Tag Archives: business

EHC ‘How to sew’ video series

EHC has added a new web page called ‘Couture Sewing Tips and Secrets’ featuring a video series on ‘how to sew’ basics and tidbits of useful information about professional Couture and Tailoring. We’ve had great feedback to date on the ‘how to thread a needle with one, two and three strands of thread’ and ‘how to sew on a button the couture way’, and the ‘basic back stitch’ videos.

We are working on more demonstration videos showing skills that everyone could benefit by, and how new students to EHC actually begin in the certificate program. Since haute couture is all about high quality standards of hand sewing techniques and high quality materials, this is a great introduction into what EHC expects its students to master, much before they are let loose on expensive materials.

We will also share some secrets along the way. As more people have become acquainted with Ecole Holt Couture’s teaching method and curriculum, more interest has been generated in acquiring these traditional skills and how to apply them in our current day context.

But, a valuable point that came up during in-class discussions worth emphasizing is that Couture Sewing and Tailoring is not in the exclusive realm of female skills and talents. It is true that more women work at this profession than men; but many men have been, and are, in the business of sewing especially in men’s bespoke tailoring. In our once mostly male dominated societies, men rose to the top of fame and fortune in fashion over females as the well-known conceptual designers, but not as commonly known is that some were supremely skilled artisans/craftsmen as well, such as Cristóbal Balenciaga, Roger Vivier and more recently Alexander McQueen.

There is no reason today, why men are not as involved in or engaged as Couturiers as women are other than I suspect, the stigma attached to a perceived ‘weak or over refined profession’ of sewing in fashion – as hair styling or dance once was. EHC welcomes all who have the passion and determination to master this art, and hope that the parents of young men also fully support them in their aspirations just as do the parents of young women in becoming professionals in Couture and Tailoring.

Balenciaga - 1951 - from the Metropolitan Museum collection

Balenciaga – 1951 – from the Metropolitan Museum collection


















Balenciaga - 1957 - from the Metropolitan Museum collection

Balenciaga – 1957 – from the Metropolitan Museum collection


























Roger Vivier - for House of Dior - from the Metropolitan Museum collection

Roger Vivier – for House of Dior – from the Metropolitan Museum collection










Roger Vivier 1956 - house of Dior - from the Metropolitan Museum collection

Roger Vivier 1956 – house of Dior – from the Metropolitan Museum collection









Alexander McQueen 2007 - from the Metropolitan Museum collection

Alexander McQueen 2007 – from the Metropolitan Museum collection

2011EN2410_jpg_l a mcqueen 2000

Alexander McQueen 2000 – from the Metropolitan Museum collection






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EHC – Couture requires specialized skills

The survey says:

To meet needs of growth trends for custom work and alterations,in businesses surveyed – 56% required expert hand sewing skills, 33% custom pattern making skills, 89% custom fitting skills, 56% customer service skills, 33% required Design and styling skills, and only 22% need machinist skills.

What does that mean? These businesses are in need of professionally skilled workers who are able to produce high standards of hand sewing, can custom design original patterns, a whopping 89% could really use expertise in fitting skills, a good handle on excellent customer service, can design and style garments, and can operate machines.

Only 22% said they saw a increased need for skilled machinists, however, skills in traditional couture sewing are hard to find. Many young people are misinformed about the business of professional couture sewing, and as a result are reluctant to get into a field of fashion design that they think is just monotonous and slavishly laborious – picture sweat shops now closed in Canada, but alive and booming in overseas countries.  In fact, couture sewing and design is very creative and fulfilling, and yes, the hours are sometimes long, but each piece that you work on is different from the last unlike production work.

Appeal and glamor is the face of television and fashion media, however true career satisfaction from comes from within and the recognition of a job well done, along with the financial rewards. And while haute couture appears quite sensational on the surface, it is just like any business that requires education, experience, dedication and investment to be successful.

Oh yes, today was the first day of Fall Term – join us in the journey….

EHC’s fourth year couture class – first day


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EHC – Couture is on the Increase

A labor market survey was conducted in June 2012, by Ecole Holt Couture, for the purpose of collecting current prime source information from the fashion industry regarding dressmaking, tailoring, couture, and fashion design jobs in Alberta.

  • The questions asked were concerning industry growth trends, proof of job market, barriers or problems to employment, time estimations and job/availability of part-time, full-time and contract work, and included other considerations.
  • An indication to whether the market is regional or province wide was reflected by the returns and responses which were mainly from Edmonton and Calgary.
  • Surveys were sent to professional tailors, dressmakers, and fashion designers across Alberta
  • Respondents replied to the first question – do you see a growth trend in your business, and if so, in what area?

44% – Requests for Custom work

78% – Requests for Alterations

11% – Retail Sales

Along with the steady increase in retail sales there is a significant increase in requests for alterations – no surprise there as ready-made clothing requires alterations to fit reasonably well, but the increase in request for custom work is also on the rise. Most of the skilled workforce is nearing retirement or even working beyond retirement to fulfill this need.

Two things become apparent. One that there is a void of up and coming skilled labor for custom Dressmaking, Tailoring and Couture work and secondly, this type of work can be continued by skilled workers way beyond the shelf life of a typical career. We are seeing many more individuals working past the age of 65 for the reason of extended and cumulative skills and creativity.

Couture in particular is highly creative and fulfilling as a career, plus the increase in requests for custom work flies in the face of rampant consumerism for ready-made cheap clothing.

stay tuned…

The studio at EHC engaged in “creativity at work”.


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nOw tHaT’s C.L.A.S.S.

Hope that everyone had a great Victoria Day long weekend (here in Canada) for those not familiar with the May holiday – we have chosen to honor Queen Victoria and called it a holiday!

An issue that is very close to EHC’s heart is the sustainability of what we are doing in the fashion world. We believe that creating beauty with longevity and ethical business practices is incredibly sustainable and GREEN if you pay attention to what and how you do it.

According to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit  The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest industries, and one of the most polluting. The impact on our planet has reached it’s maximum. This calls for action.

Copenhagen Fashion Summit is the world’s largest and most important conference on sustainability and CSR in the fashion industry. The biennial Summit gathers more than 1000 key industry stakeholders to identify new opportunities and forward-looking solutions for the global fashion industry to tackle the growing challenges facing the planet. Comparatively, the fashion industry is one of the most polluting and socially challenged industries.

One solution to a more sustainable fashion industry lies within the theme of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2012: Sustainable consumption. Consumers can play a pivotal role in transitioning the fashion industry towards more sustainable business models. The Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2012 addresses how the industry can raise awareness and interest amongst consumers to choose sustainable fashion and sustainable consumption of fashion.

This site is worth visiting with several videos of key speakers addressing sustainability. Another newsletter you may want to sign up for is C.L.A.S.S. – Creative Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy organization which shares information about how to achieve this and more.

Posted by C.L.A.S.S. on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 · Leave a Comment

… forging a stronger bond between creative glamour and sustainable business!

Under the patronage of the Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, the recently concludedCopenhagen Fashion Summit 2012 brought together leading figures from the fashion and textile industry who pursue a common vision of eco-friendly and sustainable business.

Once again a huge success, the event – with an impressive roster of speakers and the presence of designers from 27 different countries – drew an enthusiastic crowd representing more than a thousand companies worldwide.

Prominent economists and politicians joined officers from world-class firms to take an active part in seminars on exploring innovative ways for the global high-end textile and fashion industry to tackle today’s environmental challenges. The summit focused particular attention on how to involve and engage end users in sustainable consumption.

Key speakers were: Holly Dublin (PPR Group), Rossella Ravagli (Gucci), Helena Helmersson (H&M), Giordano Capuano (Vivienne Westwood), Mark Sumner (Marks & Spencer), Anne Prahl (WSGN) and Michael Schragger (Sustainable Fashion Academy).

Organized by the Danish Fashion Institute for Nordic Fashion Association (NFA) – which also includes Helsinki Design Week, Icelandic Fashion Council, Oslo Fashion Week, Swedish Fashion Council – this year’s event benefited equally from valuable cooperation on the part of C.L.A.S.S. (Creativity, Lifestyle And Sustainable Synergy), an international forum set in motion by Giusy Bettoni to promote the development of green products/business plans in the fashion and design sphere.

Read more….



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Act of Genius or Progressive Solution

This topic came up in class at EHC regarding ‘haute couture’, related to a newsletter article, and was worth looking into more closely. Are fashion designers born geniuses or is it a matter of learning?

Designer Madeleine Vionett is considered to be a design genius for her bias cut methods, which was fundamentally different from other construction methods of the time. Christian Louboutin is mentioned as a genius of shoe design. Charles James and Alexander McQueen are referred to as design geniuses. What exactly does genius mean and why are they labelled geniuses?

There is no scientifically precise definition of ‘genius’, and indeed the question of whether the notion itself has any real meaning has long been a subject of debate.

A genius is someone embodying exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight.

According to philosopher David Hume, a person with the characteristics of a genius is looked at as a person disconnected from society, as well as a person who works remotely, at a distance, away from the rest of the world; or Immanuel Kant: genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person.

According to philosopher Bertrand Russell: genius entails that an individual possesses unique qualities and talents that make the genius especially valuable to the society in which he or she operates … it’s also possible for such a genius to be crushed by an unsympathetic environment during his or her youth.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th century American essayist, lecturer, and poet who was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society says of Genius
“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.’’ Emerson discusses two factors that discourage people from trusting themselves: societal disapproval and foolish consistency – “For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure”.

Does a designer have to be a genius to be successful designer, or is a matter of learning from the past.

Jan Michl, teacher of history and theory of design in Norway at GJØVIK University College, says that it is a myth that fashion designers somehow ooze originality from their pores and that true design abilities are the creative application of what went before — the connecting of the dots and those dots were someone else’s effort to do the same in “Design as Redesign, An Exploration of a Neglected Problem in Design Education for… those wrestling with design derivative issues.

No solution is ever the ultimate solution. Each design always begins where others have left off, are improvements on yesterday.

A watchmaker cannot create a watch ‘out of the blue’ – a watchmaker who has designed and made a watch always bases himself on a long tradition of watchmakers consisting of both large and small contributions on the part of vast numbers of watchmakers.

All new products and designs are deeply indebted to earlier products and solutions to earlier designs – the cumulative character of the design process is the evolutionary process of designed objects.

All this does not alter the fact that in reality designers always begin, not from scratch, but with solutions formed at an earlier stage; most of the time by other designers, and they too started on that basis. All designers, whether they want to or not, enter some kind of collaboration with both their living and no longer living predecessors, a collaboration that looks both forward and backwards in time.

On self-worth, Emerson made a case that individuals have not only a right but also a responsibility to think for themselves and that neither societal disapproval nor concerns about consistency should discourage these. He writes that individuals who obey the admonition to “trust thyself” should value themselves highly and consider themselves equal to the great men of history…. »

To sum up Jan Michl:  No designer starts from scratch – they all start from the solutions achieved by another designer.

If (we don’t believe that), then we pay for the satisfaction of seeing ourselves as ‘sole creators’ in the form of mental isolation and fear of underachievement.

We are not alone – not forced to think of everything ourselves, but part of a team of distinguished, inventive, imaginative colleagues that perhaps we have never met, the majority of which are long dead.

Successful design in fashion can be measured in many ways, depending on the desired outcome. Some designs are impractical and for the delight of the senses alone, or purely for fantasy. However, designs must be lifted off the paper and made into three dimensions to be considered as remotely successful. Designs which keep returning to us in somewhat altered forms are true successes. These successes become design classics and who then can take the credit – as being the genius who invented them – becomes very hazy in the distance and blurred perspective of time. Perhaps the design was a stroke of genius, associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight – but only for a short while until it morphs into a design which is better, updated or ‘redesigned’.

From part of an exhibit about Charles James – America

Madeleine Vionett – collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum UK

from the official website of the current house of Vionett


left: Madeleine Vionett – Victoria and Albert Museum   Photos


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One of the things we like to do at EHC, aside from collecting relevant resource material (books, magazines etc), is to comment on (aka ‘review’) what we feel to be useful information or important in reference to Couture in particular, and fashion design in general.

Just having picked up a little book ‘101 Things I learned in Fashion School’ by Alfredo Cabrera who is a fashion designer, teacher and illustrator at Parsons The New School for Design, FIT, Pratt Institute and Altos de Chavon School of Design, living in New York City, I opened it to the first page, read it and decided to read further.

In the opening Author’s Note, I found to be extremely good advice which is being ignored recently by upcoming and new designers.

“A good fashion design curriculum encourages students to come up with informed creative solutions to the problem of dressing people for their lives. …the greatest obstacle to this goal is not the acquiring of technical proficiency or adequate intellectual information … but in accepting the need to design for real people.”

-This is so important, that it is worth emphasizing again and again.

“The perception on the part of many students is that reality – real customers with real needs – is the enemy of creativity. Real experience, it is feared, means drudgery, compromise, and mediocrity.The result is that most curricula tend toward the theoretical, and practical application addressed only to the extent it is considered unavoidable….designs more often resemble ideas than clothing”.

This phenomenon is unfortunately being perpetuated by ‘reality TV’ fashion programs, and also by many successful designers competing for coveted magazine editorial ‘real estate’. We are so totally saturated with fashion media, it makes it almost ludicrous to present merely wearable styled clothing.

“It took years as a working designer to realize the importance of identifying a real living customer and recognizing what he or she will and won’t wear. Far from being anti-creative, it was the beginning of true creativity. For what is creativity if it isn’t to take something in one’s head and give it relevance in the real world?”.

“… if you don’t know how the garment you’ve designed will be worn and made, you haven’t designed anything.”

“Differences of opinion are common in fashion, but it doesn’t mean all opinions are equal or the product of taste preferences…indeed, the greater one’s knowledge of fabric, fit, structure, color and tailoring, the more qualified his or her fashion opinion is. Consider the possibility that in embracing, rather that rejecting the perspective of a critic, you will grow beyond your own and your critic’s current knowledge.”

Really, I couldn’t agree more. In our fashion niche market, the business of Couture is very much one in which the trained professional couturier must satisfy the needs of the very real customer to remain successful in business. Clients return to their experienced couturier time and time again, when the balance between design, fit, style, value, and relevancy has been attained. J…

Fashion 101


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