What are the haute couture houses?

Haute couture is a term we’ve all heard before. But what does this appellation really mean? What are its differences with ready-to-wear and how can a brand get this label? Fashion Skills answers your questions. All about the Haute Couture Appellation

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What is Haute Couture?

Legally protected since 1945 in France, the term haute couture refers to a French tradition, a symbol of luxury, excellence and know-how . Unlike ready-to-wear creations, haute couture clothing is made to measure, most often for very prestigious clients.

To understand the genesis of haute couture, one must go back to the end of the 19th century. Indeed, it was in 1868 that Charles Frederick Worth, a French-British couturier to the first live fashion shows, founded the Chambre syndicale de la couture et la couture for ladies and girls (now known as the Chambre syndicale de la couture Parisienne).

Decades later, the Haute Couture appellation became a legally controlled appellation. Only a handful of houses can, each year, get it. A choice does not make a dedicated commission, officiating under the aegis of the Trade Union Chamber of Sewing and the Ministry of Industry.

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What conditions to obtain the Haute Couture designation?

To access the Haute Couture appellation, many criteria must be respected:

  • Each creation must be done by hand , within the workshops of the fashion house. These workshops must be composed of a minimum of 20 people.
  • The house holding the Haute Couture designation must pass twice a year (as part of the fashion week dedicated to haute couture) and present at least 25 models at each pass
  • The same house must have a workshop of “blur” and “tailor” workshop . One deals with fluid materials and silhouettes, the other for trousers, jackets, coats…
  • Register at least 4 years in advance on official calendars.

The haute couture label is valid for only one year. Every year, it is necessary to reiterate his request. Several members are, however, permanent. This is the case for example Chanel, Dior, Alexandre Vauthier, Giambattista Valli or Maison Martin Margiela .

Certain brands and luxury houses parade as part of the couture collections, without meeting all the essential criteria. They are called “invited members”. In recent years, we can mention, for example, the American brands Proenza Schouler and Rodarte, the Belgian company A.F. Vandervorst and the Chinese designer Guo Pei . These members do not have the Haute Couture designation, but may use the term “couture”. If they wish to become permanent members, they must go for at least two years and then resubmit their candidacy.

The “corresponding members” are foreign members. In this category, we can mention Versace, Valentino, Elie Saab or Viktor & Rolf .

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