Haute Couture definition : according to Oxford dictionary Haute Couture is expensive, fashionable clothes produced by leading fashion houses; from French, literally “high dressmaking”.
Vulgarity of this definition is not just misleading, but also quiet dangerous, as any mediocre designer, who can sew long dress with couple of embroidered applications, can call it “Haute Couture” and offer it for high price to the market. How many designers today from US or Australia, or China calling their long dresses and their dressmaking “Haute Couture” – millions. But none of them are actually close even to be called “couture”.
Haute couture is not just “high dressmaking”, not even creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is high-end fashion that is constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high-quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable sewers—often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques, adorned by embroideries, and other artistic technics.
And not only that. The term Haute Couture is protected by law and is defined by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris. The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture is defined as “the regulating commission that determines which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses”. Their rules state that only “those companies mentioned on the list drawn up each year by a commission domiciled at the Ministry for Industry are entitled to avail themselves” of the label haute couture.
The Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne is an association of Parisian couturiers founded in 1868 as an outgrowth of medieval guilds that regulate its members in regard to counterfeiting of styles, dates of openings for collections, number of models presented, relations with press, questions of law and taxes, and promotional activities. Formation of the organization was brought about by Charles Frederick Worth.
Following a decision taken on January 23, 1945, the designation « Haute Couture » became a legally registered designation of origin, and can’t be used by other organizations or fashion houses / designers, who do not belong to Haute Couture Syndicate.
To earn the right to call itself a Couture House and to use the term Haute Couture in its advertising and any other way, designer or fashion house should apply for the membership to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, and must follow certain rules:
- Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings;
- Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least 15 staff members full-time;
- Have at least 20 full-time technical people;
- Present a collection of at least 15 original designs to the public every fashion season in Paris during Haute Couture fashion weeks in Paris in January and July.
Every year lists of members are modified. Lists of the Haute Couture designers can be found here.
So designer of long gowns or wedding dresses can obviously call his work “high fashion” or “couture” but never “Haute Couture”. In Italy, for example, high fashion designers / fashion houses who are creating unique garments, following tradition for excellence, called “Alta Moda”.