PHABRIK Magazine

The New Couture

By Mark St. James - Marquis of Fashion

September 2013

Have you ever inspected, fondled or wore a garment that was priced at over $25,000.00? If I narrow the parameters and eliminate fur pieces from your options, you may find it difficult to think of the last time (if ever) that you’ve come across something with such a considerable price tag. Recently, I had the privilege of getting a very close look at a Fall 2013 Balmain Ready-to-wear jacket that was by all accounts…divine.

The craftsmanship that goes into a piece like this is overwhelming and all too obvious within the first glance. That every inch is encrusted in jewels and glass beads raises the jacket from common to Fabergé in about 5000 hours. And even though its mass resembles a bag of stones you’d never complain while wearing it? Not when you put it on and every eye is affixed to you like a blogger to a front row seat at fashion week. The thrill of wearing a piece like this is incomprehensible until you’ve worn something quite like it which… as I’ve mentioned above, is quite rare.

Taking into account all the intricate handwork and dumbfounding exquisiteness that makes up a piece like this, is it worth it?

When you consider a Kazimir Malevich painting such as the Suprematist Composition (blue rectangle over the red beam) which sold for just over 65 million or Mark Rothko’s No 1 (Royal Red and Blue) painting that recently sold for a staggering 75 million; dishing out $25,000 on a jacket seems like pocket change. Especially since the item you’re owning is a sanctioned piece of art and a piece of history created by Head Designer Olivier Rousteing of Balmain. You might even call it an investment seeing how resale on premium designer clothing is becoming more and more profitable. The mention of Malevich and Rothko is not to, in any way demean their works but rather draw a parallel between the art that these great artists produce and their relative prices. Haute Couture has always had its hands wrapped around the leash of the fashion world and dominating the runways, and rightfully so. With every centimeter designed by hand, each piece measured and cut precisely, each bead sewn on one-by-one not to mention the personalized fittings that go along with the sale of each look on the runway – shouldn’t the couturiers get to turn the head of the fashion industry in whichever direction they please? I used to think so. But since Haute Couture has decreased measurably as a subsidiary industry within fashion, Ready-to-wear brands have stepped up there game and are filling in the gap. So… who has the power now?

Thankfully the “power” still resides with the buyer. They get to choose how fashion creates, what pieces are magnificent and if fashion truly is an art form. The Balmain piece I was lucky enough to try on is owned by a good friend of mine who, when asked whether they would rather spend the money on a similar piece from a Ready-to-wear brand or start shopping Couture, said “Isn’t this Couture?”

And aside from countless fittings, isn’t it?


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