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Introducing Demi-Couture

Move over haute couture, there’s a new couture in town.

As every good fashionista knows online stores and retail websites have changed the way we shop in the 21st century, where it once took weeks to finally see photographs of what came down the runways in New York, Milan and Paris, these days you can go online and see it all with the click of a button mere minutes after the designer has taken their bow. Now it seems this style revolution has reached the furthest heights of high-end fashion, haute couture. While the term haute couture is often thrown around with little regard to what it means, true haute couture as seen twice a year on Paris runways must be sewn entirely by hand, it must come from officially recognized Paris ateliers and it must be made to the clients exact measurements. However in a word where images move at the speed of light and hot styles sell out with the click of a mouse, many high end designers are finding out that those clients who are willing to fly to Paris for a day’s worth of individual fittings are few and far between.

Enter demi-couture, the new nick-name that many within the industry are giving to the high-end side of ready-to-wear fashion, which has seen its popularity grow dramatically in the last few years. Pieces such as Mary Katrantzou’s Jewel Tree Dress, which requires more that 150 hours of work from four separate Paris ateliers and retails for over $14,000 dollars may not technically qualify as haute couture but are steadily taking its place in the world of high fashion. Considering the amount of craftsmanship and the price tag involved the odds of the wearer finding another party guest or red carpet walker showing off the same piece is slim indeed, and that uniqueness is what once made haute couture so appealing. “Pieces over $5,000 now account for six percent of our business. To put that into context, two years ago we sold nothing at that price.” said Joseph Velosa, president of ready-to-wear label Matthew Williamson.

Matthew Williamson is not alone, with up and coming designers such as Rodarte or Jason Wu and established houses like Chanel, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen all reporting noticeable upticks in sales for the high-end side of their ready-to-wear collections. Even Azzedine Alaia has jumped on board with this year’s July show which he introduced as “semi-couture”, atelier made pieces that can be purchased as-is from anywhere in the world through sites such as net-a-porter.com and Moda Operandi. While certain Parisians may be none to thrilled about this democratization of high end fashion, the market has spoken and in the 21st century the new couture is demi-couture.

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