It’s not so haute
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It’s not so haute

One of the most loosely used words today is ‘haute couture’. To be called ‘haute couture’, and there are various criteria to be strictly followed while using it. Vinod Nair tells us more...

india Updated: Apr 18, 2009 19:36 IST

While these words are generally used by those who are always eager to use words that can ‘impress’ readers, the fact remains that haute couture actually means “an original, hand stitched garment, made in Paris, using the best fabric and using only the best and most exclusive materials” and the person making such exclusive garments is called the ‘couturier’. Technically, the term ‘haute couture’ (and couturier) in France is protected by law.

To be called ‘haute couture’, there are various criteria to be strictly followed. For instance, the product will have to be made in Paris, the design should be original and made to order for private clients and the couturier should make seasonal presentations in Paris, to mention a few.

Clearly, no one other than a handful of fashion designers who have their companies listed in the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris and are members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture be called by that term or their creations be called ‘haute couture’. But the fact is that this term is still used liberally by writers (not just in India, but elsewhere in the world as well) to describe even pret-a-porter or even designer collections.

I think its best to call designers as ‘designers’ and not borrow words from the French dictionary and call them ‘couturiers’ just so that it can sound very chic. In the Indian context, high fashion always meant that traditional creations made by designers using heavy surface detailings, mainly embroidery. Cuts and silhouettes of creations by most designers remained the same old traditional styles.

It’s always either a sari, a lehenga skirt and blouse or something else that can fit best in the moods of a festive atmosphere is what designers make as high fashion. Obviously, some of them even cost as high as several lakhs of rupees and the richie rich in India forms part of their elite client list. This of course is not to blame of those who do it, but the reservation that I have is towards calling them ‘haute couture’.

That brings us to the HDIL India Couture Week, that was held for the first time under the aegis of the Fashion Design Council of India at the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai a while ago. Even here, most designers chose to show their embellished traditional attite as haute couture.

Perhaps atleast here they should show things that can be worn on a Red Carpet intead of a family function.

What really defines high fashion? For me, it really is all about how creative a designer can get. I rarely get impressed by the glitter on the garment or the heavy embroidery that makes the model’s knees buckle with weight. Some of the so-called big names in the industry today have earned their names using the best works of artisans and embroiders and not really because of the ‘design’ sense that they have it in them.

On second thought, do they really have it in them in the first place? As I have mentioned several times before, most designers who can’t event cut, throw in tonnes of embellishment and manage to hide not only design flaws, but often manage to walk away with applause from the sparkle loving, ignorant audience. However, the fact remains the same: Design is what makes a garment stand out not the craft on its surface.

It is for the same reason that I believe it’s only a matter of time before the new generation of designers such as Rimzim Dadu, Gaba, Manish Gupta, Nachiket Barve, Rahul Mishra and many other such names will take on the established names with their design talents. I think the time of being complacent is now over. The same old stuff won’s just do any more. Very soon, as has started happening now, names won’t really matter.

What really will matter is what creativity a fashion designer can bring to the table. Then words to describe them wouldn’t matter… couturier or haute couture… the creations will be damn good and that’s what really matters.

First Published: Apr 18, 2009 15:23 IST