You walk in, you’re offered a cup of tea and you feel welcome. Harriet’s Muse is one of these designer shops, and they’re a great example of a growing trend for custom made garment, which they like to call “New Couture”.
London has always been an epicenter of fashion and creativity. It’s one of those rare places where the dressmaker and Haute Couture meet, where you can have a garment made to order, but it doesn’t have to cost the same as a new car! New Couture is a new trend but it’s always existed in London - it’s just that people have started to feel a stronger need for it. It’s starting to move into the mainsteam.
In a way it’s the fast fashion revolution that’s created a need for New Couture. With rails and rails of identical garments it becomes more of a challenge to dress individually, to be unique. There’s a growing place for the small designer to work directly with the customer, making them feel special and creating something special for them.
In some larger shops it can be hard to even find a clerk, but with New Couture there’s an opportunity to have the attention of the designer. Smaller designers are finding it harder and harder to compete in the current environment, where good ideas are replicated quickly and can be on the shelves quicker than small designers can have their garments made.
It does cost more, but with high quality off-the-rack garments costing a couple of thousand pounds why not spend a bit more and have something made?
The customer has become more educated as well - there are so many magazines and fashion television that the expectations for the New Couture designer can be quite high. It’s a niche market, but hopefully it will stay this way so it remains special. New Couture is one of those trends that will keep London on the cutting edge of fashion.
I recently met up with the designers of Harriet’s Muse, Cheryl Partington and Craig Spellar to discuss New Couture.
How has the New Couture come about?
A happy accident, fate destiny. who the hell knows, but what we can say is that to our minds it could only happen in London and in particular, Soho.
What’s New Couture all about?
It’s all about alternatives; clothing is a premier expression of self and to achieve an identity; we can’t all shop like frenzied sheep! This is our articulation of slow fashion, a means and a medium in which the client and the designer truly collaborate.
Why do people need couture?
Our couture is what we term as the ‘new COUTURE’ that is essentially a process that pays homage to centuries of tradition and aims to be harmonious with today’s needs. People want change and there is an overwhelming desire for a new identity; an identity that is not driven by trend, convention nor hype.
Is New Couture obtainable?
The new etiquette is about empowering the old sensibilities of made to measure and exploring the relationship between us the designers and our clients. Most importantly modern couture should be affordable although aspirational.
Who buys the New Couture?
Our clients range from red carpet commissions, advertising, film and music
but most importantly real people; albeit slightly eccentric and batty!
London is our epicentre of colour, charisma, and creativity. Soho in particular is a concoction of sordid history, elegance, fun, and naughtiness. Our clients are drawn to the magnetism of Soho but of course in particular Harriet’s Muse.
Is this sustainable?
It has always been available & obtainable - Soho tailors and dressmakers have always offered made to order pieces although it has not always been widely promoted. Harriet’s muse is both forward thinking and accessible in it’s offering.
Is couture returning to London?
Remember England is the true home of couture; we thank Charles Frederick Worth.