Misconceptions of Haute Couture

If you're fashion savvy, then you know when a brand mislabels themselves as "Haute Couture." It's unfortunate, but true; many individuals don't understand it and have a misconception about it. Many people think it simply means something that is hand-made. By these standards, someone knitting a scarf should be considered haute couture since it's "hand-made."

So, let's start with the basics: what is haute couture?

In French, haute couture means "high fashion." By definition, it is “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.” 

France takes fashion seriously and has actually created laws for fashion ateliers to follow in order to be considered haute couture. Below is a short list consisting of some of those laws created by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.

  • 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.
  • Must have 20, full-time technical people in at least one atelier.
  • Every season, present a collection of at least 50 original designs to the public, both day and evening garments, in January and July of each year.

Now, think of all those designers labeling themselves as haute couture. Are their designs really sewn with time-consuming methods, spending 100-700 hours on one dress alone? Are their fabrics costing them $150 per yard or more? If not, then it's easy to say they are not haute couture. It's not easy to be an atelier that offers this level of craftsmanship, especially if your customers aren't ready to pay thousands of dollars for your exquisite designs. Some of these designs can run anywhere from $10,000 and upward of $100,000.

I firmly believe you must grow with your clients, and in due time once you've gained recognition and a great reputation, you can start pushing out those types of designs. Until then, labeling yourself as an haute couture designer when you're not is unprofessional and poorly educates the public. So, next time you see another brand that labels themselves as such, ask yourself, "are they really 'haute couture?'" 

To read more, below is another great article:


Picture Credit: Jean Paul Gaultier Atelier

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