Friday, June 3, 2011

Beware of Redefining Moments in Fashion

There is a little term that I am seeing thrown all around town lately and I don’t care for it. Before I go into my current word rant, let’s look at a test case shall we? The word diva. By definition it means, “a celebrated female singer.” However, our culture morphs these words into something other than what they really are and we accept it over time. Realize your influence America. It’s huge. Now everyone is proudly calling themselves a diva, their daughter a diva, and they don’t sing a tune. It would bother me whenever I heard the word being used to negatively describe someone as well. Both commonly accepted uses are wrong by definition but my efforts were fruitless. I had to let it go or people would start calling me a Diva for nitpicking over the mere definition of a word.

I want to stop the world from misusing this next term before its new definition takes over: Couture. Haute couture is French for “high-fashion” and by definition means, “exclusive custom-fitted clothing.” A quick google search left me dumbfounded. The “Free Dictionary” which I have never heard of, has already tried to put it’s own definition out there and this scares me. It’s not worth my time to retype it here. Every line busting out of the gate these days considers themselves couture and is slapping it on their label to prove it. Let me say this. This is how Idiocracy begins and if you don’t really do your research and know what you are shopping for, you will begin to believe the lies as well. Couture is a French term and without getting into serious details here, in order for your Fashion House to even be considered, they must follow these pretty basic rules:
1. Clothing must be designed to order for private clients with multiple fittings
2. Have an atelier in Paris that employs atleast 15 full-time employees
3. *Each season (i.e., twice a year), present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.

Does your Fashion House fit these credentials? Oh no?! Then stop using couture as a qualifier for your line. If your stuff is great, people will spread the word-don’t worry. But don’t manipulate words to fool people into believing that your stuff is something that it isn’t. For the past decade we all manipulated numbers to live lifestyles that we could not afford. And look where it got us. Is nothing sacred? Please don’t do it with clothes. Englishman Charles Frederich Worth redefined dressmaking of his time and set precedents and standards by which Fashion Houses strive to reach today creating by creating the art of haute couture. This is the highest quality of fashion and design. It is serious business in the fashion world and common people are not giving the term its due credit. This is an exclusive term saved for the likes of Givenchy, Gaultier, Ungaro and Dior. Unfortunately, as the economy has declined throughout the world many companies such as Lacroix and Azzaro have abandoned their couture lines due to the expenses of creating an exclusive line meeting all of the strict requirements. Production costs have gone way up over the years and companies are focusing on more lucrative forms of revenue. Turning their attention onto items such as cologne and ready to wear lines that will generate serious profit is one of the main factors in supporting the current couture lines of Chanel and Dior. They cover the market in all other areas and the couture lines are able to exist. It is a sad fact that the brilliance of ateliers and the art that they once created is almost dead. With cheap manufacturing techniques and the rising price of raw materials, it’s a wonder our clothes don’t fall right off of us. Thank heavens for haute couture. It gives us something to dream about. I always say invest in the highest quality pieces that you can and look at them as investments. It does not have to be a couture piece to be a perfect piece for your wardrobe.

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you can’t pronounce it then you can’t afford it?” Though this may be true, who cares? Don’t try to fake it until you make it. Just be you. I encourage all designers to strive to meet the standards of couture lines if that’s what they want. I raise my glass to all the Houses who are Members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. But if you’re not striving and your line is not reaching, then it is not couture and please don’t call it that. That is all.