Fashion, Lifestyle

Defining High Fashion – Haute Couture

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Defining High Fashion – Haute Couture

What is high fashion and what’s so special about it? High fashion is eloquently known as haute couture. The term ‘couture’ describes the specific procedure of creating a garment by hand from start to finish using top quality, unusual fabric, and materials that are often expensive. It has nothing to do with style. The term is taken from the French word for ‘dressmaking’, and may be referred to in both sewing and fashion. 

True high fashion or ‘haute couture’ is never mass-produced. Each piece is designed and tailored specifically for one individual client who favors unique and exceptional works of art. Considering the amount of money and time, ideas and dedication required to complete an haute couture garment, no price can be put on the finished product — the cost is extravagant. Thus, the term haute couture is a protected name and cannot be used without permission being granted.

To use the term haute couture, fashion houses must adhere to a few rules. Those that qualify will be granted the label by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris or CCIP. The CCIP will determine which fashion houses are eligible for the title and are true haute couture houses. To qualify, fashion houses and designers need to maintain a Parisian atelier with a minimum of twenty employees and should construct no less than 50 collections of original designs in each fashion season, to be showcased during Fashion Week in four fashion capitals — Paris, Milan, New York and London.

A Little Bit Of High Fashion History

References to high fashion can be found as early as the 17th Century. As a matter of fact, Queen Marie Antoinette was the first client of haute couture when it was first introduced in France by a designer named Rose Bertin. Visitors to Paris brought back the garments, which then inspired local dressmakers. As transportation improved, making travel easier in Europe, it became common practice for the rich and famous to travel and shop in Paris for their wardrobes and accessories. French dressmakers and fitters were considered to be the most talented and artistic.

But the French didn’t contribute to haute couture by themselves. Charles Frederick Worth, who is recognized as the father of haute couture, established the first Couture House in Paris.

Members of High Fashion (Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture)

Chanel is a private French company run by Alain Wertheimer and Gerard Wertheimer, the grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer, the early business partner of the couturiere Coco Chanel. Chanel specializes in haute couture and ready-to-wear attire, luxury and fashion accessories.

Givenchy is a French luxury fashion and perfume house founded by designer Hubert de Givenchy in 1952.

Jean Paul Gautier is a French pret-a porter fashion designer who established his eponymous fashion brand in 1982. He was also appointed a creative director of womenswear at Hermes.

The Chambre syndicate often ‘invites’ potential fashion houses to become members during each season, but they cannot use the term ‘haute couture’ immediately. They are only allowed to use the term ‘couture’ and will become grands couturiers after a 2 year period. Zuhair Murad, Ralph and Russo, and Iris Van Herpen are amongst the invited guests of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.