Skip to main content

How Haute Couture Interacts with Us: The trickle-down effect and social commentary in couture

by AJ Craig

 

To boil it down to it’s thick, sticky essence, haute couture is high fashion. 


It is exclusive, handmade, and one of a kind. Simply considered as expensive, fashionable clothes produced by leading fashion houses. 

Francois Durand/Getty Images

It’s so exclusive, in fact, to be categorised as haute couture by the French government brands must have a Paris atelier and meet a quota of 35 show looks per year. 

As you can imagine, it’s not cheap. And very few people actually buy haute couture. Less than 500 consumers worldwide purchase pieces regularly, by essentially window shopping haute house shows during fashion weeks and collection launches. But if it really is that exclusive, then how do us common folk fit into the puzzle?

 

Wether intentionally or not, haute couture serves as the building blocks for other designers, high end or otherwise. While a hand sewn, hand beaded, meticulously crafted gown or blouse sounds stunning, could any of us realistically fork out hundreds of thousands for one season’s wardrobe?


In reality, haute couture reaches the average person through watered down versions. 


To quote an iconic monologue from The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda Priestly explains, “…it filtered down through the department stores, and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin.”


It’s fresh for us even if the real deal came out nine months ago. But there is another purpose for haute couture; commentary.

 

Spectacle and fashion go hand in hand. Houses know that they are constantly watched and that what they create has impact even on the people who aren’t their target markets. 


Haute couture looks are labours of love and can represent the trials and tribulations that society faces. For example, Viktor&Rolf’s SS23 featured a collection of gowns and suits that were reminiscent of cut out dresses for children’s books. Oversized illusion suit jackets, draped over both femme, masculine and androgynous models and gowns that are skewed, upside down and misplaced on bodies. 


Whole the collection is not easily wearable, that is not its main function. Instead, it can be interpreted to be nostalgic of the genderless dress up and play of childhood or demonstrating that gender itself is dress up, a costume that can be taken on and off and easily exchanged or even more literally presenting the discussion of turning femininity on its head - as you can see, haute couture provokes discussion. 


Similarly, Schiaparelli’s faux lion head gown recently worn by Kylie Jenner is loaded with sociopolitical commentary. 


The dress and other pieces from the collection feature hyper realistic animal heads that sparked controversy after the brands SS23 show in Paris this year. After confirming that no animals were harmed in the creation of the collection and that the heads were in-fact made of hand painted resin and foam, more discussion was roused. 


Was the fashion house glorifying trophy hunting or were they making a statement that the beauty of animals can be replicated and not stolen from these creatures? 


The reality of haute couture is that both of these collections sparked conversations between those deeply seated in fashion and those dipping their toes. The discussions in these collections and many others affect us all. 


Wether they be rousing social issues that try and spark change or just that the collections themselves are beautiful, we’re all talking about them and consuming them even if we don’t notice.


Edited by Emily Duff

 

Most Popular

‘Make Tattooing Safe Again’: Sheffield Based Tattoo Artist Exposed for Indecent Behaviour

 by Emily Fletcher TW: SA, Animal Abuse, Transphobia Photo Credit: @ meiko_akiz uki Recently, an  Instagram account  has been created to provide a  ‘space to safely give a voice to those who want to speak out about the behaviour of one, Sheffield based tattoo artist’. A  total of 40+ posts have been made by the above social media account regarding  one of Sheffield's most popular tattoo artists .  Thankfully, all posts are prefaced with a Content Warning prior to sharing screenshots of the messages that have been sent anonymously to the page. The majority of Content Warnings refer to sexual behaviour, abuse, and sexual assault. It is clear that there is a reoccurring theme within each submission, as many clients appear to have had the same experiences with the tattoo artist. Women, mostly, are being made to feel uncomfortable while being tattooed. One of the most vulnerable positions anyone can be in, tattoo artists should make their clients feel comfortable and safe during the pro

Fashion For a Cause: Brands That Stand with Palestine and the history of fashion as a form of Activism

by Oana-Maria Moldovan For over two months, there has been an ongoing genocide war in Gaza. To simplify a long and horrific issue, the situation that started, on a larger scale, around one hundred years ago, and has only become amplified since October 7th 2023. Taking place around the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Israel–Lebanon border, the armed conflict is between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian militant groups.  The problem is about “stolen” land. Said land is seen as an important holy part of both religions involved. But really, how holy can we consider a land to be, if people kill other people for it? It’s important to remember that this genocide is about three things: forced occupation, zionism, and religion. It’s also important to remember what ethnic erasure is. This terrible expresion, also known as cultural or ethnic assimilation, refers to the process by which the distinct cultural or ethnic identity of a particular group is gradually diminished or erased, often due to ext

Now What? The Aftermath of the 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl'

by Susan Moore Here is a bit about me: I am an open, excitable, creative AFAB who is also moderately attractive. I have a unique sense of personal style and a personality that on the surface can only be described as “bubbly” and “quirky”. For this reason, dating is a nightmare. To be sure, I do not have a hard time finding dates or potential suitors. The problems arise when said dates spend some time with me and decide that I am a rare specimen, and the connection they feel with me is “unlike anything they have felt before”. Then, things go one of two ways.  Either a) they decide I am too high maintenance and no longer palatable, or  b) they choose to never look further than the surface and are content to date the idea of me rather than the real me. There is something rather interesting, perhaps funny, about my situation. It is in no way unique. I have met so many people who constantly dealt with the same problem. Even funnier still, is the fact that there is a trope that simultaneousl