FOR my first ever really truly blog post, I wanted to write a bit about clothes, because I spend most of my days and nights thinking about the garments I'm making or hope to make. Having to answer the interview questions for the etsy featured seller article recently: http://www.etsy.com/featured_seller.php?featured_user_id=5051175
really made me order my thoughts and clarify where I come from, and where I'm going, with my designs for my MaisyBrown label. It was an exciting few days while I was featured - so many wonderful people wrote to say many kind things - but the inspirational effects continue. This year is going to be the year MaisyBrownReproRetro gets bigger, better, more organized, and more focused. I've been reading and researching a bit, re-visiting the books and magazines that I've collected and been inspired by over the years and also getting new ones from the library. One thing I was keen to look into was the TRUE definition of "couture"; it's a word that I have often seen bandied about but I felt sure was being inappropriately applied.
WHAT IS COUTURE?
The right to the title of couturier is granted by the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, after a designer has fulfilled certain strict criteria.
1. They must maintain at least one atelier (workshop) in Paris
2. This atelier must employ minimum 15 full-time technical staff (houses like Chanel have several ateliers with more than 100 staff; smaller design houses struggle with the heavy financial burden of maintaining the required f/t staff)
3. The clothes must be entirely made-to-order - partial pre-cutting or assembling is verboten! So, it literally must be made to measure, including the toile.
4. Couturiers must show at least twice a year in Paris - prohibitive for many smaller, unstable houses when a single collection may cost $1million or more!
So, the term is very clear and certainly very restrictive, only able to be applied to a very few designers. Furthermore, it's estimated that there may only be 1000 women or less on the planet who can afford to dress in couture. But as my reference book says, "couture remains the prestigious showpiece of French fashion and the place for creativity and originality in design". I'm sure the last point could be argued to include other creators and locations, however, clearly the title of 'couturier' is not up for grabs!
(above, sketch by R Gruau for 1956 Diorissimo advertisement)