• Isaiah Lawrence

Does The World of Haute Couture and Design Still Belong In Art?

If you ask anybody, the odds are that somebody will tell you that anything is art. Look right, left, straight ahead, and behind you. It is all art. There has to be a limit to what is officially art. Does the world of haute couture and design still belong to art? Is haute couture relevant in comparison to quality paintings?


It is often perceived that if clothes are not handmade in Paris, they cannot be called haute couture. Haute couture is high-end fashion designed in other fashion capitals, such as Milan, London, Tokyo, and New York City.


Julien Fournié Haute Couture Fall Winter 2020 © 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Marie-Jeanne Rose (a French milliner and dressmaker for Marie Antoinette from 1770 until the French Revolution in 1792) remains credited for bringing fashion and haute couture to the forefront of popular culture. Sure, haute couture originated in Paris, attributed to “the father of haute couture” Charles Frederick Worth (who in 1858 established the first haute couture house). In 1908, Charles coined the term haute couture for the first time. Typically, ready-to-wear, expensive, custom fit clothes are for the upper class to purchase, middle class to possibly budget, and lower class to window-shop. Haute couture is constructed by the world’s greatest seamstresses (with high quality pieces, unusual fabrics, and complex sewing techniques).

Renegade Denim. © 1999 All Rights Reserved.

Saying that “If clothes are not handmade in Paris, they cannot be called haute couture” is like saying “Pizza created outside of Italy is not considered pizza.” The New York-style pizzas typically have thin crusts while the Chicago-style pizzas have thicker crusts, which is how the deep dish pizza was made.


Questioning if haute couture is considered art is like questioning if getting a new hairstyle is art. There are actually some incredibly talented hairdressers that can perfect the look you want or go beyond your expectations. Is it not still art to decorate cakes, where the different cakes appear realistic? It may have to be a creative cake depending on the type of service you demand (possibly looking like chocolate and tasting like honey). Some cakes may look like a physical person, place, or thing. Yes! A cake somehow looks like a noun.

Giorgio Armani Privé © July 3, 2019.

Instead of wondering if haute couture is still a part of art, observe the new era of haute couture, (where there are male, female, and unisex clothes). Jean-Michel Basquiat mixed colors, figures, and symbols from various contexts on a canvas and is one of many artists who influenced the fashion industry. In 2014, Jay Z, a fan and art collector of his work, dressed as Basquiat for a Halloween party. It does not stop there. In Jay Z’s song, “Picasso Baby,” he utters the words, “I’m the new Jean-Michel.”


Some famous haute couture designers are Christian Dior, Chanel, Alexandre Vauthier, and Stéphane Rolland, as well as members that operate outside of Paris like Giovanni Versace (the founder of Versace) and Valentino.


Halle Berry's mesh, flower embroidered and taffeta dress by Elie Saab © 2002 All rights Reserved.


The FHCM was founded in 1868, presiding over “Paris Women’s and Men’s Fashion Weeks,” as well as endorsing designers (who exhibit the required level of quality craftsmanship to show on the Haute Couture schedule). Anyone with the chance to see the latest haute couture on the runway would be in awe, if the ideas are creative, but they do no necessarily have to be original. Maybe, they can be modified like the spaghetti strap dress to the cold shoulder dress, a modified wedding dress (with a retro influence and a futuristic touch), and a regular dress to a floor-length, silk dress with voluminous feathers. Various clothes that are adored could cause you to feel envious, desiring to squander your hard earned money (which you could probably pay the bills with).


Giambattista Valli, Look 1 © Jan. 28, 2021.

You ever see a new, unwearable fashion design surface the internet where, from your opinion, it may appear absurd to attempt at designing? Although haute couture is viewed as clothing for the royalty and involves hundreds of hours to work on t may let others ask, “Are the designers blind, deaf, lazy, bored, exhausted, or just not sane?” Maybe you will see a ruffled, hooded jacket worn backwards on a model, what appears to look like large, colorful arrows made out of styrofoam covering a maxi dress, or anything else you may not wear to school, work, or family get-togethers. Such designs are so memorable that I do not have to point them out, but there are haute couture designs that most people may think are appealing.


Haute couture is considered a legitimate form of art because although there are pricy products involved, there is the process of creative thinking and a way to inspire. The tiniest of details can capture your eyes from the draping necklines, to the delicate bead clusters, shimmery sequins, and silky flowers.


Valentino © Jan. 24, 2020.

Iris Van Herpen (a hi-tech, fashion pioneer) set the tone of a haute art runway with New York-based artist, Kim Keever. The eye-catching visuals included laser lighting effects where the room can be viewed as a virtual paradise. There was floating clouds while the models moved like glittering fireflies. Iris is an excellent example of how artistic haute couture can be.


Haute Couture is the French pronunciation of “high sewing’ and ‘high dressmaking.’ Such type of clothes are exclusive to clients and advertised in the media. From the amount of time the skillful workers spend designing the clothes and money for pieces, haute couture garments are described as having no price tag. Those who can afford the priceless things in life are living large, but is haute couture still considered art?

Fans travel from all over the world to see the haute couture shows (providing a variety of quality colors, luxurious fabrics (like authentic, leopard fur, cervelt, shatoosh, Vicuña wool, mulberry silk and cashmere), decorations, and sizes). The haute couture can be viewed as a private club.



Work Cites:

The Guardian. “Paris Haute Couture Week: can fashion be art?”. 27 Jan, 2019.

Bazaar. “The History of Haute Couture: from Humble Beginnings to Present Day.”. 19 Jan, 2017.

Morley Cartner, Jess. Vogue. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jan/28/paris-haute-couture-fashion-art. 27 jan, 2010.

NowFashion. “Julien Fournié Haute Couture Fall Winter 2020.”. 2020.

Vogue. “Renegade Denim (1999). https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/the-most-memorable-couture-gowns-of-all-time. 1999.

Correia, Roberta. Brides. ”39 Wedding Dresses From Couture Fashion Week Every Bride-to-be Needs to See.” . 3 July 2019.

Murray, Daisy. Elle. ”Halle Berry's Mesh, Flower Embroidered and Taffeta Dress by Elie Saab, 2002.” . 2 Dec, 2021.

Wally, Maxine. WMagazine. “The Best Looks From Haute Couture Spring 2021.” . 28 Jan. 2021.