A new word is picking up fast and that is "Couture” which has its origin in France meaning fashion clothing. Couture, which is more apt for an individual than general public, is tailored clothing, fine stitching and impeccable finishing rather than more available prêt-a-porter (readymade garments).
According to Puneet Nanda of Genesis ( Satya Paul), “Couture is an uncompromising art of clothing and couture boutiques are high-end boutiques that tender mostly branded items and whose major customers belong to high –end upper class stratum of the society".
India, basically a land of unusual ethnicity in comparison to west that usually wins accolade for perfection, is renowned for traditions like chikankari, ikat, resham and zardozi - India’s artisanal legacy, making its designs exclusively Indian. Yet, in spite of this rich history, India is just beginning to establish its fashion identity.
The domestic market is made of passionate fashion hungry rich class who seek mostly custom made wedding and ethnic apparel. With its growing prominence, even west has started to recognize it for its craftmanship and embellishments.
Tarun Tahiliani purports significance of couture perhaps from the core of his heart, “The entire world views the Indian wedding as a spectacle that is unparallel to any other culture. While the choice of how these should be celebrated remains individual, this experience means culture, textile, jewellery, tradition, and modernity in a synergistic blend that is relevant for today's lifestyle. As clothes play an important part, the exclusive collections showcased have been designed to be utterly luxurious, exquisite and delicate in workmanship and details.”
Another prominent designer JJ Vallaya reiterates, - “I started my career with couture and it gives me a deep sense of satisfaction to design individual style. Although, the perfection of west cannot be denied, India still holds its own when it comes to couture with its legacy of rich craft and deep sense of history”.
Market share of Couture Industry
The market share of couture retail is very meager as it caters only to a classy few. It is less than 1% of the total fashion retail.
Most of the retailing is done through specialized high-end boutiques with lavish ambience (Direct selling) and through advertisements in magazines.
However, since couture is customized clothing, so as to minimize any wastage or dead stock, clothes are made on order after the retailer has understood the consumer buying pattern in the store and then scientifically produced. Although, they definitely have a huge stock of couture in the store nevertheless the proportion of diffusion and prêt garments are higher since couture garments are mostly made to measure.
Importance of Ambience
Ambience is very essential for couture retailing. The consumer needs to feel comfortable when he is shelling out relatively a large sum of money. The ambience of the couture store must be similar to that of a high end jewellery store.
Importance of Couture Weeks
Couture weeks are gaining momentum in India as a best platform for spreading awareness and for trading in both national and international markets, launching new range and basically fashion forecasting.
Puneet Nanda believes, “Couture Weeks provide platform to showcase individual style”.
The audiences at couture weeks are an amalgamation of buyers (both domestic and foreign), socialites, foreign buyers and also celebrities; they are the most powerful medium to showcase exclusivity of Indian clothes that have their own fervor with traditional and ethnic designs”.
As per Neeta Lulla, “Couture weeks help in terms of sales because the client base is largely the HNI’s and to be brides who are keen on purchasing these kinds of garments. Hence, couture weeks play a very crucial role in creating awareness amongst buyers about the latest line for a couture designer.
More and more celebrities are walking the ramp at couture weeks, but Mona and Pali of Monapali Designs think, albeit their presence do help in getting media coverage but at the same time they also overshadow the product.
Couture and Bollywood/Socialites
One can witness social butterflies flaunting couture of famous designers at dos, weddings and the likes. And it is not rare to see the corresponding news flashing in newspapers or the other form of media with their comparatives prices mentioned boldly. In India, industrialists, political people, rich socialists, and film stars alike take pride in uttering the names of big designers as it has become a status symbol for them.
Couture and Hollywood
Influenced by the hoopla created by couture weeks, hollywood actors have also succumbed to the temptation of Indian couture; sari being their most loved choice of cloth, followed by kurtas and the likes. Elizabeth Hurley’s marriage to Arun Nayyar wearing a Tarun Tahiliani sari is still fresh in our minds. Brett Lee walked the ramp in a churidar kurta by Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla in the recently concluded Pearls Couture Week.
Growth of Couture Industry
There is no denying that couture cult is here to stay as the lure of glamour is omnipresent. The last few years have witnessed regular Couture Weeks in the capital; the recent one being just concluded Pearls Delhi Couture Week.
Couture industry which comes under unorganized sector, in the coming five years is expected to be stronger, driven by growing number of fashion schools, changing lifestyles and by strong income growth, and further supported by media coverage and Couture weeks which will help breaking barriers of geography and in reaching more people.