturiers’ and Fashion Designers’ Ready-to-Wear and Men’s Fashion as exemplars of quality fashion and design (Chambre syndicale de la haute couture 2018).

Of these three groups, to become a member of the Haute Couture Chambre Syndicale is considered the highest honour a fashion designer can aspire to (Chambre syndicale de la haute couture 2018).

In the Haute Couture SS18 season, there were only 12 couture houses considered to be ‘Grand Haute Couture’ members (Chambre syndicale de la haute couture 2018).

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Backstage elegance: Three looks from Givenchy Haute Couture SS18. Image: Givenchy via WWD

Why should we care about haute couture ateliers?
Haute Couture can be defined as being the highest level of the creation of garments; the Chambre was founded to promote ‘Haute Couture and creation [to] have a major impact by combining traditional know how and contemporary technology at all times’ (Chambre syndicale de la haute couture 2018).

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Dior Haute Couture SS18 finale: The list of Grand Couturiers that showed during Haute Couture SS18 fashion week included Givenchy, Alexandre Vauthier, Giambattista Valli, Julien Fournié, Jean Paul Gaultier, Stéphane Rolland, Christian Dior, Alexis Mabille, Franck Sorbier, Chanel, Schiaparelli and Maison Margiela. Image: Dior via WWD

It is the work of these couturiers and their atelier teams that continue the core skills and history of handcrafting garments to perfectly fit a body. These handcrafting skills are the basis for every factory machine action that is used to create prêt-à-porter, or ready-to-wear clothing.

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The beauty of fashion: Milliners, embroiders, feather workers and makeup artists are all essential parts of the Haute Couture shows as seen in this image from Chanel Haute Couture SS18. Image: Chanel via WWD

Without the continuation of revered ateliers like embroiderer Maison Lesage which partners with Chanel for its haute couture collections, so much knowledge and skill would be lost.  

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Delicate details: A look at the amazing embroidery by Maison Lesage for Chanel Haute Couture SS18. Image: Chanel via WWD

Without the couturiers and ateliers, there would be no fashion; just a lot of clothes.

References
Chambre syndicale de la haute couture 2018, ‘Fédération de la haute couture et de la mode’, Fédération de la haute couture et de la mode 2018, viewed 14 May 2018, <https://fhcm.paris/en/the-federation/>.

Chambre syndicale de la haute couture 2018, ‘Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2018’, Fédération de la haute couture et de la mode 2018, viewed 14 May 2018, <https://fhcm.paris/en/paris-fashion-week-en/fashionshows-schedule/?session=session_1498569334>.

Farra E 2017, ‘The making of Chanel’s Mirrored, Feather-Trimmed Spring ’17 couture gown, Vogue.com 2017, viewed 14 May 2018, <https://www.vogue.com/article/chanel-spring-2017-couture-behind-the-scenes-karl-lagerfeld>.

Huffington Post, All About Haute Couture, Huffington Post 2015, viewed 14 May 2018, <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/uloop/all-about-haute-couture_b_6746770.html>.

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