The art of Couture
As the Haute-Couture shows – or Couture, as they are nowadays merely called – have started in Paris, it is relevant to question a long-standing matter in the fashion industry, which I am particularly interested in, to the extent that I am currently writing a Master’s degree dissertation related to it.
Is Fashion art? Is Couture art?
If some might argue that due to its obvious commercial interest, fashion cannot have the status of art – which is, I believe hypocrisy: the art world can be very money-focused too, especially in contemporary art, and not only is art meant to be sold, but also very reliant of huge sums of money – then this is not the case of Couture.
The actual survival of Couture itself is threatened by the lack of commercial interest. Indeed his week’s show might as well be the last one for genius couturier Christian Lacroix – following many iconic houses which stopped their Couture activities in the past years, from Lanvin to Yves Saint Laurent, from Balmain to Versace. And the houses which are still part of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture can be counted on one’s fingers, not to mention those which, this year, will not show for various economic reasons.
I find this quite sad: skills which have been transmitted throughout generations of craftsmen who create the most beautiful embroidery – such as Maison Lesage – handmade lace or pleating details, might vanish for the domination of the cheap clones of fast-fashion.
When fashion is made for the sake of beauty, creativity, displaying extraordinary talent and skills, with unique pieces that might even not be sold, or if so, to special clients and with a very high price tag… isn’t it the definition of art?
One cannot consider one second that art could disappear, because it is part of society, of culture, and there will always be sponsors and patrons to help artists. So why, in our capitalist, and fashion-obsessed society, is there no one to save Couture, the soul of fashion, the art of fashion?
Paintings found in the fantastic book “Fashion in Art”, by Marie Simon. Left: Two Young Girls on a Balcony, by Constantin Guys, 1855. Right: Portrait of Madame Charles Max, by Giovanni Boldini, 1896.