HAUTE HOUSE RULES
Haute Couture is quite a bit like fine champagne – it’s expensive and, to keep its name and distinction, must be produced in accordance with strict French guidelines. The word ‘couture’ is regularly attributed to things that aren’t couture at all so, to make things simple, haute couture is:
+ Produced by a member of The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Members must have a workshop in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time and present a collection of at least thirty-five exits to the press each season (Spring/Summer in January and Autumn/Winter in July) exhibiting both daytime and evening looks.
+ Handmade-to-order for a private client, involving one or more fittings.
According to some reports, the entire industry only services around 100 clients who spend anywhere from five to seven figures on any one garment which, considering the cost of producing a collection and show twice a year, may not financially warrant the effort. Though, as with most things in the fashion world, caché and good press opportunities are enough to keep practicality at bay. And, for those of us whose only experience with haute couture is in the two-dimensional pages of Vogue and the like, those highly intricate pieces make for some lovely photographs so let’s hope those ateliers keep humming along.
Next week, expect to see new haute couture offerings from:
Adeline André, Anne Valérie Hash, Atelier Gustavolins, Chanel, Christian Dior, Christophe Josse, Franck Sorbier, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Maurizio Galante, Stéphane Rolland, Giambattista Valli
Azzedine Alaïa, Elie Saab, Giorgio Armani, Martin Margiela, Valentino
Alexis Mabille, Alexandre Vauthier, Bouchra Jarrar, Iris Van Herpen, Fournié, Maison Rabih Kayrouz, Maxime Simoens
Illustration by Michelle Ricks, Runway images of Chanel Haute Couture A/W 2009 (imagine how many hours it took to hand-applique all of those pieces!) via Style.com