From the appearance of teenager Willow Smith in the front row at Chanel's show to Elie Saab's unveiling of matching mother-daughter gowns at July's Paris Haute Couture Week, it seems the prestigious couture trade is responding in full to the rising interest it is receiving from a dynamic new generation of customers, and is keeping its modernisation in tune with the fast-changing fashion realm.
"Pop stars, ultraprivileged twentysomethings and tastemakers are more and more interested in couture," says couturier Zuhair Murad. "They are sharing these days this particularly high-level form of fashion with [those from] the exclusive world of aristocrats and elite of socialites who [have] dominated the world of haute couture for decades."
Wendy Yu, a 26-year-old London-based Chinese entrepreneur and couture collector, says: "Where couture appeals to me [is in] the customer experience as well as the personalisation. The fact that a brand would go an extra mile for you really makes it stand out."
Murad says some of his couture clients are in their mid-20s, and came to him for prom party dresses or bridal gowns.
"They enjoy the pleasure of [having] sophisticated, custom pieces [along] with all the pampering that comes with the process," he adds. "Buying couture is sometimes within the culture of a family - a heritage of traditions among those specific bourgeois families."
Chinese designer Guo Pei agrees. Guo, who showed at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week as a guest member of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, has made gowns for babies whose parents wish to celebrate their 100-day birthday.
"Many of my clients are in their mid-20s, who got married in my couture wedding dresses and wanted to dress their babies in couture as well," she says.
The rise of ready-to-wear collections in the 1950s had a significant impact on haute couture. The prestigious trade, however, is on the rise once again thanks to the growing interest from the younger generation of customers, and to clients from burgeoning markets such as those in the Asia-Pacific.
Stefano Sassi, CEO of Valentino, also reckons haute couture's growing success is due to the evolving customer demographic, and says it has much to do with the drastically changing brand perception that's been engineered through campaigns, image building and the collections presented.
"Haute couture is very much alive for us," Sassi says. "Not only is it the key to our history and the deep core of our activities, it can also be [commercially] successful. China is a market that's opening up to couture. There's a big opportunity for us."
Business is booming, according to Sassi. Compared to 2013, Valentino's haute couture performance in 2014 increased by more than 50 per cent. Other luxury maisons such as Dior, Chanel and Atelier Versace also noted growth for their couture collections.
Recent seasons have seen designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Viktor & Rolf forgoing ready-to-wear in order to focus on the couture business.
"Many of our clients come from the art world and have been supporting us for many years," says Viktor Horsting of Viktor & Rolf. "Haute couture has always been the centre of our work - our core and means of artistic expression."
Newcomers such as Fendi, which just showed its second haute couture collection in July at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, are also revitalising the trade.
"The feedback has been very good," says Pietro Beccari, CEO of Fendi. "The fact that we are a couture house brings us to another league and allows us to talk to another group of sophisticated clients who we want to reach."
Catering to the younger generation of clients, couturiers have come up with various strategies for designs, communication and customer services.
"Back in the [old] days, the only way to buy a dress was for those privileged clients to visit the brands' 'exclusive apartments' where they [would] choose among pieces, try on some garments and place an order," Murad says.
"Now the relationship between maisons and clientele [has] changed. Today, we cater to the needs of these international and global customers and we present the collections outside Paris and pay visits to the VVIP clients." Designers such as Atelier Versace, Vetements and Alexandre Vauthier have infused sporty and street-wear elements into couture collections for the past seasons. "I'm always observing what the girls today are wearing to parties, on the street and for travelling - I try to make these outfits more luxurious," Vauthier says. "I think a lot about versatility. They [the outfits] need to be super luxurious but still wearable."
Elements of personalisation and making to measure are of course the marks of haute couture.
"The component of making a product for yourself is very important," Becarri says. "It's about having a product that nobody can just buy in the store."
Yu concurs: "I invest in museum pieces. I love statement and collectable gowns - what you don't see in everyday life. I think about the uniqueness of the dress, or that only this certain maison has the specialism to create it."
Couturiers have also noticed certain characteristics that distinguish the younger clientele.
"This cosmopolitan clientele, who appreciate couture and not the static and rigid haute couture [preferred by] their mothers, are demanding and informed, and seek glamour and outstanding techniques within unique pieces and luxury fabric," Murad says.
"They want above all an extraordinary piece that reflects their own personality and makes them feel comfortable."
"Our older clients appreciate the craftsmanship behind, and also the many working hours that go into, the dress," says Guo, whose gown titled Da Jin (meaning Magnificent Gold), which showed at New York's Met museum, took the designer 50,000 hours to create. "Our younger customers, however, are more into the unique designs and the 'wow' factors."
Chinese couture clients are also absorbing the couture culture at an impressive pace, according to Guo.
"They are learning very fast," she says. "Before, I came across clients who thought of us as tailors, but now they trust our designs and philosophy and buy couture gowns as collectables."
Haute couture's promising prospects have encouraged luxury maisons to continue communicating their know-how and artisanship. Chanel, for example, instead of directing the focus onto its usual over-the-top grandeur at its latest couture show, brought the spotlight onto its couture atelier.
The maison replicated the artisans' workstations and staged them at Paris's Grand Palais gallery while the actual petites mains who work at the atelier starred in the show.
Karl Lagerfeld walked for the finale along with two chief couturiers.
"I think it's interesting for both sides to put the clients, journalists and public in front of the workroom and the workroom people in front of the public and the dresses in between," Lagerfeld says.
"Without the good atelier, you can't make a good collection. You need those people. I love to work with them."
Chanel, in fact, has always been in the vanguard of promoting and preserving artisans. The maison pays tribute to its artisan partners including Lesage, Desrues, Lemarie, Michel and Massaro through the annual Metiers d'Art show.
Fendi too celebrated its unsung heroes with its Artisans of Dreams exhibition, which opened at its Rome headquarters in July and runs until October 29. Artisans also demonstrated their exquisite works of art in front of press and clients after Fendi's extravagant show in Rome.
"We have employed more than 100 artisans since I took over as CEO four years ago," Beccari says. "These artisans also learn from each other. You'll see young people with piercings and tattoos working alongside veterans. The learning process could take years but eventually, they'll be rewarded and become official couturiers."