Home » Archive » Haute coutre, universal appeal

, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

“To conceive with total apprehension approach it as something totally strange.” Henry David Thoreau

In the curious eyes of a child …

Only children get to stare. I’ll look into the eyes of a child for hours. I can hardly stand to look into an adult’s for six seconds.

Children make miracles of hands, new snow and mud puddles. I spent a week at NASA and still managed to get bored.

There is something compelling and endearing in curiosity. A beginner’s mind is a marvel. Why are we so ready to abandon that advantage? Why do we strive to be experts? Why do we fight to have all the answers?

Knowing: enemy of curiosity

Sophistication gets in the way of simple worth. Polish pushes past practicality.

I was delighted when we finished our Jurisdictional Advantage assessment tool. I thought I’d finally created the tool to tempt new clients. It is rigorous, analytical, relevant and enormously powerful.

But as I invested more time in discussing it’s merits and even when I revealed its value in response to new, related opportunities — it pushed instead of pulled. The rigour and depth made some worry about overblown budgets. The sophistication suggested simplicity might get ignored. The practical-minded saw threats lurking in its long-range capacity.

More than that, I became (have become) closed to newness. Instead of greeting each new colour with the wonder of a child, I find some way to find its pre-fab place inside the tool.

The words used to describe the tool were, at first, simple. But in supporting its pre-fabricated relevance, things get ever-more complex. Language starts to hide meaning instead of reveal it.

There is a real tension here. On one hand, people want to see some evidence of capacity. What better way than to flash a well-used, refined set of tools and portfolio of happy clients? But, on the other hand, everyone wants to be unique. They want bespoke.

It’s a tenuous balance. Proof of universal satisfaction and evidence of exclusive service. Show that everyone is happy and ensure that no one has anything similar.

It’s made me wonder about the path to haute couture: the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing — made to order for a specific customer, made from high-quality, expensive fabric, sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques.

Of all that haute couture involves, what is universal? What principles live at its heart? What is unchanged, in spite of creativity? And how is this harnessed?