What is Haute Couture Fashion Week and is it still relevant in 2018?

Danielle Fowler
Freelance Writer
A model walks the SS18 Chanel show during Haute Couture Fashion Week [Photo: Getty]

Since the early 19th century, Haute Couture has managed to keep the mystery and pizzaz of fashion alive in wake of mass consumerism and fast turnover.

Reserved for the global elite, one couture number can take a six-person team to create a single Versace gown while the most intricate designs can take up to 6,000 hours to complete.

And once it has graced the runway, can sell for a purse-load of zeros.

Karl Lagerfeld’s newest muse, Kaia Gerber, makes her couture debut at the Grand Palais [Photo: Getty]

But only fashion houses which bear a stamp of approval from the Parisian Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode can showcase their sartorial creations during Haute Couture Fashion Week and even 73 years on, the strict guidelines still stand.

Debuted over three days, the prestigious event is sure to elicit a sigh of relief from the couple of hundred journalists who attend, as the daily eight-show schedule is a slow-burner compared to the ready-to-wear collections that are debuted in fashion month.

But in today’s industry, attendees and consumers are impatient. And with the rise in ‘see-now-buy-now‘ lines, is Haute Couture Fashion Week still relevant in 2018?

How has Haute Couture Fashion Week evolved over the years?

Haute Couture Fashion Week was established to enable the global elite to handpick custom-made garments crafted by highly-skilled artisans.

And although the eye-watering price tags still boast steep price tags, a shift in consumer needs has taken shape.

Rodarte made its couture debut for the SS18 shows [Photo: Getty]

According to WWD, no longer do couturiers rely on European buyers but a younger, more tech-savvy market with consumers from Russia, China and the Middle East.

And brands are recognising the need to flex their millennial muscles with ’21st-century couture’, in the words of fashion writer Suzy Menkes.

Last season, for instance, a new line-up of ready-to-wear names showed face on the schedule with the likes of Rodarte and Proenza Schouler as ‘guest members’ for the week.

And it proved a smart move, as the labels had the opportunity to debut their collections two months ahead of competitor brands.

Australian label Ellery showcased its debut couture line this season [Photo: Getty]

While this year, 11-year-old Australian label Ellery, made its couture debut.

And with 90 percent of the brand’s sales ringing through overseas courtesy of 160 global stockists, it proved a well-calculated strategy.

Are attendees still eyeing up the FROW at Haute Couture shows?

To the outside world, Haute Couture Fashion Week is at risk of appearing passé but the truth is, the biannual spectacle is integral to business.

“With new names, the demand for the special and exclusive and the revival of interest in craft and heritage skills, couture is more relevant not less,” fashion writer and creative consultant to the London College of Fashion, Tony Glenville, tells Yahoo Style UK.

Earlier this week, former Saint Laurent designer Hedi Slimane was named the new creative director of Céline [Photo: Getty]

“See Balmain’s ten-piece collection, Hedi Slimane couture for Céline and Claire Keller for Givenchy. It’s alive and very healthy. The schedule is crowded and truly international with designers from all corners of the globe,” he added.

But fashion’s key players aren’t sitting FROW just to take note of the biggest trend breakthroughs.

It seems modern day couture still manages to blow attendees away with ambitious craftsmanship and Haute Couture Fashion Week is not merely selling consumers ‘garments’ but an ideal.

Norman Tan, Digital Editorial Director of Buro 24/7 Singapore, told Yahoo Style UK: “For me, haute couture is cutting edge fashion – it’s pushing the limits of craft and concept – all intended to make the wearer dream.”

He added, “Isn’t that the point of fashion? To inspire us? To make us feel good?”


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Read more from Yahoo Style UK:

Celebrities spotted at Haute Couture Fashion Week SS18

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Kaia Gerber makes her couture debut for Chanel (obviously)