The Business of Couture and Bespoke Tailoring
There is a misconception that couturier’s do not tailor; that these skills are entirely separate and should not be spoken in the same breath. In truth, a well-trained professional in couture should be able to do both. The skills required are the same and a one needn’t have any less design understanding than is expected in the other. The Design quotient of talent and intuition is a prerequisite for any successful creative artisan; passion for and research into a particular fashion sector will lead the trained artisan into their preferred area of business.
In large organizations division of labour is common and often employed to get the most efficient productivity from its labour force; the larger the organization the more specialization or ‘division of labour’. For instance in men’s tailoring it is common practice for different people to create one suit – a cutter, jacket maker, vest maker and trouser maker and sometimes people make only buttonholes or do the basting. In ladies couture it is common practice to have one person take care of the fittings, the other to create the pattern and cut, and others to hand sew. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one will never do anything else; employees move laterally and vertically within good organizations.
But for those professionals who are self-employed, the reality (and often the most rewarding situation) is that one has to do, know how to do, or understand the workings of everything from start to finish of a project even if experts are hired for specific tasks. Another misconception is that a creative people cannot be good at the business side of things as well, and will never be successful.
As for ‘success’ – lets’ just remove people from the success equation for one second, and look at it from a purely business point of view. Investors and shareholders find the best view (and the only view) at the bottom line and it had better be in black. All that matters is that this number is large and will grow exponentially. It would be advisable to be into mass production or distribution, or perhaps into acquisitions of a successful business or several businesses, or in the extreme to acquire many businesses in an effort to squash the competition. If this sounds ridiculous it is not. That is exactly what happened with luxury brand fashion businesses in the last decade; artisans and highly skilled people were not part of the equation and a very huge chunk of expertise has been lost forever.
Put highly skilled creative people and business skill back into the mix and add to it regard for customer satisfaction, the environment, the community, cultural enhancement and you’ve got a sector that comprises literally hundreds of occupations in eight broad sub-sectors in Canada in live performing arts, writing and publishing, visuals arts and crafts, film and television, broadcasting, digital media, music and sound recording, and heritage. The sector includes employers and workers in several thousand organizations, big and small, not-for-profit and for-profit.
The Canadian cultural community is large, dynamic, highly skilled and well-educated. According to the Culture Statistics Program of Statistics Canada, more than 600,000 Canadians work in the cultural labour force. Almost 70% of these individuals hold a university degree.
They are twice as likely to be self-employed, and are typically well motivated, entrepreneurial and creative. Cultural workers contribute an estimated $48 billion to the economy. Further, the number of people working in cultural fields has grown at more than twice the rate of the total workforce over the past 20 years.
So that pretty much describes the sector that couturier’s work in – true couture is a niche market in a much larger multi-billion dollar fashion industry (often overlooked), but part of a growing cultural industry in Canada. Couture and tailoring is a hybrid of craftsman/trade and art in a luxury market.
In case you thought that this week’s blog is really heady stuff I did find this site that made me chuckle because of their logo – a somewhat different traditional craft that perhaps you thought was a dying art as well – making custom mattresses– have a look at this, love it!
Click on the link to Black Sheep Mattress Company, I found their blog very encouraging re: Green Calgary, Customer Service and Sustainable Materials!