Believe it or not, Haute Couture is actually a legally protected term.
Brands are determined by a body the headquarters of the Fédération Française de la Couture, founded in 1868, located on the rue Faubourg St.-Honoré, Paris and just across the street from the building that used to house the couture workrooms and salons of Christian Lacroix. The Federation numbers some one hundred members, amongst whom feature the most emblematic brands on the global stage. It comprises three Chambres Syndicales or central bodies (Haute Couture, Couturiers’ and Fashion Designers’ Ready-to-Wear, Men’s Fashion). The term Haute Couture was founded in 1945.
Haute Couture brands are only produced in Paris by a select handful of designers, (Adeline André, Alexandre Vauthier, Alexis Mabille, Chanel, Christian Dior, Franck Sorbier, Giambattista Valli, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Julien Fournié, Maison Margiela, Schiaparelli, Stéphane Rolland and Yiqing Yin) and presented twice a year, in January and July (although The Chambre syndicale also recognises foreign grands couturiers who do not show in Paris, referring to them as “membres correspondants” (brands such as; Armani Prive, Atelier Versace, Elie Saab, Valentino, Viktor & Rolf), as well as guest members; Aouadi, Dice Kayek, Georges Hobeika, Guo Pei, Ilja, Ralph & Russo, Ulyana Sergeenko, Zuhair Murad, and J. Mendel).
Haute Couture pieces are constructed almost entirely by hand, and prices regularly range in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single piece. Whether it be a gown or a T-shirt (as recent inclusion of street-brand Vetements was arguably a surprise). Clearly couture is not only about beautiful exquisite gowns, “Couture supposes a high level of creativity and a high level of ‘savoir faire’ delivered in the atelier. And also the absolute level of individualisation” says Pascal Morand, Executive President. This is why Vetements made the mark.
Some argue that Haute Couture will no longer serve its purpose, as it is only reserved for the ‘lucky 100’. As well as this, these collections do not generate revenue, in fact they are usually working at a loss. Therefore it would be more fitting to deem Haute Couture as art pieces. Even though Haute Couture will take on shifts with technology one day, we all need to do our part to value and educate the next generation about the craftsmanship that goes into each and every design, before these amazing time-taking crafts get completely forgotten.
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Image: Chanel SS17 Haute Couture show