A new e-commerce platform offers haute couture designs at prêt-à-porter prices while supporting emerging Asian design talent.
Backed by the Asian Couture Federation (ACF), the newly launched Couturíssimo not only brings haute couture to the masses but also aims to support rising Asian talent, giving them a platform to showcase and commercialise their designs. In this interview with Billionaire.com, president of the ACF Frank Cintamani shares with us how an e-commerce concept such as Couturíssimo could help change the fashion landscape in Asia.
How did this idea come about and were there any inspirations behind it?
The reality is that each year, despite the thousands of promising young designers who emerge from leading fashion schools, very few actually go on to achieve significant success. This proves that creative talent can only take you so far. What is needed is commercial viability, and the ACF has responded to this challenge with the launch of Couturíssimo. The impetus for this was also the reality that the online fashion market is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and, for the younger generations consuming fashion in this way, this is an established purchasing activity. Couture is, by its nature, exclusive, however, I do not believe that this necessary means people can or should be excluded from it.
How will designers such as Guo Pei and Tex Saverio benefit from collaborating with Couturíssimo?
Tex Saverio has achieved acclaim for his costumes in The Hunger Games. Guo Pei had a defining moment this year with her stunning couture gown worn by Rihanna at the Met Ball in New York. While both are now in the wider consciousness of the general public, the reality is that very few people can afford to buy their couture work. Couturíssimo has the ability to enable people around the world with the opportunity to own a piece by Guo Pei or Tex Saverio in a way they could not have done previously. This will undoubtedly help to elevate their profile and, through this, generate other opportunities for them to take their work to a global audience.
What is the vested interest that the ACF has in a concept such as Couturíssimo?
The ACF’s involvement in Couturíssimo is really very straightforward. Our goal has always been to promote our member designers and this platform is a powerful means of achieving this. We are very open about this and also that this is not exclusively for Asian couturiers. Couturíssimo will actively work with the world’s best couture talent wherever it resides. Couture and fashion knows no boundaries, cultural, political or geographic.
How else will it give back to the fashion industry?
By giving these young Asian designers a viable platform to showcase their talent, alongside a mentorship programme with international couture houses who will guide them, nurture them and provide them with invaluable advice, they will emerge more confident and informed. The main area of development for them will be to understand how to translate their creativity into a commercial realm.
Far too many young designers founder because they lack the business knowledge to evolve their work. Their involvement in Couturíssimo will hone their knowledge of branding, marketing, production and pricing. These are all valuable disciplines, which will stand them in good stead for the future. With this, the next generation of designers in the fashion industry will be better equipped with the skills and sophistication required in a profitable business in fashion.
Our focus is not just on individuals but also working closely with fashion schools, fashion leaders and opinion formers. Our goal is to seek out the most promising couture talent wherever it resides. In this way, we will forge ever-closer relationships with the wider fashion community and key players within it.
How important do you think it is that a business such as Couturíssimo takes an active role in supporting young Asian talent?
Couture is a very competitive and intense area of fashion, and it is in everyone’s interests that there is a strong emerging couture talent that can grow into the couture houses of tomorrow. Much of the frameworks that exist elsewhere accord status or membership to young couture designers based only on talent. While laudable, the reality is that many of them struggle to survive and, as such, appear on approved lists for a short time before disappearing due to an inability to forge a viable living.