Watch: The Antidote To Cheap, $15 Sequin Dresses You Only Wear Once

We imagine that there used to be a time when encountering a sequin-covered garment would stop a shopper dead in her tracks. But with fast-fashion factories that have machines that spit out shimmer, it’s common to see a dress covered in thousands of single paillettes that cost just $15. It’s a shame that we, as fashion lovers, are jaded by sparkles. However, it takes a hell of a lot of work to do it honestly, without cutting corners.

For this edition of our partnership with Visionaire, we went to Beirut to go behind the scenes into Elie Saab’s headquarters, where more than 200 sewers, artisans, and workers put together the most recent haute couture 2016 show. For this video, they specifically worked on Look #20, an ethereal putty-hued, long-sleeve dress that’s covered in embellishments. If we’re being exact, it was 7,000 pearls, 5,000 sequins, 900 resin flowers, and 500 silk-organza petals, which helps to explain the multi-digit prices of a Saab gown.

Wooden utensils are used to tack each sequin onto the mesh fabric, and laser precise applicators are used to attach rhinestones — again, one at a time — on top of the sequin islands. Resin is hand poured into molds that are heated over flames, snipped out with scissors, and then pinned, sewn onto organza petals, and then tacked onto the garments. It’s 13,400 bits of stuff that has to be separately attached, and yet, when you see it coming down the runway, it nearly floats.

Its attention to detail — taken to obsessive heights, extends to the rest of Saab’s business: According to Visionaire’s Lars Petersen, the mannequins stacked on shelves (0:45 in the video) are reproductions of Saab’s couture clients, which is why they’re all different sizes, heights, shapes, and proportions. It’s a fact that makes us feel like we’ve glimpsed a utopian parallel fashion universe, where every body is as important as the one next to it, and clothes are as unique as the person wearing it.

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