It is the year 2016 and there is more movement to fashion industry standards than ever before. Vetements rightfully earned their invitation at fashion week, fast fashion's presence is growing, but the impact of Haute Couture seems to be slowly dwindling. The fashion industry's current fluctuations could be viewed as strictly cyclical, though there may be a bigger issue that needs to be addressed. Is it time for the Fédération Française de La Couture to change their guidelines?
Back in 1868 The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture was founded. This organization is a body of the Fédération Française de La Couture, the French-born Global authority of what qualifies as Haute Couture and what doesn't. There are currently about 95 couturiers (designers) that fill the group. Of those 95, only a small number participated in Paris Fashion Week SS17, in continuation of following the decade long trend of couture designer's decreased presence. To qualify as Haute Couture, designers must be able to abide by a few key guidelines. Ateliers must have at least 20 staff members, designs are typically sold to private customers who require private sizings, and each season the couture house must present at least 35 runs of both daytime and evening wear to the Parisian press.
As an industry, we are in the process of monumental change. Fast fashion is undercutting the popularity of Haute Couture. Collections are becoming shorter than ever, fashion coverage is coming from all corners of the Internet, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between who/what is coming from where.
After contemplating this monumental fashion climate change there is a multitude of questions that arise. The most pressing of them being: Can Haute Couture stay afloat?
It's already hard enough to buy a couture piece. Made-to-order, meticulous custom pieces just don't fit in today's times. One can argue that Haute Couture isn't for the masses, but as each and every Fashion Week invites in a newer non-couture brand, the culture shifts, and with this shift, industry leaders are getting rattled.
With this problem growing larger and larger every season, the question remains, how will Couture survive? Ultimately, changes to Fédération Française de La Couture's qualifications could be made. Couture needs a revival that will capture the hearts, minds, and pockets of potential buyers. Of course couture fashion shows as we know it is less about practicality and more about furthering a brand's legacy, but the shrinking relevance of Couture could reach a point where sustainability is majorly threatened.
The essential effort toward loosening tight haute couture guidelines, is the recognition of "demi-couture" as a new form of haute couture. Demi-Couture allows a brand to have the haute couture creation standards, but pieces are produced in limited runs and not solely for one individual. Haider Ackermann is one brand that has benefitted from this approach.
Undoubtedly, more designers need to be given the opportunity to thrive in the fluid fashion climate that exists today. The Fédération Française de La Couture has stood the test of time thus far, especially in setting the tone for what we identify, admire, and consume as fashion but it may very well be time for a change.