Haute Couture Fashion week
Paris Haute Couture week started yesterday, the capitol now overrun with models, fashion editors, celebrities and the lucky few who can afford (and have occasions) to wear Couture.
Couture by definition is 'a garment created by hand without the use of machines, by experts who will specialise in one area' (such as embroidery.) There is only one of each item made and it is made of the highest quality. To be able to call it Haute Couture the houses need to follow a strict set of rules, one of them being that it has to be handmade, while others state that the ateliers must have at least 15 members of staff and that they must showcase 35 looks each season. Today couture is no longer tailor made to the client. The designers went from creating want women wanted to imposing fashion on them and deciding what they should wear.
In the late 20th century there was a new simplicity ruling the fashion landscape in the hands of Calvin Klein among other designers. And the richness of Couture seemed out of place and out of touch with women’s lives and attitudes. New markets have appeared with the growth and development, especially Asia and the Middle East, who began to crave the traditional excess of Parisian Haute Couture and the status it provides.
“Set against the money we lose, has to be the value of the image Couture gives us. Look at the attention the collections attract. It is where you get noticed. You have to be there. It is where we set our ideas in motion.” – Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH.
Fashion houses know that their Couture department isn’t profitable, but it’s an opportunity to demonstrate their skill and technique. It gives the designers a chance to establish their ultimate vision for the season and elevate the brand. The Couture show creates the inspiration for the rest of the season for the fashion brand. Buying a lipstick or perfume for the brand creates an opportunity for people who can’t afford to buy the high priced items, to buy a fraction of the dream. It’s a way for the fashion brands to sell to a bigger market without diluting the experience.
“Couture is Aspirational, it’s the pinnacle of fashion and still the way of selling a dream.” – Alice Caseley-Hayford, Refinery 29
So what lesson is there to be leant from this? In many ways you can draw a parallel between what Couture does for fashion houses to what branding does to any company – it adds value and creates an emotion and lifestyle that people want to buy into. It is not just about buying a product. As mentioned before, Couture houses know they lose money on those products, but know they will make it back in other product categories.
This is not exclusive to fashion brands however, Apple focus on human connection and have used emotions to connect with their customer through groundbreaking advertising and through their iconic keynote presentations. They have created retail stores that people want to hang out in, like their newly revamped San Francisco store, with a backyard, that is open 24 hours a day and has free Wi-Fi. They also run free workshops to teach people about the apple products, such as the basics of the iPhone or you can do a lesson in coding. As mentioned the workshops are free to attend and the backyard is open, even when they can’t make any sales. It is experiences like these generate great value for Apple as a brand.