I love Paris in the springtime, or so the song goes, but I love Paris more during Couture Week, when the wealthiest women in the world immerse themselves in a whirl of fittings, shows and general insanity. The world of Haute Couture used to be available only to those few women who can afford to spend 30,000 Euros on a dress, but now is also populated by movie stars and celebrities all looking for the stand out frock to grace the Red Carpet.
But I don’t know if I would be happy to see the dress I bought and paid for on the back of a sample sized actress before I had even got delivery of it! Couture houses are now seeing clients cancel orders if a socialite sees that her precious piece of fashion art has already been splashed across the pages of HELLO! and Style.com and critiqued viciously on Fashion Police! And yet the fashion houses have to keep Couture week relevant to the rest of us by ensuring that their front rows are filled with celebrities dressed in their most recent collections. Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel maintains that Couture is thriving with clients who used to buy three pieces a season, now buying fifteen; in other words the rich are getting richer and in a world where ready to wear pieces are getting more expensive, Couture is a way of ensuring that you really are wearing one of a kind.
The Big Money
The buyers of couture are also getting younger or at least dressing younger. In a world of internet and software fortunes being made before the age of 30, how will Couture keep attracting the big money? The socialite who spent all her time engaged in philanthropy, throwing one charity ball after another is on the wane – Nan Kempner, sadly no longer with us, will always epitomize the ultimate Couture client to me. Mrs Kempner was a woman who understood the beauty of the made-to-measure garment and was famous for pushing fashion boundaries in polite society. And so the design houses are opening their windows to let the fresh air of youth into their ateliers with Raf Simons at Dior showing T-shirts at last week’s couture show; Riccardo Tischi at Givenchy and Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent talking of re-launching Couture. Not to mention how the fashion community is waiting feverishly to hear who will be taking the reins at Schiaparelli.
While I love the idea of Couture and appreciate the heritage and workmanship that goes into creating these incredible pieces of wearable art, I am (as anyone who knows me will tell you) the most impatient person on the planet. The thought of waiting months to get my hands on a dress fills me with tension and frustrates those I work with to the point of exasperation. Every season after selling a collection to all and sundry and extolling its virtues I literally forget to do a private order until the very last second, driving the Production department and all around mad.
However, there is method to my impatient madness. The later I get the order in the less time I have to wait for my order! Today as we Instagram new collections as soon as the samples are made and photographed we receive instant feedback from our clients who email us “I want this dress NOW!” – I know how you feel! This is probably why like most fashion people I end up wearing black all the time. We have too much choice and are not able to wear the most recent pieces as they only exist in sample size and are flying all over the world to be photographed in China on a Russian model. So maybe the answer is to get down to the sample size and just wear everything as it is made? But that’s another column and another very long story!
With extensive publishing experience and significant knowledge of the fashion, retail and luxury industries, Ahlya Fateh is currently a highly regarded senior executive who combines a strong creative vision with an astute strategic understanding and exceptional management skills. In 2010 Ahlya was brought in by Tata Naka as Managing Director to re-launch the fashion brand at London Fashion Week. Previously Ahlya was Managing Editor of Tatler magazine from 2001 to 2010.