Haute Couture, the revered and famed term, is not just another section of the humongous Fashion World. The term establishes the brand identity and not anyone can pick it up. To be considered in the haute couture there are certain prerequisites and specifications, following which the brand becomes a part of a prestigious clan that not everyone can achieve.
In the Fashion Industry, not every unique handmade design and apparel is an Haute Couture. Couture refers to any garment or fashion apparel that is handmade and unique. The difference is Haute Couture refers to custom-fitted unique and exclusive designs hand designed and stitched at an Atelier. That’s another French word. Well, An Atelier means an art or a design studio that is used by an artist or designer. But not any atelier designs can be referred to as Haute Couture.
The How of Haute Couture?
To be considered Haute Couture house, brands must own an atelier in Paris with at least 15 full-time employees and present at least 35 looks in a fashion show, twice a year. Each year the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture draws up a list of official couture houses that meet those specifications. This list can and does change; Givenchy notably dropped off of the list of haute couture in Spring 2013. No brand, no matter their prestige, can circumvent the guidelines first put in place back in 1945.
What makes Haute Couture so coveted and special?
Fashion is for everyone, who wants to enjoy it. So, why keep them for the few? Haute Couture is not any fashion. It is for the select few who honour the prestigious title and responsibility that comes with it. At no point does a machine touch a piece of cloth. It is all hand illustrated, hand stitched and solely handmade. Each fashion apparel is custom designed to accentuate and compliment the guise custom-fitted for their exclusive clientele.
Parisian Law & Haute Couture
Though things have been mechanized in the fashion industry, the exclusive game of Haute Couture stays virtuously played only by hand. Haute couture houses host ateliers which are divided as need be. In each atelier (Design studio), petit mains work on garments supervised by a premiere. It is typically the premiere that heads up fittings, as houses must provide client fittings, as per Parisian law. For some brands, like Dior, three fittings are a must per garment.
The Biggest Haute Couture house
The famous international brand of Chanel is known to be the biggest Haute Couture house. Now you know why Chanel Haute Couture shows are the longest, it’s because of the sheer number of hands at work in the ateliers.
Each look at Chanel Haute Couture house is typically made by one petits mains, so the number of looks in a show are a fairly accurate gauge of an atelier’s size. Dior only had two ateliers, Chanel reportedly has four, which include two tailoring ateliers and two for soft fabrics. Collections, like Spring 2015 for example, were reportedly worked on by 100 seamstresses.
Haute Couture Fashion shows
Alright! We don’t get to wear the exclusive designs and have it custom-fitted. But, can we look at the designs? The Haute Couture fashion show that happens bi-annually and yes. You are welcome to watch it. Remotely! Only the exclusive clientele gets an invite to these shows to watch the exclusive Haute Couture designs walk the ramp on the best of the models in the Fashion Industry. While press routinely attend the couture shows, one of the biggest audiences are the private clients who are present on their behalf. Marjorie Harvey, wife of Steve Harvey, is a couture regular as Daphne Guinness, Lynn Wyatt and author Danielle Steel.
Who wears the Haute Couture?
If Atelier Versace kicks off the Couture Week in Paris with their 2022 runway, unlike typical fashion weeks, the exclusive Haute Couture pieces will not be draped on a mannequin in a store for purchase. Instead, they will start to appear on clients with the most sway after 3 months or so.
Haute Couture editorials
There is always a constant battle between the creative arts of the business and the financial aspects of the business. The struggle in Haute Couture is problematic as each garment is handmade, which involves hours and days and sometimes months of work, and is one of a kind, unique and exclusive. In years past, to circumvent the struggle a bit, magazine editors would rush backstage to request looks directly after the show to be shot in editorials at night. The gowns would be brought back to the ateliers in the morning to be viewed by clients, which became a tradition over the years in the land of love, Paris.
The world of real glitz and glamour with ethereal Haute Couture, so far away and out of reach and fairly unaffordable for most of us. But if there is any solace to all of the stresses and uncertainty that the pandemic world is generously presenting, we have to believe that it is beauty. And what does Haute Couture offer if not a sense of escapism, entertainment, fantasy, and absolute beauty? Check out what Dior, Chanel, and more are sending down the runway in Paris for Spring 2022.