The Worth of style
By Caroline Brown
As a fashion enthusiast, I have always wondered why Maison Worth no longer exists. The question perplexed me until last week when I received an invitation to the House of Worth’s Press Day. The label, to my delight, has been resurrected from the depths of old fashion couture books.
Charles Frederick Worth, known in the fashion industry as the “Father of Couture,” was the man who revolutionized the industry as we know it today. He was the first dressmaker, as they called it back in the 1850s, to establish relationships with textiles manufactures and, most importantly, he was the first designer to dictate new fashion trends. Before him, dressmakers (mostly women) would always collaborate with their clients, but wouldn’t have much say in the end style of a gown.
One of the ways in which Worth dictated his designs was by controlling all aspects of the production of his garments. He would study a client’s style, her colouring and her body type; then create a gown he thought suited her. This helped his company maintain its reputation, standard of excellency and its monopoly over the industry for 35 years.
Worth’s wife, and one of his oldest clients Princess Metternich were his personal models, who would help launch new styles at French court. Later in the 1860s, they also used the French racecourse Longchamp to showcase new designs, once the venue became the place to be seen in the French high society.
Worth was the first to establish international clientele and was the first to mass produce. He created fixed patterns and client information folders to help his staff produce gowns to his standards and not tarnish his reputation. By 1871, Maison Worth employed over 1,200 staff.
All this success for a dressmaker was unheard of before Worth. However, he could not have accomplished so much without the technological developments of the day. Without the invention of steamships, the railway and telegraphs, catering to international clientele would have been a non-existent thought. This does come to show – timing is everything.
When Worth died in 1895, his two sons – Gaston-Lucien (founder of The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Française) and Jean-Philippe – ran the company until the 1920s. The company was then family-run until 1952, when Worth’s great-grandson, Jean-Charles, retired. House of Worth merged with Maison Paquin in 1954, but the company closed in 1956.
After 54 years, the brand has been revived.
The company, House of Worth Ltd., consists of both a couture and ready-to-wear labels, as well as a perfume line. The company, however, is expanding by launching an accessories and lingerie line soon as well. The three men in charge of revitalizing House of Worth are CEO Dilesh Mehta, CDO Martin McCartney and designer Giovanni Bedin.
Mehta is the CEO of Shanell Enterprises and SA Designer Parfums . At the moment, his company exclusivity deals with the manufacturing and distributing of perfumes. However, like all companies they have a plan for growth and the agglomeration of the House of Worth is just the beginning. They plan not only to diversify into the luxury market, but also diversify into premium and lifestyle brands, marketing and distribution, sales, and work with brand owners and retailers to optimize growth in global core markets. Watch out LVHM and PPR! There is a new luxury conglomerate in the making!
Martin McCartney is the business partner with Dilesh Mehta and CDO Chief Development Officer for House of Worth. He is known as a fashion entrepreneur. He first started his career at Gianfranco Ferrè, and later helped other fashion labels with design and guided lifestyle collections, such as Calvin Klein, Celine, Ralph Lauren and Trussardi.
Lastly, and arguably the most important of the three men, is head designer Giovanni Bedin. Bedin studied design at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, and is said to have always had an obsession with the Maison Worth. Quite fitting, considering he went to the school that was created by the foundation established by Worth’s son. After school, he began to work for Karl Lagerfeld’s studios and, later, worked alongside Thierry Mugler.
The collections shown are still quite small. However, one piece has become a favourite among the fashion industry, has been worn by both Anna Dello Russo and Cheryl Cole, and featured in Russian Vogue’s December editorials.
Caroline Brown is a fashion blogger based in London, U.K. Her blog can be found at http://fromsampletostaple.wordpress.com/