We’ve all heard the term “haute couture” here and there, but what exactly does it mean? Haute couture is French for “high” or “elegant sewing” and refers to the creation of one of a kind, custom made clothing produced by hand using high-quality fabrics with an incredible amount of attention to detail. Haute couture clothes are usually conceptual and experimental in nature as this is where the designer has the opportunity to let their creativity run wild, pushing boundaries and taking risks. Those of you diehards fashion lovers may know that twice a year, the couture shows take place in Paris where specific design houses show their magnificent haute couture pieces. At the couture shows is where we see the best of the best. These haute couture clothes may appear impractical and often leave the viewer wondering who would wear it let alone afford it, but they represent the whimsical and fantasy side of fashion. This is where the real “art” of clothes comes out into play.
In order for a design house to be deemed haute couture, it must belong to the Syndical Chamber for Haute Couture in Paris which is regulated by the French Department of Industry. There are strict rules that must be followed such as having a workshop, or atelier, in Paris that employs at least fifteen people, design made-to-order clothing for private clients, and present the collections twice a year; once for fall and once for spring.
Haute couture clothing is incredible in every sense of the word, but who wears these masterpieces? As previously mentioned, these are custom made pieces for private clients. The couture garment is made specifically for the client’s measurements and body shape. The garment(s) are carefully constructed by hand, enduring painstaking methods of cutting and fitting to the client’s body to achieve a perfect fit for the client. The intense manual labor needed to create a couture garment can take anywhere from 100-150 hours for a suit, while it can take about 1000 hours for an intricately embellished evening dress.
With such demanding methods of creation, large amounts of time to create, and use of extremely high-quality fabrics, we can only imagine the hefty price tag that accompanies one of these special creations. A couture suit can start at $16,000 while an evening dress can start at $60,000! Currently, only about 2,000 women in the world purchase couture clothes, but the small market does not mean these extravagant pieces go to waste. Designers frequently loan their couture garments to celebrities or public figures for publicity. This in turn helps out the company in the sales of their other products such as their ready-to-wear lines, perfume, and cosmetics.
Jean Paul Gaultier