You may have noticed we focus a fair amount of attention on fashion here on the Bruce Andrews Design Journal. There’s a reason for this. Though it’s an acknowledged fact that interior design and fashion design are two disciplines that stylistically shadow each other, we have come to understand that there is a deeper resonance between the two industries when the quest for creative superiority and handmade virtuosity is built into a brand’s DNA. We call this a paralleling of luxury labels, a market segment with a shifting definition of late.
Defining Haute Couture
Given the global perspective the internet has increasingly brought to life during the past decade—thanks to social interactivity and the ease of setting up an online platform for self-expression—we have noticed certain terms have begun to shift from their original meanings. One in particular, haute couture, seems to be losing the power it once held to designate the extraordinary so we thought we’d use a bit of our journal real estate to reiterate the unparalleled excellence it is meant to represent.
In France, the country of its origin, the phrase is actually regulated by law. The Paris Chamber of Commerce (Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris in French) defines which fashion houses earn the right to deem themselves couture brands, going so far as to monitor which companies are using haute couture in their advertising and in other ways. Here are the rules that determine whether a fashion house has the right to identify itself as haute couture:
1) A brand must design made-to-order clothing for private clients, who are treated to one or more fittings.
2) A brand must have an atelier in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
3) A brand must present a collection to the Paris press twice yearly (for the spring/summer and fall/winter seasons) that is comprised of at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime and evening wear.
Fashion houses that meet these criteria are selected each year by the Paris Chamber of Commerce to become members of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture. But even within this broader selection, there is hierarchy, as members are divided into categories: official, which includes famed French houses such as Chanel and Dior; correspondent, which includes foreign brands like Armani and Valentino; guest, which includes new talents; jewelry; and accessories. Mode à Paris tabulates an official list of the fashion houses making the cut each time new collections debut.
Lax media will often label certain releases by fashion brands that only produce ready-to-wear (or prêt-à-porter) as haute couture. This practice has exploded since the internet has made it possible for virtually anyone to publish opinions online. Just because a collection debuts on a runway, this doesn’t mean it is haute couture.
A Case for Luxury Labels in Design
We believe the furnishings trade could benefit from using the categorical model the fashion industry has solidified because we have a similar structure to our industry—our highest quality, one-off productions akin to haute couture; our limited edition runs equal to prêt-à-porter; and mass market the same in each industry. The distinctions already exist so why shouldn’t we be more cognizant of how we handle them—and not just in the valuable antiques and vintage realms but in newly produced collections, too?
I have avidly covered the limited edition segment of the industry during the past two decades, first seeing remarkable examples of it at shows like Design Miami/, the Collective Design Fair and Salon Art + Design. I’ve also seen it when touring avant-garde showhouses like Casa Foa in Buenos Aires, and have watched the development of its documentation by following the acquisitions of the Museum of Arts and Design and delving into the research library at the Museum of Modern Art. Pretty much every corner of the globe is celebrating it, as is clear in programming for shows like Index Dubai, Design Shanghai and Design Arabia.
Galleries with a limited-edition point of view hold some of the highest quality furniture in the world, an uncanny number of them in Paris. Galerie Gosserez, Galerie Patrick Seguin, Galerie Negropontes, Galerie Downtown Laffanour and Carpenters Workshop Gallery are favorites when I am shopping in Paris. Venues like these—initially brought to my notice by Craig Robins, Ambra Medda and Sam Keller, the original visionaries behind Design Miami/—are remarkable sources of inspiration.
There are equivalents the world over, including in the US, such as R & Company, DeLorenzo Gallery and Friedman Benda in New York City, and Oculus Gallery in Los Angeles. We at Bruce Andrews appreciate the curatorial prowess of the gallerists who manage acquisitions for these venues, the quality they amass of great significance to those of us setting the bar high with our newly minted furnishings because we expect these to be shown alongside the stunning examples we see when we visit these shows and galleries today when they are the heritage collectibles in the future.
This post, Luxury Labels Parallel, © Bruce Andrews Design, all rights reserved. Our furniture is now available through Nandina Home in Aiken, SC; Jalan Jalan in Miami, FL; Travis & Company in ADAC in Atlanta; and the Ellouise Abbott showroom in Dallas, TX. We will soon be showing in the Ellouise Abbott showroom in Houston and in the Michael-Cleary showroom in Chicago, IL.