The End of “Haute Couture?”

In the good old days, the “Haute Couture” shows were the most anticipated of all of the collections. It was akin to the Formula 1 of the fashion world.  It is unique to Paris and all of the greatest designers the likes of Hubert de Givenchy, Christian Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Jean-Louis Scherrer, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Lacroix, Louis Féraud and others would show the epitome of what they were striving for. These were prototypes of sorts and unique pieces of art that were considered the barometer of where fashion was going in the future. These architects of fabric and exotic materials would go to great lengths to establish their identity through their designs.

The press would come in hordes to get a view of these collections, to be the first to show them in their glossy fashion magazines. Shoots would be set up immediately after the collections and given to those magazines with the greatest influence on the public. Only the finest of glossies were given these collections to shoot and in order of priority. It was usually Vogue that was in place number “1” and the rest would have to wait their turn. The constant bickering between Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar was always omnipresent. You could sense an Arctic chill in the air when the major editors would appear in the same room with each other.

The pecking order at the shows was very well defined and this was also mirrored in where the editors were positioned during the fashion shows. The first row was always a who’s who of the fashion industry and often, shows would not commence until “THAT” Editor in Chief was seated!

Unfortunately, times have changed and as a result of the social conditions, financial malaise and a radically shifted mind set, a new paradigm has emerged and “Haute Couture” seems to be unofficially at least, on Life Support. It is the “Pret a Porter” ready to wear collections that are now the “Queen of the Castle”.

There are a few of the greats and some emerging new designers that are attempting to keep the boat afloat with interesting eclectic designs that are a kind of melting pot of “Haute Couture Meets Pret a Porter”. Alexis Mabille is one designer that comes to mind, whom I recently had the privilege to shoot for VOGUE Brasil.

Who knows, perhaps in a few years when we are out of this financial melt down, designers will have more time  and money to play  with and again produce pieces of art that will influence and inspire the fashion industry to take artistic risks again.

I certainly hope so…

About Benjamin Kanarek
Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…