Shopping for an haute couture dress is like purchasing diamonds. If the quartet of cut, carat, clarity and colour determines a diamond's value then the degree of embellishments, hours of craftsmanship and the fact that it is hand-made on the Parisian soil establish its couture credentials.
Haute couture which literally means high sewing dates back to the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's Rococo style. However, it was not formalised in France until English born designer Charles Worth burst onto the scene and opened his Paris atelier in 1858.
It was Worth who founded the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne to regulate the craft of haute couture.
Today couture pieces retail for upwards of $10,000 lapped up the wealthiest shoppers. Even though over the last decade, a section of observers have predicted couture's death, the practice has established itself as both creatively and financially sustainable.
The recently concluded men's Spring 21 collections saw Valentino, Fendi and Azzaro showcasing men's couture. So far the practices of Savile Row's bespoke tailoring have been a couture equivalent for men.
Moreover, in the past few years, a host of menswear designers like Kim Jones at Dior Men and John Galliano at Maison Margiela have peppered their ready-to-wear offerings with couture touches.
The recently showcased Dior Men's Winter 21 offerings saw Kim showcasing a long coat, and a blouse designed in the Vermont workshops, completely hand-embroidered, which was directly inspired by the haute couture Rosella dress designed by Marc Bohan in the 1960s.
For Fendi's binary-blurring couture, Kim showcased a black double breasted dress suit layered over a lace shirt, a pussy bow tie offset with the model's immaculately done scarlet lips.
Jones was inspired by Virginia Woolf's literary masterpiece Orlando, a novel that narrates the tale of an Elizabethan nobleman who transforms into a woman and travels some 300 years through time, never ageing.
Stylist Akshay Tyagi sees these men's pieces ushering in the rise of the new masculine and feminine. "The sexual identities are blurred today. Look at so many beauty influencers redefining the genders. These runway looks are no cookie cutter versions, but let you be unapologetically you. Be it Kim at Dior Men, Michele at Gucci or Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino – there is a fresh sartorial energy for today's evolved men," said Akshay.
Beauty has no gender
In Valentino's show notes, Pierpaolo Piccioli shared, "Introducing men in this show was a natural consequence of the statement that is behind our work. The essence of couture is in the intrinsic nature of its execution, and it is something that does not need to have a gender limitation. Beauty has no gender."