For decades people have misconstrued and misused the term “Haute Couture.” At the mere mention of this fancy sounding French word, most think of anything bizarre or “high fashion,” including the Ready-To-Wear looks that frequent just about every runway show. In reality haute couture is a highly guarded, important part of French culture. Directly translated, the word pairing means “high sewing” or “high dress-making.” In more elaborate terms, it refers to the creation of exclusive, hand-made fashions commissioned as custom pieces in fashion capitals like Paris, Milan, New York, and London. To be considering a part of this coveted club, a fashion house must be approved by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris. The strict boundaries surrounding haute couture ensure that the pieces sauntering down runways under the coveted “haute couture” title maintain a high level of artistic integrity.
Try to think of those “weird” haute couture looks you see as museum pieces rather than judging them next to your favorite dress from Bloomindales. The intensity of labor that goes into them is astonishing, as is the architectural design that goes into every masterpiece. Strange as they might look, haute couture pieces just need a different perspective and an open mind, no matter how dramatic or edgy they might be. Below are some of the most incredible examples of haute couture from the past decade.
The late Alexander McQueen is still renowned for his breath-taking designs. The number of new shapes and feelings he can emote in a single garment have yet to be matched by most designers and may never will. The “Savage Beauty” exhibit pictured above now rests in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. After McQueen’s passing, Sarah Burton took over as lead designer.
Givenchy is another household name when it comes to haute couture. With a style all their own, Givenchy’s couture designs harbor tones reminiscent of the royal ages in Europe with ornate embellishments and rich tones. A number of Givenchy haute couture designs have made their way onto the red carpet; the gown to the left was chosen by Zoe Saldana for the Academy awards two years ago.
Perhaps one of the newest big names in haute couture is Iris van Herpen. With collections almost entirely in neutrals, van Herpen relies on the immensely intricate structures in her clothing. Many of her designs have a dark mood to them and are hauntingly beautiful.
And now for the edgiest of the edgy: Gareth Pugh. With inhuman shapes and faceless models, Pugh pushes the boundaries of what is conventional for the most unconventional facet of fashion. Many of his designs are reminiscent of Edward Scissor Hands, zombies, and the stuff of nightmares. Despite the frightening inspirations for his garments, he maintains an innately artistic touch. And, though he pushes every limit in fashion, he does so without looking like he is trying too hard.
Now that you have the scoop on haute couture, what is your verdict? Halloween-costume worthy? Or magnificent masterpieces?
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