Couture vs Haute Couture?

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Haute Couture and Couture - Is there a difference?

Couture is the french word for “sewing” or “dressmaking” (ref), and haute (alternatively “haut”) is the french word for “high” (ref).   Couture is also used to describe the clothing and other articles produced by fashion designers.


2. fashion designers or couturiers collectively.
3. the clothes and related articles designed by such designers.

There are very specific rules and criteria for a label to be able to labelled as “Haute Couture”, and not all high-end fashion labels are Haute.   We will briefly cover a quick background to the origins of Haute Couture as well as the requirements that labels must meet to be able to be called “Haute Couture”.

A brief history on the origins of Haute Couture.

In the mid-19th century, Charles Frederick Worth established a fashion house in France utilizing methods and processes and overall contributing a large amount into changing the dressmaker into the artist of the fashion world – the fashion designer.   Charles Frederick Worth is considered by many to be the “father” of Haute Couture.

Later, the “Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture” was established, requiring fashion designers to comply to certain standards and rules to earn the right to label themselves.   These rules and specifications were clarified and outlined later in 1945.

Today, the term “Haute Couture” is protected under French law and fashion labels must meet the criteria in order to use the term. 

The requirements in order to be able to be labelled as “Haute Couture” are as follows:

  • Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings
  • Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen staff members full-time
  • Have at least twenty full-time technical people, in at least one workshop (atelier)
  • Present a collection of at least fifty original designs to the public every fashion season (twice, in January and July of each year), of both day and evening garments

One can only be labelled as Haute Couture after meeting these criteria and being approved by the regulatory body in France.

It may be of interest to some to note that there are no requirements for ethical or sustainable practices or procedures.

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