Givenchy has decided to suspend its Haute Couture line and will not show during the Paris schedule in January 2013. The brand released a statement to WWD stating that it “does not rule out Couture presentations in the future” and will continue making and displaying its Couture looks internally to private clients and celebrities. Givenchy will continue to fund its Couture atelier though there is no word on whether the brand will ever present another public show.
Givenchy’s decision may come as a surprise to some, but for others, this was not unforeseen. Since Riccardo Tisci, the creative director of Givenchy, altered the structure of the house’s Fall 2010 Couture showing in July 2010 from a massive runway spectacle to a presentation, it has been evident that the brand wanted to operate in a smaller and more personalized direction.
Couture creation is a difficult task – it is the ultimate laboratory for fashion, so to speak. It is time-consuming, scrupulous and expensive – and with diminishing clientele numbers, many have considered that the art of Haute Couture is becoming increasingly less significant on the fashion agenda. Haute Couture is an art form; and as pret-a-porter, commercialism and the more recent fad of ‘disposable clothing’ become more popular in an industry that is already struggling as a result of the economy, Givenchy’s decision is a sad but smart one – and maybe a pre-cursor of the brand’s future.
Haute Couture debuted in Paris in the mid-19th century, an era marked by opulence and privilege. An emerging designer in this new artistic technique at that time was Englishman Charles Frederick Worth. Worth created the very first fashion house and created a new philosophy as to how clothes should be made. In Worth’s world, Haute Couture was for the aristocratic and elite women of society.
To be deemed an Haute Couture atelier, a design house must meet all of these guidelines: 1) design made-to-order fitted garments for private clientele, 2) have an atelier in Paris that employs a minimum of fifteen full-time staff, and 3) present a collection to the Paris press, every season with at least thirty five looks featuring daytime and evening wear.
The strict rules make each garment very special since pieces are often hand-sewn and consist of intricate details that may involve beading and embellishments. In fact, the creation of an Haute Couture garment can take many months to complete.
In 1868, Worth and his sons established The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to create a body in charge of ratifying fashion houses that qualified to design Haute Couture. By 1946, there were 106 officially recognized Haute Couture houses. By 1952, that number had diminished to 60. Now with Givenchy Couture in hiatus, only twenty-nine houses remain and will show during Spring 2013 Haute Couture Fashion Week from January 21-24, 2013.
These days, the relevance of Haute Couture, which is seen as a highly exclusive status symbol, is questionable. Loyal Couture customers are aging. And for the younger generation of deep-pocketed women who can afford Haute Couture, it is just not practical. The new breed of high fashion clienteles opt not to buy Haute Couture because ready-to-wear products are more attractive and financially sensible. In the last decade, the presence of an Haute Couture line has been mostly implemented as a marketing strategy to enhance a label’s credibility. In reality, the majority of revenue earned by luxury houses comes from ready-to-wear products, fragrances, accessories, and diffusion lines.
Every Haute Couture house which has abandoned their Couture label in the past, reserving its strength on their ready-to-wear line has lost a piece of art, not only in terms of prestige, but also in terms of business volume. But we have to ask ourselves, is art useful when it becomes a financial burden? In the past decade, quite a number of Haute Couture houses have suffered the same fate as Givenchy; Balmain and Yves Saint Laurent in 2002, Christian Lacroix in 2009. Couture has become an anachronism, and unfortunately, Givenchy is probably not the last member of the Syndicale to put an end to its Haute Couture line.
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Credit: Written by Jasper Bailey. Images courtesy of style.com, stylebistro and vogue.fr.