There is nothing quite like attending Paris Haute Couture Week. I have to admit, the allure exists for good reason: when you are there, you become immersed in a magical, surreal celebration of beauty, fashion, and luxury.
Of course, during every fashion week, you can expect everyone to be donned in their best outfits. But during haute couture week, the street style is on another level–despite the Parisian rain and January cold, you’ll see international attendees in their fanciest gowns and jewels, embodying the spirit of couture.
What is the spirit couture, exactly?
It is the appreciation for what the French call ‘savoir-faire’. It is about the highest level of craftsmanship and artisanal design, manifested in rare pieces of art. In essence, couture is slow fashion. Those who have a vested interest in couture understand that it can take hundreds of hours to embroider, weave, or sew a single dress panel. For this reason, couture is considered to provide a lifetime of luxury for its buyer.
While haute couture is inaccessible to the ordinary shopper because of its six-figure price tags, I would argue against dismissing its relevancy. Based on conversations I’ve had with smaller couturiers, I learned that those hefty price tags help pay for a fair living wage for an entire team of artisans, which in turn, help artisans care for their families for months at a time. Meanwhile, I don’t think we can say the same for the ultra accessible $10 dresses we can find at H&M.
While I can’t speak for the big name couturiers like Chanel or Dior, I do know that small couturiers I’ve interviewed in the past have a respect for the artisans they work with, and the materials they use.
Furthermore, they tend to use less waste. Because couture is made on-demand for each client, they are able to scale their production and use only what is necessary.
Because of the spirit of couture, I noticed that many attendees are more open to the ‘slow fashion’ mindset than at other fashion weeks. Perhaps the awe-inspiring beauty of couture makes one realize that slow fashion is not a thing of the past. Whether or not they hang on to this ideal after the fashion week is over is unknown, but the conversations I had gave me the impression that haute couture attendees are more aware about fashion as a valuable pieces of art that should be cherished and honored, not disposed of.
Of course, if we’re being honest, there are many who are also there for the simple reason of basking in the glamour of Couture Week. But even they can appreciate looking at fashion as masterpieces that they can have an emotional connection to.
While not everyone can afford couture, everyone can embrace the spirit of slow fashion in our every day lives. By treating our clothes with respect, buying less and choosing well, we too, can create an artful wardrobe that we can value for a lifetime.