Couture is back. (But couture never left! you say. Or did it?) Since The Upper Echelon has a passion for the finer things, equaled only by our passion for street style, we couldn’t be happier or more hyped for the couture renaissance (and our favorite couture designer’s latest collections).
Haute couture sales dropped dramatically over the past decade, while ready to wear (or prêt-à-porter) replaced its sales and popularity. Why? In a word: money. Couture became unprofitable. From 1946 to 1970, the number of couture houses dropped from 106 to 19. Couture is costly (some pieces take hundreds of hours to create), and as returns diminished, houses could not keep up. For fall 2014, only about sixteen couture shows were presented.
Could breaking tradition be key to reviving couture? Let’s review some of couture’s history. Even legendary fashion house Givenchy announced a couture hiatus back in 2012 – which it returned from last year, returning to its storied roots with the debut of a new haute couture collection in Paris. Saint Laurent made a couture comeback in 2015 with the house’s first haute couture collection in 13 years. Fendi showed a haute fourrure collection (the first in its 90-year history). And Jean Paul Gaultier and Viktor & Rolf have halted ready-to-wear lines to concentrate on haute couture. Proving? That the old-world artisanal craft of couture has a place in today’s fast-paced fashion industry. After feeling like the Myspace to prêt-à-porter’s (ready to wear) Facebook for a few years, made-to-measure lines are back on top, with a new audience of (often young) customers. Houses are altering clothing to meet the demands of modern life for the uber-wealthy (or those of us who save for a staple piece).
The market and some forward-thinking designers are changing the fashion landscape yet again, reminding us of the important purpose that couture serves: it sells a vision.
Couture’s primary role is to build a label’s name. It inspires and creates a fantasy that makes us all want to live the lifestyle emulated by a brand. What once was a status symbol of the elite, ensuring no two people wore the same thing, couture represented power, privilege, and comfort. Today’s couture, while still exclusive, is designed to be more accessible to the modern gentleman (and woman).
The Upper Echelon Says
There’s been a change in couture consumption. Buyer behavior is changing dramatically, and in our search for exclusivity, modern consumers are again appreciative of couture pieces. Today’s couture consumer can be found in all shapes, sizes, places, and colors; they want couture that fits their modern, cosmopolitan lifestyle. Pieces that are unique and design-heavy but that don’t fit the old mold of haute couture, which was static and rigid.
Who’s doing this well? Our favorite: Greg Lauren is helping to define modern couture.
Greg Lauren: King of Couture
Greg Lauren is part of a movement happening in fashion, and we’d argue that he’s at the helm. Why? Vision. Lauren seems to understand what so many storied fashion houses started to forget over the decades. Couture is for the lifestyle of the uber rich and very stylish today. It’s about what THEY want and how THEY live. Right. Now. Not 10 years ago; not how their rich parents dressed. Lauren is part of a wave of houses re-establishing the importance of couture, and he’s doing it with concepts rooted in classic menswear and an execution that is anything but.
Lauren’s clothing is imbued with imagination, but rooted in chic street style that takes the runway fantasy straight to reality. His pieces – twisted takes on traditional garments — explore male archetypes, interpreted through the designer’s life and artistic vision. This vision centers around deconstructing and reconstructing garments (such as his 2015 F/W collection of coats, gowns, and bags made from vintage military fabrics) that are very wearable. “That’s what makes fashion so interesting,” Lauren has said. Why we wear what we wear, and who we want to be through our fashion are questions the artist-designer likes pondering. “We can live out our fantasies. We can live out our fears. We can be the people who we want to be.”
How is Lauren defining modern couture? Production. Each of one his garments are made one at a time, in a small studio in L.A. Nothing is factory-made. A lot of time and care goes into the detail of each piece, making no two of them alike. The detail and man hours spent on each piece are apparent.
Lauren’s Spring/Summer 2016 Men’s Collection is live on his site (which is a design experience in and of itself), with raw fabrics and handwritten marker text that echo the attention to detail and deconstruction found in the clothing that it represents. His clothing-as-art pairs basic fabrics (denim, canvas) with sophisticated stitching and treatments that results in something truly rare in a world dominated by variations of sameness. His reinvention of the hoodie, and unique spin on the suit showcase his knowledge of men’s wear and has an appeal that can’t be ignored.
Here are some looks from his latest collection Fall/Winter 2016.
SHOP: Check out our take on the couture movement, available in limited quantity at shop.justingreat.com.
Pants: Justin Great
Shirt: Justin Great
Jean Jacket: Jordache
Accessories: Justin Great