Twice a year, LUXE Models swoons as a select number of fashion houses set daring new trends at Haute Couture Fashion Week. What is haute couture and why is it such a big deal in fashion?
Haute couture is French. It means “high sewing,” “high dress making” or “high fashion.” It refers to the tradition of creating custom-made exclusive clothing.
Basically haute couture is the most exclusive fashion in the world. Couture pieces are sewn by hand by the most experienced sewers on the planet. Couture makers only use the finest (and often the most bizarre) fabrics in the world and are known for paying meticulous attention to every thread they stitch.
Couture, a history
The history of haute couture can be dated back to the 18th Century. Legend has it that haute couture was first introduced into French society by Rose Berlin, the designer of Marie Antoinette herself. The tradition spread through court and as goes Versailles, so goes the rest of France.
The dressmaking tradition grew in popularity throughout the first half of the 19th Century. Charles Frederick Worth, the man who is now considered the father of haute couture, established the first couture house in Paris in 1858. A number of houses followed in its wake.
However the term haute couture can’t be adopted by just any fashion house. Haute couture is the most exclusive label in fashion. It’s a protected term. This means that a fashion house can only earn the honour if it’s awarded to them by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris; the Paris Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber imposes strict guidelines to determine who has the right to enter the most exclusive club in fashion; the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Among other things the Chamber stipulates that the house has a Paris-based atelier (workshop) with a minimum of 20 employees.
“Statement of strength and technical ability.”
Current members of the Chamber Syndicale de la Haute Couture include Channel, Christian Dior, Givenchy and Jean Paul Gaultier. They display their creations twice a year at Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris. With a member-list like that, fashion houses around the world would kill to qualify for this most select of clubs.
Why? Haute couture is notoriously expensive to produce and is usually sold at a loss. Is membership of the most exclusive collective on the planet worth its exorbitant price tag? Yes, and a piece in the Guardian recently explained why. Guardian fashion blogger Hannah Marriot wrote that “fashion designers use couture as a statement of strength and technical ability.”
The ultimate showcase
That’s what haute couture really is in the modern world. The ultimate showcase. Designers use membership of this elitist club to prove that they’re the best of the best. This inspires them to create the most stunning fashion the world has ever seen.
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