Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

And who buys couture?

asks the Sunday Times?

They are a new fashion type, these rich and pampered couture shoppers. Although their lifestyles are European (and specifically London), their cultures span the world — Korea, China, Venezuela. And what are they here for? Excess — in colour, proportion and, above all, decoration.

Yet there was little innovation. Like the husbands who pay the bills — anything from £50,000 to £150,000 for an elaborately jewelled creation — these women don’t give tuppence for the avant-garde. They want a waist where God intended; they don’t want flashes in embarrassing places and are bemused by garments with three sleeves. They want everything just as it always has been — at least, since the 1950s. And Paris couture survives by meeting their needs.

They have other demands, too, such as quality of the standard even the best ready-to-wear labels cannot provide. They also want exclusivity, so most couture houses have an unwritten policy of limiting sales of any £100,00-plus garment to one per continent, with first choice going to the most loyal customer. As one vendeuse told me: “There are no ceilings now — they have all been broken. These women have closets to die for. And they all pay cash.”

She sums up the market forces by confessing: “We can’t get enough crocodile bags, even though they sell for £20,000. Kurdistani millionaires’ wives buy them in every colour, which often means 10 identical bags.”


Dysthymiac said...

I saw a documentary about the very women who are regular couture buyers and it was well-made and fascinating.
It showed the closets of the ToysR-Us owner, and of Betsy Bloomingdale whose closet organisation was militarily-precise. Lynn Wyatt was one of the patrons too. Their drycleaners know the real stories!

greying pixie said...

The whole point about couture is to promote the sales of perfume. It's true that couture is not avant garde and this appeals to the mega-rich who buy it, but it also appeals to the ordinary little office worker who cannot afford it and therefore buys her £60 bottle of eau de toilette instead. It's all about aspiration - that's what makes the profits.

Belle de Ville said...

For $50,000 or more I'd want a dress with a waist too.

lagatta said...

And then, there is the Gucci Bicycle ... and accessories.

I do love that photo.

Greying Pixie, I'm not sure it is all about perfume. I'd love to read serious analysis about how couture functions in the 21st century economy - it seems counter to so many other trends, including its reliance on craftwork.

greying pixie said...

lagatta, although I do not have statistics to hand, I can assure you that no profit comes out of couture for the fashion houses; it is there as a marketing device to sell the perfume. If I had time this week I would go to the library to look up some texts for you on this, but sadly this is a monster of a week for me!

Couture has never been about keeping up with technology and I remember John Galliano saying how privileged he felt to be working with so many experienced craftspeople when he first started at Dior.

Linda Grant said...

I don't quite see why it's the couture shows rather than the September and February ready to wear shows which get more publicity, that sell perfume. Do most perfume consumers understand the difference between the shows?

Anonymous said...

Greying Pixie...that was model from the 60-80s, but it has drastically changed. You're going back to the days when licensing was still a limited thing only the most prestigious Houses got involved w/. Now practically any start up PaP house comes out w/ their perfume and line of accessories immediately. These days 'big house' couture is almost solely about prestige. The (corporate) Houses which still have it use it to distinguish themselves from the masses of PaP. They wisely know that PaP is not created equal. Some PaP is 'demicouture' in it's own right, so their legacy comes in handy.

Perfume and other accessories account for a huge part of any fashion revenue, but most of this is now coming from houses w/ no couture history. In fact, much of this is coming from designers who weren't around even as recently as the 1980s.

Of course, there are smaller couture houses and designers that do not have a perfume or line of accessories. These days, many of these Houses are thriving.

Anonymous said...

Linda...the bulk of accessories are sold from Houses which do not have a couture legacy or present connection to it, but I do think that those perfume buyers who are interested in fashion know which Houses have couture lines and if the perfume is connected to that. (LOL...unless it's hubbys buying for wives)

Perfume USED to be the leading designer purchase, but now it's moved on to accessories. The market purchasing those certainly know the score. They WANT LV and interlocking Cs and the like all over their purchases.