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haute coutureSharond Xplores… Haute Couture

Every one was excited about Meg going to New York’s fashion week. As a seamstress who has made designer quality clothes, I quickly learned that most people do not understand the difference between designer and Haute Couture.

Literally translated, the French phrase haute couture means “sewing at a high level,” but a better translation might be the finest high-fashion sewing. Although the haute couture designs shown on runways in Paris, Rome, London and New York are too expensive for most people, their influence on styles, colors and accessories echoes throughout the women’s clothing world wide. For us home sewers, haute couture design have a special relevance. Custom-sewn for a select group of women who can afford them, couture garments are simply the most beautifully made in the world, and thankfully many of the techniques used in couture workrooms can be duplicated at home.

Haute couture refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing, made to order for a specific customer, and it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques. Couture is a common abbreviation of Haute Couture, which refers to the same thing in spirit.

Originating in mid-19th-century, couture referred to Englishman Charles Frederick Worth’s work, produced in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century. In modern France, haute couture is a “protected name” that can be used only by firms that meet certain well-defined standards. However, the term is also used loosely to describe all high-fashion custom-fitted clothing, whether it is produced in Paris or in other fashion capitals such as Milan, London, Rome, New York and Tokyo.

 The term couture can refer to:

  • the fashion houses or fashion designers that create exclusive and often trend-setting fashions
  • the fashions created

Today, even through there are excellent couturiers in all countries, the center of haute couture still remains in Paris, where there is an enormous support structure of skilled needle workers and workshops specializing in hand embroidery, beading, feather work, braiding, fabric flowers and custom made accessories. In France, the term haute couture is strictly controlled by Chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne (Parisian High Fashion Syndicate), the governing body of the French fashion houses.  The use of this term is reserved exclusively for the group’s members, who meet the strict qualifying rules.

According to Chambre Syndicale De La Couture rules, to classify as a couture house a couturier must produce 50 new and original designs of day and evening wear for each collection. They must show 2 collections a year. They must employ a minimum of at least twenty full-time technical people in at least one atelier or workshop.

Because of the strict regulations by the Chambre only a few design houses can use the exclusive Haute Couture label. The current numbers of couture classification houses are entitled to free advertising on state run French television.

Private buyers form only a fraction of the sales of a couture house. Manufacturers attend collections to buy models, toile patterns or to seek inspiration. Bi-annually in January and July buyers and world press flock to Paris for the spring/summer and fall/winter Haute Couture and Ready To Wear/Prêt-à-Porter collections. The Fédération Française oversees the smooth running of organizing the buyers and press with the Chambre Syndicale. 

Members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture

The fashion houses listed on the definitive schedule for Haute-Couture Fall/Winter 2009/2010 are:

Official members

Adeline André
Anne Valérie Hash
Christian Dior
Christian Lacroix
Dominique Sirop
Franck Sorbier
Jean Paul Gaultier
Maurizio Galante
Stéphane Rolland
John Hogstad Lund

Correspondent members (foreign)

Elie Saab
Giorgio Armani
Maison Martin Margiela

Guest members

Adam Jones
Alexandre Matthieu
Alexis Mabille
Atelier Gustavo Lins
Cathy Pill
Christophe Josse
Felipe Oliveira Baptista
Jean-Paul Knott
Josep Font
Pierre Garroudi
Maison Rabih Kayrouz
Marc Le Bihan
Richard René
Udo Edling
Ruhul Rony


Loulou De La Falaise
Maison Michel
On Aura Tout Vu

And in future article I will explain the detail that goes into an haute couture garment, how ready to wear borrows ideas and how to check the quality of a used couture garment before purchasing.

Are you ladies excited to read about haute couture?



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