Martwayne | Power Through Fashion: The Real Meaning of the Word "Couture"...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Real Meaning of the Word "Couture"...

OOPS!  I did it again! :-(
  
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Yes these 2 emoticons just about capture exactly how I feel right now! :-(  Pretty embarrassing that it's been exactly a month since I last updated my blog.  I really need to start fining myself.

Has it been really hectic for me?!  Well... sort of... but clearly that is not an excuse right?!  I thought so too.  My bad!  I wish I could say it will not happen again but honestly, I am not so sure.  All I can offer is my apologies...and hope you all give me time to sort myself out.  It will be busy in the next few weeks.

Great!  That said!  Moving on to today's topic...

So it is pretty common for fashion companies here (and I am sure in many parts of the world) to include the word "couture" in their brand names.  Of course the word "couture" sounds so posh, it actually took me ages to figure out the real pronunciation.  

Yes we do know it is a French word but I often wonder if many people who use the word in their brand names actually know the meaning or have the right to use the word.  

NOW please note that the purpose of this post is not to call anyone ignorant... neither is it to get anyone to change their already registered business names.  It is simply for knowledge purposes.  I know someone once asked me if she needed to change her business name after our discussion and her research and I told her it was not necessary since a business name is different from a brand/trade name.  I'm sure lawyers can educate us more on this.

But anywayz... back to the topic... What does couture actually mean?!




Givenchy Fall 2011 Couture
http://www.dressful.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Givenchy-Fall-2011-couture.jpg

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"Haute Couture consists of secrets whispered from generation to generation ... If, in ready-to-wear, a garment is manufactured according to standard sizes, the haute couture garment adapts to any imperfection in order to eliminate it."

– Yves Saint Laurent 
(from http://www.dressful.com/583/what-is-the-definition-of-haute-couture)
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I had written this article several times in my head but finally got the nudge I needed to post this when sometime last week, I clicked on my daily digest from the Business of Fashion (BOF) and read, with a huge grin on my face, about a topic I had been meaning to write on for a long time.  It was just what I needed to back up my position on the term "couture", which had formed the basis for many debates in the past between other designers, students and I.

The first paragraph read:

"Haute couture, completely bespoke, handmade garments created with the highest-quality fabrics, sits at the pinnacle of luxury fashion craftsmanship and exclusivity. In fact, the very term ‘haute couture’ is protected by law in France. And rules dictated by the Parisian Chamber of Commerce and Industry require members of the haute couture club to adhere to very strict guidelines pertaining to their runway shows, ateliers and artisans, to name but a few."  

[Read the rest of the article at  http://www.businessoffashion.com/2013/04/fashion-means-business-haute-couture.html?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=9c22c9d904-&utm_medium=email]

Of course, throughout my studies, I always knew that couture was not a word "for the faint-hearted" designer.  I knew design houses which had the right to describe their work as couture had to meet at least, the following criteria:

1.   Each garment they produced had to be made specifically for one client; 
2.  Each extremely detailed garment was produced after pain-staking work using intricate hand-executed techniques which utilized lots of man-hours and/or personnel; 
3.  The design house had to belong to a certain Association in Paris with stringent rules for its members; and there are only a handful in the world;
4.  The finished garments were very expensive... oh naturally... it had to be when you think about the materials and effort that went into creating the clothes; and
5.  The term "high fashion" was used in place of the term "couture" for designers whose work "sort of" fell into the category but did not meet the criteria.

So I took a quick trip on Google to see if I could find articles that confirmed my position and here is what I found on Wikipedia:

"French for "high sewing" or "high dressmaking" or "high fashion" refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing."

"Haute couture is made to order for a specific customer..."   (I believe this tallies with my  first point);

"... and it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable seamstresses,..." (also tallies with my points 2 and 4);

"...often using time consuming, hand-executed techniques" - Touché!  I believe this is Point 2.

"In Modern France, haute couture is a protected name that can be used only by firms that meet certain well-defined standards..." established by the "chambre syndicale de la haute couture".  (Clearly my point 3)

Of course many have argued that the definition has been watered down to mean "the business of designing, making and selling highly fashionable, usually custom-made clothing for women".  I got that from thefreedictionary.com.  

But truth is, the term "highly fashionable" or high fashion cannot be separated from couture.  The real question here is how many of us create high fashion clothing?  Yes I know, high fashion is a relative term, but an easier question to answer is how many belong to that Association in Paris?   So I do not dub the whole article, you can read the criteria here and the rest of the article here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haute_couture

Ah wait... there is more... I love conducting research!  :-D

http://mag.weddingcentral.com.au/bridal/couture.htm went on to state that:

"The differences between a couturier and a dressmaker are many… a dressmaker will follow a commercial pattern and use basic sewing skills to make a dress according to a given design specified by the customer, with one or two fittings. 

A couturier, however, will design a gown exclusively for you, select and source exclusive specialized fabrics, construct a pattern from your measurements, and fit the first version of this pattern on you in calico (this is called a toile). Once the toile has been altered to fit you exactly, the couturier will then cut the fabric into the perfected pattern and gradually complete the gown through a number of specific fittings, usually around four or five. Hand beading, embroidery, hand painting and other unique finishing touches are applied once the gown is finished."

So now, after seeing all this, what says you?!  I can safely tell you that many of us around here do not go through half of the processes stated, well at least I know many do not use patterns, create toiles or have that many fittings.  Moreover, many who call themselves couture houses neither use the materials or techniques nor have the skills or manpower to operate as couture houses.  I doubt our african prints are that expensive... at least I am yet to find one that is soooo expensive.  And clearly most do not belong to that association in Paris.

The same article also stated that:

"Generally, the timeframe for a couture gown is six to eight months, although of course there are some exceptions depending on the size of the business and how busy that particular couturier is. Booking in advance is always a good idea, as couturiers can get booked out many months ahead..."

Nah... not our "couture houses" here.  They churn out clothes in like 5 days.. or even less.  And this is not me mocking anyone.... no far from it.    I wonder if many have seen the production of wedding gowns made from lace.  

I had the privilege of visiting a bridal wear house once and my goodness!  The  detail in their work was overwhelming!  You know how we just cut through lace patterns?  Nope they definitely do not do that.  The seamstresses had to "mould" the lace over the corset by cutting "around" the flowers and stitching them back together by hand.  No wonder those gowns are that expensive.  Like seriously!  Who has that patience?!  

I did a bit of that in school as well... lace moulding on a corset that is.  My goodness!  Remember that model I used for my FEC 1 flyer?  That's the corset she was wearing.  I bet you cannot tell that that much work went into it.  I must have pricked myself enough times from the hand-stitching and the beading.  Impatient me used large stitches to stitch the lace back together and my teacher tried to get me to redo it but there was no way I was going to redo that work!  Here's a close up of that corset. 


Ok granted, my work was pretty errr... (...) fill in the gap... but can you see the handstitching?  Nah... didn't think so.  Neither can I!  But I did the work, corset looked great  and I can tell you for free that if I had to redo it for someone else, I would charge an arm, a leg and 2 ribs!  Ok... well maybe just the arm and 1 rib seeing the fabric and the lace wasn't that expensive... 

But my point is, couture work is no joke and you definitely cannot charge N8k or even N10k for it.  I would place a couture designer in the same boat as a tailor.  Both are Masters at their game and many of us are farrrrrr from it.  Even fully established designers in other areas do not use the term to describe their work much less we over here that have sooo much to learn.  So please let us use the proper terms when describing what we do.  

Ok so what if you have already adopted the name "couture" as part of your brand?  Well I would say you have 3 options:  

1.  Simply drop the term "couture"; 
2.  Replace it with something else like "high fashion"; or
3. Just continue with the name... after all, in this environment and others for that matter, many do not give a hoot!

And if you are in the process of thinking of a brand name.... well at least now you know what not to include.  

NOTE that I am referring to your "brand name" not your business name.  For those who have already registered the name, this does not prevent you from having another brand name.  Same way Vee Networks then was trading as V-Mobile.  V-Mobile was the brand name which everyone knew the company as while Vee Networks was the registered company name.  

Great!  I think I am done!  You all have a great week ahead and here's me wishing you a Happy New Month in advance!  :-D

Cheers!

9 comments:

  1. Real Enlightening!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. :-D I'm glad you think so.

      Delete
  2. great write up, truly enlightening.please i have a few more inquiries to make and i think you may be of help. godlink247@gmail.com is my mail.would appreciate you contacting me, thanx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Sure no problem. Will do.

      Regards...

      Delete
  3. Good job,educating and enlightening.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Quite educating! Well done!

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  5. really educative thanks a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Gr8 Jst storm into dis blog n so far its bin highly educating thnks abunch esp 4 d corpers' sketch stories thumbs 2 u 4 d trainin' cos am encouraged/challenged to fully engage my thought process n be more creative dis period once again I say 10Q.

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  7. Thankyou for this informative writeup.‎​I've just recently started my clothing line and ‎​ used d term 'Couture'.‎​ did some research and found ìτ̲̅ was a french word for fashion,while 'haute'means high.Haute Couture means high fashion,so ‎​ used d word 'Couture' meaning fashion.

    Now we use a lot °ƒ french words interchangeably,some even lose their original meaning when ìτ̲̅ gets to other parts °ƒ d world,for instance...we have the word 'creche' which we use for playgroups.Its original meaning as a french word was generally a place to take care °ƒ motherless babies...so for me,the use °ƒ a borrowed word really depends on d context in which ìτ̲̅ ‎​Ȋ̝̊ڪ used.Thanks ‎​again

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