Fashion Quote: Karl Lagerfeld on Haute Couture

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Details from Chanel Fall Winter 2013 Haute Couture.

While I am super proud of Rad Hourani being the first Canadian to be accepted as a member to La Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne (the governing body of the French fashion industry), I think Karl Lagerfeld makes a very good point about couture here:

“I think couture has a real reason to exist in a limited way, like Chanel or Dior, because they have a real couture house organization. Small designers who don’t have a real organization should do expensive RTW, because couture is not just the same dresses made-to-order, but it’s also the presentation, the fittings, the whole thing that goes with it. There is something mythical about it that cannot be improvised. You can make very good clothes at home on a limited scale but a real couture organization…there are very few left.” (WWD)

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Details from Chanel Fall Winter 2013 Haute Couture.

In recent years, La Chambre Syndicale has had to relax their rules in order to accept more designers to show haute couture, as the list was getting very short. But I must say that I sort of agree with Lagerfeld, in that it should be kept very, very exclusive and limited, and only the fashion houses with the correct skills can call themselves haute couture. That’s not to say that some of the smaller names on the schedule are not worthy, but I am pretty sure there are a few on there that are most likely closer to luxury ready-to-wear, than couture.

I studied couture at the schools run by La Chambre Syndicale (I’ve also been lucky to attend several couture shows), and I can tell you it is a very, VERY different story to ready to wear. And as Lagerfeld says, it is not just about the construction, it is about the presentations, the salons, and the history. It is quite sacred. For once, Lagerfeld speaks with reason!

Images from Style.com.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dimitar.mangalski Dmitr Mangalski

    I am kind of surprised that Lagerfeld had something that valuable to say (judging on his previous talking of who was fat or not). I can’t really agree that Rad Hourani (who is an amazing designer) can really be called a “haute couture” designer. He’s just an expensive, limited and original label that is worth having the press and everything without really bragging and paying for 5-page spread in magazines. There’s just a reason to put him on the covers. I honestly believe that a couture house can be called a house that has had 50+ years of history. This is when things can get out from the archive, back again on the runway reworked for the current fashions. And if a house survived that much, it really has its own spirit and vibe (which Chanel and Dior certainly have in common)

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Totally agree. A lot of the designers on the couture schedule are not true couture, and I agree that the old houses, with the atelier, salons, etc… should be the only ones allowed to use the title “haute couture.”

  • Paige

    I guess it’s a catch-22. On the one hand, there’s a prestigious and sacred element to these large couture houses. But they didn’t start out that way. They had decades to grow and accumulate the credentials they have now, including large ateliers and salons. So then, I suppose it’s a question of what’s more important: preserving the art or preserving the experience. Because if it’s about preserving the art, it can’t just be about presentation. You know that couture is rarely profitable as it is, and even with loosened guidelines, remains a very exclusive club. The techniques take years and years of training to perfect, and some are so labour intensive (read:expensive) even established couturiers won’t use them in their designs! It’s a miracle that their are new, small designers even attempting couture. I understand that rarity and prestige and unparalleled quality are very important to the industry, but how can we expect designers to improve their skills, and reach that level of expertise if we don’t even give them the chance? To me, expecting a couture corporation on top of every other demanding requirement isn’t a means to protecting an art form, it’s a catalyst for extinction.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Some interesting points, I agree with you, but I also agree with Karl. And I’m not sure couture isn’t profitable, I’ve heard recently that the big houses were turning away customers. And don’t forget that couture is also a marketing tool, one that makes money and promotes the brand. I feel like we might see some more old school brands starting couture again, let’s hope so. Because if they don’t, and the numbers continue to dwindle, you are right, the art will become extinct.