With the past couture shows causing more and more debate as to the relevance of this highest form of fashion in today’s fast paced, recession led times, a new fashion sector seems to be emerging. From past ready to wear runway shows, what we are now seeing is a mid ground, where the most expensive and exquisite pieces from current ready to wear designers are in the greatest demand. Whether it be young designers, such as Prabal Gurung and Jason Wu or established names such as Balenciaga, Mcqueen or Mary Katrantzou, whose most embellished creations needing sometimes over 150 hours to create, are the most sort after.
w being referred to as demi-couture, these clothes still have big price tags – often into five figures – but now can be bought off the rack, or through usual retail channels, whilst actual haute couture is governed by requirements of twice yearly shows in Paris and at least 20 employees in an atelier, who hand sewn garments to clients’ requirements.
Further evidence of this halfway fashion point include longtime couture mainstay, Azzedine Alaia, who showed a ‘semi-couture’ collection during the fall couture season in July, which served as an elaborated and upgraded take on his ready to wear.
Some attribute the trend to the shaky economy and to consumers wanting more impact for their money. Matthew Williamson president Joseph Velosa reports, "Pieces over $5,000 now account for 6% of our business. To put that into context, two years ago we sold nothing at that price." It’s giving customers something to care about as these exquisite items are the type that start trends knocked off by retail chains like Topshop and Zara.
The emergence of this new fashion is also due to technology, where clients now can open up their laptops, look what came down the runway and call up stores to request pieces. It’s a game of accessibility, where online retail has seen the democratization of fashion and now five figure dresses are available to women everywhere and across the globe.
Image: Jan Taminiau demi-couture Fall/Winter 2011