Haute couture designers have an elite status in the fashion industry. Haute couture refers to high fashion and the creation of custom fitting one of a kind clothes. The term Haute Couture is governed by law in France whereby designers have to fit certain criteria in order to proclaim this acclaimed status. Among this list of criteria is a rule that states that your design house must present a collection of at least 50 original designs twice a year, in January and July, every season.
This article looks at two world renown haute couture designers, Pierre Balmain and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Balmain was founded in 1914 by Pierre Balmain who was a highly coveted fashion designer dressing celebrities such as Bridgette Bardot. Balmain had an elegant and opulent aesthetic, his passion for fashion followed him around the world as he lectured on this subject. Fast forward to 1993 where Oscar de la Renta, another highly renowned fashion designer took over the fashion house. De la Renta’s design aesthetic was aligned with Balmain’s style.
He was detailed oriented, simple and created universally pleasing luxurious clothes until 2002. In 2011 to present day, the fashion house is being led by a refreshing new face, Olivier Rousteing who joined the company in 2009. Known as much for his Instagram following, as he is for bringing back the French couture aesthetic that the brand was originally known for. Working with celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, Rouesteing is bringing Balmain to millenials by coining phrases for his following such as the Balmain Army.
Jean Paul Gaultier
Unlike his peers, Gaultier never received formal training to become a designer. He worked with famous coutriers such as Pierre Cardin and Jean Patou in the early 1970s who discovered Gaultier after he started sending them sketches.
Gaultier set the stage for his particular aesthetic with his first individual collection’s release in 1976. He became widely known for his playful, out of the box and unconventional style which was inspired by popular culture. Gaultier became wildly popular in the 1980s after he introduced male skirts and produced costumes for Madonna in the early 90s, including that famous cone sculpted bra during her Blond Ambition tour. He also designed her wardrobe for the 2006 Confessions Tour.
Jean Paul has stirred controversy by using nontraditional models for exhibitions and runway shows. Unafraid from stepping away from convention, he used full-figured women, heavily pierced and fully tattooed models while testing the boundaries of gender conventions and androgyny in his shows.
Jean Paul Gaultier and Balmain are two of the most well known French haute couture fashion houses that have been around for decades and certainly will remain in the forefront of the fashion industry for generations to come.