Reading through the Brisbane Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival’s (MBFF) newsletter this week, I came across this article on the ‘death’ of Haute Couture.
The article highlights the incredibly strict rules prescribed to delineate couture collections and dictate which designers can officially call themselves Haute Couturiers.
We all know the high profile Haute Couture shows by houses like Chanel, Dior and Givenchy; but what you may not realise is that the term ‘Haute Couture’ is actually protected by French law and there’s an entire organisation assigned to maintain the traditions of the elite fashion club, the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Paris.
The Chambre legally defines the term ‘Haute Couture’ and its rules dictate 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’.
In order to qualify to become an Haute Couture house, designers need to meet these criteria:
• Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
• Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
• Present a collection to the Paris press every season, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.
The MBFF article argues that, “with fewer designers presenting collections, and world economies suffering, how can an industry that is built on excess and luxury, survive?”
I think the rules are going to have to be modified slightly eventually, but it’s also important to keep the traditions of Haute Couture intact – and it’s refreshing to know we have the Chambre to ensure Haute Couture remains the ‘high-priestess’ of fashion. The rules have only been modified once in the history of the Chambre, in 1992.