“The Secret World of Haute Couture”: a dying art

Haute Couture’s last hope is a highly exclusive and affluent ‘club’ of women. However, its not just their wallets that are keeping it alive, it’s their passion.

As notorious and chic as the people who buy them, Haute Couture is steadily moving towards extinction. Known as a commodity to the rich and famous, Haute Couture was a booming industry in the early 19th century.

The 1960’s saw a quick increase in couture houses, including Yves Saint Laurent. It was during the late 20th century that Haute Couture saw a decrease in demand.

“The Secret World of Haute Couture” is a 2007 BBC documentary by Margy Kinmonth. The film revolves around the secret society of -mostly- women who keep the doors of Chanel and Dior open and ready for business.

However, what is absolutely beautiful and inspiring about “The Secret World” is that it focuses not on the perceived superficiality and exclusivity of the fashion world, but the art and beauty of Haute Couture. Many of the women who were featured in the documentary can easily spend $20,000 on a blouse or handbag. However, for many of them, it is not about the money- it is about the craft.

All Haute Couture is hand-crafted in Paris, France. Each piece is nothing like the last, with all garments tailor-made for the client. It can take several weeks to craft and fine tune something as simple as a cropped jacket or embroidered skirt.

However, mass production has crippled the fashion industry, leaving only a few thousand masters of the craft and a “handful of ateliers.”

Haute Couture does change you, from the point of view that you enter into another world. A really refined world and verified world that has become increasingly smaller.

-Susan Gutfreund

While you most likely won’t be seeing a couture Dior gown making its way to the campus bookstore, Haute Couture is an important piece of fashion culture. Many people see fashion as the highest form of elitism, capitalism and superficiality. While this idea can not be thrown out of the picture, neither can it be viewed as the whole picture. Haute Couture is an art- a dying art.

So why is it acceptable to spend $20,000 on a Moliere painting, but not on a McQueen gown?

People don’t think anything of spending massive amounts of money on decoration or pictures. There is just as much work that goes into making a handmade piece of clothing as there does into many pieces of art.

-Daphen Guinness

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