If designer wear could be afforded by everybody, it would lose its exclusivity. Part of the reason why we ogle at even the smallest thing that carries a designer label is because we automatically assume it to be made from the highest quality materials. We wouldn’t talk about a t-shirt that can be bought from the local supermarket as anything great, but a comment about a Versace t-shirt is made differently. Ready to Wear designer clothes are not the end all of fashion. In fact that is the collection you are likely to find at a high end store close to you. Much more exclusive and expensive than that, is something called Haute Couture, which can be compared to a Faberge egg- in terms of beauty, finesse, quality and of course the price.
Haute Couture in French simply means high fashion. Haute means high and couture means dressmaking. The term stands for excellence in fashioning customized garments. A garment like that is not mass produced, but is made to order and is specially adapted to the body measurements of the wearer. So high is the level of expertise and workmanship that goes into making even one dress that most of them are hand stitched, fitted with expensive accessories and made to perfection. The more the work needed on a garment, the more expensive it turns out to be. That is because design houses use the best fabrics like expensive silks, fine wools, cottons, linens and the like to create unique fashion pieces. Most design houses take a minimum of a few weeks to actually create a final haute couture garment. Needless to say the reputation of the brand is always at stake when creating such pieces. One ill fitting garment, or bad publicity could dampen the credibility of the brand.
So where does the designer come in? Before actually making the final garment, the designer gives his client a peek into his creation. Designs using muslin are draped on a model or a mannequin so that the client has an idea of how the garment will look after it is made. Once the final look is decided, specifications such as a line, style or cut are recreated in the final garment. To ensure that the garment changes minimum number of hands and does not get spoiled, most houses get one seamstress or tailor to work on one garment at a time. Customers who want a haute couture garment, need to make an appointment beforehand itself, so that the correct measurements and other details can be taken down correctly. Some houses are so particular about getting the last detail right that they put their clients through a minimum of three or four fitting sessions. Last minute changes such as a nip here or a tuck there are made, so that the garment fits like a dream.
Haute couture often turns out to be an unpractical business decision for most design houses. But the dream of owning something exclusive keeps haute couture alive.