Every good fashionista knows that the word “Couture” is not one to just be thrown around. The term, commonly confused with “Prét-a-porter”, actually comes from the French phrase “Haute-Couture” which translates to mean “high sewing” or “high dressmaking”.
In France, the term “Haute Couture” is protected by law and is defined by a government agency called the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris which is based in Paris, France. Their rules state that only “those companies mentioned on the list drawn up each year by a commission domiciled at the Ministry for Industry are entitled to avail themselves” of the label haute couture. The criteria for haute couture were established in 1945 and updated in 1992. To earn the right to call itself a couture house and to use the term haute couture in its advertising and any other way, members of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture must follow these rules:
1. Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
2. Have a workshop in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
3. Twice a year, present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.
As of Spring 2012 the official members include:
Anne Valérie Hash
Jean Paul Gaultier
Any high-end designer, or fashion house not on the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture list can not officially be considered “couture”. Instead such collection fall more appropriately into the “Prét-a-porter” category. “Prét-a-porter” is a French phrase which translates to mean “ready-to-wear”. Ready to wear clothing is produced as a more economical alternative to couture clothing.
Ready-to-wear pieces are created using standard patterns, factory equipment, and efficient construction techniques in order to help keep the costs of production down. Some fashion houses create ready-to-wear lines that are mass-produced and industrially manufactured, while others offer lines that are very exclusive and produced only in limited numbers for a limited time. Ready-to-wear collections are generally turned out twice a year (for Spring and Fall), are promoted on the runways in New York, Milan and Paris, and are often stocked in high-end department stores such as Saks, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Bloomingdales.