Oscar de la Renta: “Couture Has Become Completely Irrelevant”

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

The market for couture has shifted. Whereas in the past American socialites would buy couture dresses and parade them around town promoting the label, that's just not the customer anymore. Pre-fall! Resort! Daywear! That's what American women are buying, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal. Everyone looks so casual. Oscar de la Renta, who designed Balmain’s couture collection for nine years (1993–2002), sees no point in creating couture clothes at all. "Couture has become completely irrelevant," he told the Journal. "Couture isn’t necessary, even to promote the brand. Customers are smart. They know that a $10,000 wedding dress will look as beautiful as a $1 million wedding dress. Maybe it will not be finished the same way inside, but who will know?"

So who's buying couture? Women in the Middle East and Russia. "For this very moneyed class, it’s less about the luxuriousness of wearing exquisite handmade to-order creations and more about conspicuous consumption and making museums out of their closets," the Journal reports. A couture dress by Elie Saab costs $600,000. Saab said a sheikh’s wife buys an average of six gowns each season.

Survival of the Finest [WSJ]