5 Things About Couture You’d Only Know If You Were Invited

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The Paris Couture shows rank among the most mythical things that happen in the fashion world. Attending is like making it into the room of requirement in Harry Potter — you only really find your way there if you truly know how to find it. It’s taken so seriously that it’s actually regulated in law by the French government’s chambre syndicale de la haute couture. If they don’t okay you, you just ain’t couture. Dior? Couture. Juicy? Not so much. It’s a mystery, too, for average fashion editors like me. Unlike the Big Four Fashion Weeks that happen twice a year, couture week is a rarefied showing whose reality is probably even more bizarre than the rumors it elicits. Everyone knows about the staggeringly high price tags, the strict legal rules couturiers must adhere to, and the incredible amount of work that goes into creating one garment. But there’s a lot more to it that doesn’t get discussed as much. Read on for the five insider facts about couture you would never guess unless you were there.

I caught the @dicekayek fairy before she disappeared #coutureconfessions #mysocalledfashionlife

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1. There’s little overlap between those who go to couture shows, and those who go to regular Fashion Weeks.

Since the first rule for couture club is that the ateliers “must design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings,” most of the people attending are very wealthy customers. Instead of buyers from department stores and high-end boutiques and editors at fashion magazines, whose jobs entail selling styles of clothes to the masses, the seats are filled with people who are treating the runway the same way you treat window shopping. The press is gathered up together in a few seats, like a friendly little gang (yes, I said friendly — there is comfort in what you know, and there weren’t many of us). 2. There’s a reason the front row at haute couture shows look like they’re filled with princesses — it’s because a few of them actually are princesses.
There is also a whole new customer base coming in from Russia, Asia, and the Middle East. Even so, there are probably only 4,000 true couture customers worldwide, and a good percentage of them make it out for Paris Couture.

3. Shows themselves are immersive experiences, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to put on a single 10-minute program.
They’re held in some the world’s most heralded cultural spaces, like the Louvre’s majestic Musée des Arts Décoratifs, where Dice Kayek hung a giant, shining, silver orb (a.k.a. a dream selfie mirror). Or Dior’s beautiful abstract greenhouse in a grand garden — which was magical until the realities of 100 degree heat hit those in 15 layers of silk. Appearing chic as your makeup melts is certainly a feat I haven’t managed yet, though once the Game of Thrones-esque warrior princesses glided down the runway, all was forgiven.

Sex on very long legs #coutureconfessions #mysocalledfashionlife @alexandrevauthier @refinery29

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4. The dress code makes for some truly high-low moments after the show.
After several overheated shows, French editors in the know would hit very local bistros for cold beers to recover from the heat in daily Vogue-type photo moments. I messed up my Uber pickup because I was distracted by all the glamour at Ulyana Sergeenko. Having just run through an intimidating and shouty photo gauntlet, and realizing my car was on the other end of the melee, I ended up sitting on a tree stump next to the Seine for 30 minutes trying to argue for a driver like a stranded Cinderella without a pumpkin. 5. It’s not a dying art. In fact, it’s growing.
I know this centuries-old tradition might seem outdated in the modern world, but beyond being another place for the street style mavens to strut around on Instagram, haute couture is really a vibrant industry in our 21st-century world. Sales are up 30% on average in the past few years, and the week is filling up with a growing number of young talent that includes Alexandre Vaultier, Alexis Mabille, and first-timer Yacine Aouadi, who was practically all anyone could talk about.

Don't walk on the grass or do anything else on the grass ? @Dior #coutureconfessions @refinery29

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