January 26, 2011

haute couture and prêt-à-porter

Okay guys, I’m back. Now, all you budding fashion designers, I know you are very much aware what the terms haute couture and prêt-a-porter means, but to all the common readers out there (if any) I would like to give you a little bit of basics.

Firstly, let’s see what is haute couture? It is a French term for extremely custom made garments that are exclusively designed and sewn for a single customer. These garments are extremely expensive, as they are made of high quality luxurious fabrics and embellishments, sewn with extreme attention to detail and perfection often using time consuming manual techniques.

Though the term haute couture is commonly used nowadays for high-end custom fit garments, it originally referred to the work of Charles Frederick Worth, who, despite being born in Bourne, Lincolnshire, England, made is mark in the French Fashion industry and is considered the Father of Haute couture. This is why the term haute couture is legally protected by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute couture based in Paris, France. Other terms for custom clothing are made to measure and bespoke clothing.

Some eminent couturiers of the past are Callot Soeurs, Poiret, Chanel, Mainbocher, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, and Dior. Following their footsteps were Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, André Courrèges, and Emanuel Ungaro. These designers trained under pros like Dior and Balenciaga, and successfully launched their own couture houses.  

Ms. Coco Chanel

Mr. Christian Dior, he founded the prestigious Dior fashion house, 
which is now run by renowned designer Mr. John Galliano

A Dior Gown

Mr. Yves Saint Laurent

Haute couture garments, as I have mentioned earlier, are very expensive and can be afforded by only a handful of people in the society. Therefore, it is not a very reliable source of income for design houses of today to survive, as they provide a very low Return on Investment. This is why, today, many top design houses like Chanel, Lacroix, Mugler and many more reduced drastically their haute couture work, and started focusing on prêt-a-porter collections, that are affordable by a bigger stratum of society and hence generate more revenues. For these fashion houses, custom clothing is no longer the main income source. They use this term for some special collections, that are often not for sale or very difficult to purchase.  

Prêt-a-porter is the French term for ready-to-wear garments. Garments that are made in standard sizes, have simpler patterns that are easy to manufacture in factories, and is within the means of the mass. The main intention of the designer here is to bring out a collection that will give him/her a good ROI.

For famous fashion houses like Dior, some ready-to-wear (RTW) designs may be based loosely on a famous couture dress or pattern; this increases the visibility of the designer and adds to the value of the RTW garment.

   Ready-to-wear is not only a source of regular income for the couturiers; there are some exclusive prêt designers as well, like Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, who thrived to success with their RTW lines.  

Mr. Tommy Hilfiger

A Tommy ensemble

Mr. Calvin Klein

Wait! You thought it’s over? Not yet, not yet. I have been talking so much about fashion designers and couturiers, how can I forget about our very own Indian brigade? Indian couturiers have made a remarkable place in the fashion universe now. Names like Ritu Beri, Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Bal, Sabyasachi Mukherjee are not limited to Elite Indian households and NRIs anymore. They are all over the planet, be it Europe, America, or Asia.

Okay guys, now finally you can heave a sigh of relief, 'cause here I end my today's lecture. I hope you found something useful for yourself, but if you didn't, sorry, I can't help it. You can always leave a comment if you want any more information, I will be happy to help. Till then stay updated!! Be in Fashion!!

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