“The question that’s most relevant right now is what function does couture actually serve?” said Elyssa Dimant, author of the new book The New French Couture: Icons of Paris Fashion, which discusses the identities and evolutions of Paris’ major couture houses. What used to be a heavily influential part of the fashion cycle, where styles would trickle down into the mainstream, now seems relegated to the super rich and the red carpet, overshadowed by fast fashion and celebrity-fueled ready-to-wear hype.
“I’m not taking the stance that it’s in a bad spot,” Dimant continued. “Couture, since it diverged from ready-to-wear, has always been in this precarious, ‘who will buy it?’ situation. I find that conversation less relevant than how couture intermingles with ready-to-wear.” Indeed, since Yves Saint Laurent paved the way in the 1960s, the rise of ready-to-wear as luxury fashion has called into question whether or not couture is redundant. Museums are archiving RTW just as readily they are high fashion, leaving the designers who create both in a complicated position.