For years, the media has been decrying the death of haute couture, saying it is only a matter of time before elite women are no longer in the market for custom fitted clothing, which can often cost into the six-figures. As the couture shows kick off in Paris, with brands from Chanel to Christian Dior showing their Fall 2014 collections this week, it seems that those declarations were a tad premature. Today’s Women’s Wear Daily reports that haute couture is in fact thriving, and it’s largely because of a new, younger customer.
Sidney Toledano, Christian Dior’s CEO, credits the growth of high-tech businesses (and the women who run them), along with emerging markets, as the reason the average age of Dior’s couture clients has dropped by almost a decade to early 30s from 40s. He also reports that Dior couture has experienced double-digit growth in recent years.
Chanel, similarly, cited record sales for its spring 2014 haute couture collection, which included the much talked about haute couture sneakers. Sales of the collection jumped 20 percent, according to the company. Valentino, meanwhile, is projecting growth of 30 to 35 percent for couture this year, thanks in large part to new Chinese customers.
Giorgio Armani debuted his couture line, Armani Privé, in 2004, and he too is seeing his couture customer get younger and younger. “At one time couture was, so to speak, exclusively reserved for mothers,” he told WWD. “Today, their daughters are starting to appreciate this particularly exclusive and high-level form of fashion. It is a cosmopolitan audience that is demanding and informed, that doesn’t see itself in the old mold of haute couture, which was static and rigid.”
It will be interesting to watch over the course of the week to see if this influx of younger customers has an impact on what designers show on the runway. If Chanel can grow its couture presence thanks to really, really expensive sneakers, we can only guess what will be next.