From Cardin to Caldor

The twice-yearly (fall/winter and spring/summer) fashion shows are spectacles worthy of big budget Hollywood extravaganzas.  Even "ABC Nightly News" anchor Peter Jennings buckles down and reports on the latest fashion follies sashaying the Parisian runways.  While last week, in Confessions of a Fashion Insider , we discussed the purpose of a fashion show as being a way to attract attention from the press, this week, we will explore how the shows, or in particular, the garments themselves, trigger a worldwide mode machine.

Initially, it almost seems silly that news of styles not meant to be worn for almost another year and a half into the future, make headlines around the world today.  We constantly hear the proclamations reported with excitement and passion: "Paris is awash in color," "Gray is the new black," "floral prints are out and Pucci-like abstract designs dominate," yet, when you go to your local store, they have no bearing on what you see...well, not yet.

Haute couture shows are the most influential and dominating force in fashion.  With unlimited resources in terms of developing exclusive materials from fabrics to buttons and with labor costs being of no consequence as each garment is made to fit only one body, a couturier's imagination is limited only by his vision. Their creations are studied with a keen and eager eye by the next designer waiting one rung down on the fashion ladder: the prêt à porter (ready to wear) designers at the "designer price points." This prestigious conclave includes Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Dolce and Gabanna among many distinguished others. Their designs carry lofty price tags that are increasingly approaching the couture level, yet they are still purchased in a store (albeit a plush one) on a rack. Not to dilute the vision and creation of these masters of the mode, but the couture's influence on their collections can be boiled down to this: "I (prêt à porter designer) like the way a couturier (i.e. Dior) used that (a color, a fabric, a silhouette etc) and now I will do the same in my own way!"  With less than 15 recognized couture houses still in operation, it is easy to see they are all working from a rather small pool of resources for inspiration, hence, similarities of aspects they wish to incorporate in their own collections are inevitable.

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