Monday, 14 January 2013

Haute Couture is at the liberal vanguard

Arts, fashion and progressive culture would be significantly lessened without Haute Couture

The problem with Haute Couture is mainly most people have no clue what 'it' is. They simply see some (allegedly) overly thin models strutting in pieces of rather fanciful looking cloth. The meaning, the history and the 'point' of the expressions are totally lost on them. For many 'in' the industry or (like me) avid fans, there is too much of a tendency to brush aside these vast swathes of people as 'philistines'. Yes, with every great and talented elite there is a balance between arrogance and ability - artistic fashion is no different. In this, it is exactly like every other speciality feeding into our civic and historico-cultural life. But let me attempt to make the case for the much misunderstood and condemned 'Haute Couture'.

Bourgeois extravagance?  

All too often chaps and chapesses like myself are accused by the socialist and leftist minded members of the socio-political world of being trapped in a self-degrading 'bourgeois' mire. They could not be further from the truth when they argue Haute Couture, or 'High Fashion' is as useless as it is wasteful.

Haute Couture at its very being is wrapped in history. Take the France of the 18th Century. Millions of the European (and world) ruling elites would travel to Paris. Paying homage at Versailles, they would see the truth in the attaché 'you are what you wear'. French Kings, Emperors (and subsequent republicans) all fully appreciated the importance of 'high fashion' in politics. You saw European aristocrats, plutocrats and businessmen all travelling to Paris, to Versailles - and taking back with them the latest French fashions. And in so doing France was exporting Gallic values across borders. For Haute Couture in its earliest faze was the living embodiment of Gallic architecture, culture, art and social attitude. And as France changed, so did high fashion! Robespierre was known for his attention to his 'immaculate' appearance,  like the Kings before him he fully appreciated that it isn't enough to look the part. No, from political left to political reactionary right; high fashion grew to embody the periods of time in which they existed. 

It is no little thing to say that the high fashion of Paris was in part responsible for the export of many revolutionary as well as conservative cultural ideals. You see, that is the thing with art, and high fashion - they  are mutually indistinguishable. One and the same. And the historical role it has played in the spread of ideas cannot be (though often is) underplayed by the 'philistines' who love to hate it.

Dress to the person

In a less ethereal sense however Haute Couture is all about liberty. It really is! It stands in opposition to Fordian mass production, in Haute Couture, the dresses are made to the individual - not the buck. 

A model haute couture garment is made specifically for the wearer's measurements and body stance.  The made to measure exclusive clothes are virtually made by hand, carefully interlined, stay taped and fitted to perfection for each client. It is all about individuality, the personal expression and freedom from conformity. 

In absolute sense, Haute Couture is the ultimate liberal stand against the dark forces of Henry Fordian mass production. Not bourgeois, but revolutionary enlightenment! High fashion stands against the utilitarian dystopia so perfectly captured in Huxley's 'Brave New World'. Haute Couture isn't about empty ultilitarianism of modern capitalist economics, or position-politics. No, in high fashion happiness is not an equation where happiness = immediate gratification. Haute Couture stands at the forefront in its opposition to that empty utilitarian mire. 

Thus, is Haute Couture empty wastefulness? No, its internationalist. Is it bourgeois? No, it is revolutionary liberalism at its finest in art. 
There, now you understand. 

Take this example I took from Runway Magazine .  Here you have a wonderfully androgynous look. Inspiration for the artist? He said he wanted to capture the modern woman being pulled in multiple directions (given his models were feminists, yes, feminists). They are told to be sexually liberated, yet are condemned as 'sluts' when they explore themselves. They are told to be mothers, but also professionals. This is High Art, made to the individual making extraordinarily important statements!  

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