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Paris, capital of Fashion - from 1700s to Paris Fashion Week 2014

Triumphbogen und Champs-Élysées (Paris) bei Nacht Date: 22.04.2006 Author: Attribution Share Alike (by-sa)Over the last few months the 'big 4' fashion weeks have taken place in New York, Milan, London and Paris, where top designers and fashion houses have displayed their offerings for this year's Autumn/Winter fashion. The big finale is always Paris Fashion Week, with shows held in many lavish and unusual venues around the city.

Parisian fashion in the 1700's

Although each fashion week has - over time - created a signature style, Paris has been leading the way since the 1700s. Paris' reign in the fashion world dates back to the days of Marie Antoinette and her fashion designer Rose Bertin, who was commissioned to make exquisite and creative gowns for the Queen out of the finest fabrics and materials. At the time sewing machines hadn't been invented so Rose Bertin, like all milliners, did everything by hand. She even created her own fashion house, which is highly impressive since at the time women rarely became entrepreneurs.

Lincolnshire-born Charles Worth is widely accepted as the father of Haute couture, as he was the first to use real-life models to show his creations, while allowing his famous clients (such as the Empress Eugénie) to show their social status, wealth and power through beautiful gowns and clothes. He also revolutionised the industry by designing luxury dresses with lavish fabrics without receiving any order, when at the time milliners exclusively worked on made-to-order pieces.  Today, to be considered a Haute Couture fashion designer or fashion house today, you must become a member of the exclusive ‘Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture’, a federation founded by one of Worth’s sons.

Dior on the Paris Fashion week catwalk - picture by sharonagott on flickrHaute Couture - the height of fashion

To gain Haute Couture status, there are strict standards that need to be met by legal requirement. Indeed, to qualify as a Haute couture fashion house you must design made to order pieces for private clients with at least one fitting, and you must also have a workshop in Paris that employs at least 20 members of technical staff. Finally, you must produce a fashion collection each season to show at Couture Fashion Week, made up of at least 50 day and evening wear designs. Haute Couture is exclusive to Paris and is seen as the most prestigious form of fashion, and an important part of France’s fashion history and legacy. While Haute Couture pieces will often be too expensive and elaborate to be worn off the catwalk, they are regarded as incredible works of art that are often purchased by wealthy collectors from across the globe.

Big fashion influences from Paris

Other key industry French names who have shaped the fashion we wear today include Coco Chanel, innovative designer and famous inventor of the little black dress. Her self-named brand is now one of the official members of the ‘Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture’. Many of the best and most influential designers originate from Paris and have their fashion houses in the capital, such as Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Hermes, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and many more.

Influence of the war

During WWII, Paris was occupied by Germany, putting a temporary halt to the Paris fashion, and therefore other countries were unable to copy Parisian fashion, which was the way garments in other countries were normally designed. This meant that New York and London began to source their own talent and put on their own fashion events to draw fashion magazines to their work. This movement created the diverse industry that we know today, and despite the war Paris maintained its influence and couture reigned again after WWII was over.

The Golden Triangle

Chanel in Paris - picture by tedizen on flickr

If you travel to Paris today you will be able to wander inside the Triangle d’Or, the Golden Triangle - a famous high fashion area where you can find the fashion houses of Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, Céline, to name a few, all between the Avenue Marceau, the Champ-Elysées and the Avenue Montaigne.

Many aspiring designers still flock to the city today to attend the world’s leading fashion school - the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. The school’s alumni already include fashion greats such as Valentino, Karl Lagerfield and Yves Saint Laurent.

Have you been watching the catwalk shows from this season’s Paris Fashion Week? We’d love to hear what your favourite collections were and how you thought the week compared to the New York, Milan and London fashion weeks. To get in touch and share your views, contact the team at Fiore through our Facebook, Google+ or Twitter pages.

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