Exclusiveness. The measure. Garments made by hand and with little use of the sewing machine. Luxury materials hand-stitched carefully for a perfect finish. Costurers who develop new techniques that take a long time.
That is why it is said that Haute Couture pieces are priceless. The development of these bespoke designs is known worldwide and only a few privileged can afford. It is an exclusive design, made with the highest quality materials that will adapt to every inch of your body. Undoubtedly, Haute Couture is the dream of every woman.
Catherine Riviere is in charge of directing the Haute Couture of the house Dior. She controls the entire process, from being manufactured until the customer buys it. Her function is mainly to ensure that the house maintains the tradition but adapting to the modern. She does not talk about prices. She says that the price of a Haute Couture garment should only matter to the client who is going to buy the garment and that if she then wants to say what it has cost, say it. Despite not wanting to talk about prices, she gives a clue: from 40,000 €. However, a piece of what we know as prêt-à-porter, would cost us approximately 8,000 €.
But many will ask: What´s the difference between Haute Couture and prêt-à-porter? The materials used. But above all, the hours. Many will think that we talk about expensive clothes. And it is true. But it is what they cost. They may be working on a dress for a whole year, counting on the manufacture of the materials, the measurements of the client and the work of the seamstresses. It is a work of art, a way of being and thinking. It is something unique and extraordinary that will have only an individual experience. And that’s where the difference is made.
Prêt-à-porter (ready to wear) garments, would be the ones that are made, unlike the Haute Couture, with a certain pattern and with which they work according to the demand of the product. We could say that they are the clothes we usually wear on a daily basis (although some people can afford wear Haute Couture daily).
Not all luxury brands that most of us know work with Haute Couture garments. In fact, there is an union in which you must meet some guidelines to be part of this select club.
1. The first rule is that the house must design the client an exclusive piece and totally tailored, with one or more tests until the garment is perfect.
2. The second rule talks about the membership of a workshop or studio that is located in Paris and has at least 20 employees working full time.
3. The third but not least is that each season must present to the public a collection of at least 50 new designs of the brand.
All the houses that make Haute Couture, also make prêt-à-porter. In addition, the latest is the one that gives more income to the brands. It’s what sells the most and it takes less time to make it.
The official members of Haute Couture are: Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Stephane Rolland and Giambattista Valli. In addition, foreign members include Elie Saab and Versace.
During the 20th century Haute Couture suffered a significant decline. From 106 homes in 1946 to only 18 in 2000, reducing to only 9 in 2004 (Versace, Dior, Chanel, Valentino, Lacroix, Gaultier, Givenchy …).
“Fashion is the history of a tissue.”
The distance between continents was reduced. That night meant a change in culture. In fashion. People were looking for surprise, it was like playing a game. It was the turning point that changed everything. That night of 1973 fashion saved a palace in ruins, the Palace of Versailles.
Eleonor Lambert was the precursor of all this night. We could say that she was the true creator of fashion. In the 40s she was a publicist and started to make the lists that today we know as Top Tens of the best dresses. Without doubt, it was the Ana Wintour of the time. And also, a formidable organizer.
Everything arose with the ideal motive: the Palace of Versailles. An idea that originated in order to raise funds to be able to reform it. And why not, also with the reason to join two continents that despite their differences, had many more things in common than they thought: among them, the exquisite taste for fashion. To create beauty in any of its forms.
A runaway and a dinner. New York and Paris. Both involved in a context in which everything was allowed. The first homosexual movements, feminism. People of color are already on TV. Creativity was undoubtedly booming and people could not care less. Quite the opposite: it was what they were looking for. And the sexual and artistic freedom of the time pushed much to the creation of new designs that represented the free women.
Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Pierre Cardin and Emanuel Hungaro went on the night of November 28th to present their designs of Parisian Haute couture. The New York side was represented by designers Stephen Burrows, Anne Klein, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Halston.
At that time France was the pioneer of fashion par excellence. They rehearsed in the mornings while the Americans had to settle for the nights. The fashion event of the year had an anecdote. Halston, one of the North American designers, outdid others and knew it. He had a natural elegance but a great ego. Everyone was knocking at his door and he was a marketing genius. In the short time New Yorkers had to rehearse their runaways, time was running out and Halston saw that he was not going to be able to prepare his runaway. He picked up the door and went away angry, leaving the rest of the team to manage as he was because he was not going to participate in this. However, the next day it appeared as if nothing had happened.
Runaway begins. French were very chic and their sets were fantastic. It was a very French runaway, very elaborate but very complex. There was too much movement and it was very pretentious. Especially emphasized Josephine Baker, that paraded with great feathers in the head and made a spectacular interpretation.
The decorations were made of wood from the 17th century. There was everything and those present were amazed at what they saw: a rhinoceros pulling a cart. A pumpkin carriage (Dior), reindeer and many bright things. These were among other things that they could appreciate in the 2 hours and a half that lasted the parade. However, there were so many mixed ideas that the attendees were left with the feeling that it had been a bit ridiculous. Most do not remember the clothes that were exposed that night.
Nervous and excited the 42 North American models that paraded in Versailles, were set in motion. And the color exploded.
Stephen Burrows, the only designer still alive from that night, revolutionized the runway with his stunning African-American models. They radiated beauty everywhere. An innovative element, since most of the models that used to parade were of white complexion. If we join it to the burst of color of the clothes of Burrows, the parade left open mouth to more than one.
The entire North American show was wrapped in a Broadway musical. It gave energy with its designs, with its music. It was like a breath of fresh air that the French loved. For more information, it all culminated in the perfect and fabulous performance of Liza Minelli. It was only 37 minutes of show in which the Parisians felt absolute admiration for the runaway of the Americans. And the first to stand was Princess Grazia of Monaco.
At the end of the shows, those present gathered for dinner. But they could not begin, someone was missing. –Where is Eleonor Lambert? We can not start without it!-Someone said. And there she was, sending a press release in which he commented that the American runaway had been a success.
An experience that all those who were on that night of November 28, 1973 still remember and will not forget. Because the models began to have more opportunities; Because Paris realized that it needed to be renewed; Because New York took a giant leap; Because the African American triumphed; And last but not least:
Because they rescued Versailles.