Cover Extravagant looks from Dolce & Gabbana’s most recent Alta Sartoria show (Photo: Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana)

Haute couture designers are increasingly turning their eyes towards a previously untapped market: menswear

It used to be that haute couture, the highest echelon of fashion, was the exclusive domain of ultra-wealthy women but, of late, couturiers have increasingly turned their attention to the sterner sex.

As early as spring/summer 2019, fashion’s pre-eminent masions (Dior, Valentino and Maison Margiela among them) have taken to showing men’s looks alongside their women’s couture collections. Meanwhile, in July 2021, Balenciaga made it a point to introduce men’s looks in the line-up for its first couture show in more than 50 years, underscoring the new shift.

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“I think men came to the point that they want to wear couture as well, and I know that we have some customers [who] will love that,” Balenciaga creative director Demna told WWD in 2020. “I want to kind of erase the gender identification of couture being only for women, or only for older women who have money to afford it.”

This approach, while more prominent in recent times, is nothing new in high fashion. Dolce & Gabbana has long had its Alta Sartoria collections with healthy offerings for men, while fashion’s one-time enfant terrible Jean Paul Gaultier kicked it off in the 1990s with his extravagant shows.

More recently, Lebanese couturier Elie Saab introduced men’s looks to his haute couture show in Paris for the first time. However, he was quick to point out that it was a natural progression and not a sudden decision. “People who come to us for this type of style, they want to be spectacular—it’s the same for men and women,” said the designer in an interview after his runway show in July.

“Fantasy for men is important,” Stefano Gabbana proclaimed at Dolce & Gabbana’s most recent Alta Sartoria show in Sicily, highlighting the importance of men’s couture. “In the past, kings, princes, sultans dressed up a lot—jewels, hats, coats. Under the skin of every man is a vanity.” Our only question: why has it taken so long?

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