Today, let’s learn about the term haute couture, its meaning, and all the exclusivity and prestige that revolves around this name in the world of fashion.
Haute couture is French for High Fashion, which refers to making exclusive garments tailored to a person and in an artisanal way. That is to say, everything elaborated must be made by hand with a little (or no) intervention of sewing machines. Including materials of the highest quality.
Haute couture work modality
As we mentioned, for a garment to be considered haute couture, it must be made mostly by hand, using as little as possible a sewing machine.
The techniques used are complex, and long hours are used to perform them. It is done based on the specific measurements of a person and their body postures.
There are cases in which the garments are not for sale once finished due to the significant amount of time, effort, and resources used. So, estimating a value is not possible. Consequently, they are used to be shown on the catwalk or in art exhibits.
Haute Couture History
Haute couture had its birth in the 18th century with the French designer Rose Bertin. She was in charge of making the gowns of Queen Marie Antoinette, models that later became popular throughout Europe, being imitated by local seamstresses. This gave her recognized fame to Bertin and transformed her into a pioneer in introducing the concept of fashion and haute couture in French society.
In this way, and with the development of means of transportation, Parisian fashion reached its peak. Given that ladies from other European countries traveled to Paris to buy clothes and accessories, considering French couturiers to be the best in Europe.
The father of haute couture
Charles Frederick Worth is considered the father of haute couture, as it is known today. Despite being originally from England, his work in fashion was successfully developed in France.
He was in charge of revolutionizing the concept of sewing, turning this trade into art. Since he was in charge of designing exclusive garments. Making them for notable clients belonging to high society and creating portfolios with exposed designs by real models in his fashion house.
A place where the clients choose a model and the type of fabric and color to be duplicated according to their choice.
Chamber of Haute Couture
The Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne is an association of Parisian couturiers, which was born in 1868. All thanks to Charles Frederick Worth, to regulate the actions of its members regarding the copying or plagiarism of styles, dates of openings for collections, choosing the dates of the Paris Fashion Week, number of models presented, publicity and press, legal and tax matters. Besides encouraging new designers and qualifying the fashion houses on the list waiting to be approved by the category.
The term Haute couture is protected by law and defined by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris. Likewise, we have the Chamber of Haute Couture, which regulates all the activity that revolves around the world of fashion. As well as defining which fashion houses meet the requirements defined by this chamber to be classified as Haute Couture. Based on the opinion of a commission from the Ministry of Industry.
Requirements to obtain the Haute Couture category
The use of the term haute couture is not accessible to anyone who is dedicated to the design and manufacture of delicate or elegant garments with unusual and expensive fabrics and materials. Therefore, it is not in vain that this term is protected by law. Given this, the Trade Union Chamber of Haute Couture has also established in 1945 and updated in 1992 a series of rules, regulations, and requirements. Ones that must be met by those who aspire to obtain this Haute Couture category for their work consisting of:
- Have an atelier located in Paris with a work team of at least 20 people available full time.
- Present at least two collections per year in the regular seasons: spring/summer and autumn/winter. It must include garments for both day and night and contain at least 50 original designs.
- Perform more than one test for the private client in the company of the seamstresses to design the garment to suit them.
- Each garment designed and made must be unique and exclusive. This will be qualified by the jury that makes up the French Federation of Haute Couture.
- You must also have a group of experts called Les petite mains. Couturiers who spend a great deal of time hand-making haute couture dresses.
- Another detail that has already been mentioned is that the preparation must be done mainly by hand, avoiding using the sewing machine as much as possible.
- Each piece must have several hours used in its elaboration. As an example of this, it must be approximately 5 hours in the case of long dresses.
Fashion houses that have the haute couture stamp
Few fashion houses have the privilege of making clothing under this name, some of them being the following:
- Christian Dior
- Adeline Andrew
- Alexander Vauthier
- Alexis Mabille
- Frank Sorbier
- Giambattista Valli
- Jean Paul Gaultier
- Julien Fournie
- Maison Rabih Kayrouz
- Maurizio Galante
- Stephane Rolland
Currently, haute couture garments and collections are not for sale, as was originally the case. Still, they are to be exhibited as an advertising and marketing strategy. Either on the catwalk or in museums, just like works of art of the brand and fashion house.
Due to the high costs involved in creating an haute couture garment, this no longer represents the primary income of fashion houses. Since much more is at stake in making this type of piece than the profit, it would generate in the market. So, today, the term haute couture has a much broader meaning and is used to identify any garment fitted and made both in Paris and in other fashion capitals such as Milan, London, Tokyo, and New York. Therefore, by haute couture, we can understand that they are exclusive artisanal models and capable of imposing trends.