What is haute couture

Haute Couture - The high art of tailoring

von Rundschau, Ronja Ebeling,

Craft between art and fashion

The twice-yearly haute couture shows in Paris are the highlight of the fashion world. The couturiers of large fashion houses present their handcrafted, highly exclusive one-offs here. Here you can find out how haute couture came about, who the customers of this exquisite fashion are and what the criteria for high tailoring are.

What is haute couture?

Literally translated, Haute Couture means "upscale tailoring“. In contrast to prêt-à-porter, individual, hand-made creations in women's fashion in the top price segment are referred to as haute couture. The craft of haute couture is the supreme discipline of fashion. The termHaute couture is legally protected in France. The committee of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM) decides according to strictly defined criteria whether a fashion house can call itself a ‘Maison de Couture’ and use the term ‘Haute Couture’ for its creations. The designers and fashion houses have to apply anew every year. The requirements of the Paris Fashion Association are strict, but have been eased somewhat in recent years due to the declining numbers of couture ateliers.

In order to be accepted into the haute couture circle, the following criteria must be met:

  • It must be at least 35 tailor-made looks will be presented to the press during the Paris Haute Couture Week.
  • Every part has to be a tailor-made and handmade unique items be
  • Businesses need to have a studio at least 20 employees operate.
  • The atelier of the house has to be Location in Paris to have.


In the illustrated book HAUTE COUTURE You will find valuable inspiration for refined cutting lines, elegant silhouettes, extraordinary designs and handcrafted details that can only be seen in traditional couture ateliers and that present the entire spectrum of tailoring on over 500 model images from the Paris couture shows.


However, the Federation approved de la Haute Couture also exceptions. Fashion houses such as Versace, Valentino and Armani are also allowed as membre correspondant(foreign correspondence) take part in the haute couture shows. There are also seasonal guest members.

13 Grand Couturiers (Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Stephane Rolland, Alexis Mabille, Giambattista Valli, Schiaparelli, Franck Sorbier, Maison Margiela etc.), four correspondence members (Viktor & Rolf , Valentino, Elie Saab and Armani Privé) and 13 additional guest members (Iris van Herpen, Ralph & Russo, Guo Pei, Ronald van der Kemp, Xuan etc.). Other fashion houses with a long haute couture tradition include Yves Saint Laurent, Ungaro, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Lanvin.

History of Haute Couture

During prêt-à-porter fashion Haute Couture can look back on a relatively short history. The English fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth, who founded the first major fashion house in Paris in the mid-19th century, is considered to be the founder of high-quality tailoring. He had the expensive robes presented by mannequins for the first time. French couturiers such as Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior were major influencers of 20th century fashion. They made Paris the international fashion capital and center of luxury women's fashion.

  • In 1868 the association "Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Française“, Founded in Paris to represent the interests of the tailoring trade worldwide. It was later renamed the "Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode".
  • In 1927, the fashion association founded the exclusive fashion school École de la chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne (ECSCP) in Paris.

Twice a year, the international fashion world enjoys the imposing creations of Haute Couture Paris, which are presented during the most exclusive of all fashion weeks, the Haute Couture Show in Paris.

In addition to strengthening the brand image, haute couture clothes are now mainly shown for attention in the international media and to advertise higher-selling products such as cosmetics and accessories. In contrast to the past, the highly exclusive fashion with prices of up to one hundred thousand euros per dress is only bought by a very small group of wealthy customers and is usually viewed as an investment or a work of art. But even if the economic importance of haute couture is declining, it still has a great influence on international fashion design.

Who is buying haute couture today?

This article is an excerpt from the Ladies review 09.2019. The fashion pages of this issue are dedicated to Haute-Couture A / W 2019/20. Here we show the highlights of the Paris Fashion Week.

Around 1860 came Frederick Worth, the founder of haute couture, the idea of ​​sewing labels with his signature into his designs. After that, women of high class wanted to wear only fashion from well-known couturiers. But how many people today still appreciate the handcrafted unique pieces and are ready to pay the high price? Millions for fashion Several seamstresses are busy with the weeks of manual work that a tailor-made and made-to-order piece of art of haute couture requires.

Only a few fashion houses still offer this exclusive service that is complex in every respect. British designer Scott Henshall made a diamond dress for actress Samantha Mumba for the premiere of Spiderman II. The price: eight million euros. Most people don't have that much change and prefer to put their long-term savings in real estate. What is ultimately the more profitable investment? When the auction house "Sotheby’s" auctioned haute couture by various designers for the first time in 2015, the estimated value was far exceeded. A robe from the Balenciaga brand decorated with ostrich feathers brought in 56,250 euros. »Sotheby’s« had previously estimated the value of the dress at 6,000 to 8,000 euros.

However, there are fewer and fewer lovers of haute couture, who drive up prices on such auction days. However, that does not mean that purchasing power is lower. When Christian Dior redesigned the silhouette of women in 1947 with his aforementioned New Look, the number of haute couture customers worldwide was around 20,000. In the years that followed, Marella Agnelli and Grace Kelly delighted in their elaborately crafted creations, thus triggering the desire in many women to be able to wear the precious fashion as well. Today there are only around 4,000 haute couture buyers around the world, but their willingness to buy is much higher than it used to be. "Bain & Company" examined buying behavior in a study and surprisingly found that there used to be around five haute couture items for every customer, whereas today's buyers like to buy twenty at one time.

Haute couture - not available at the click of a mouse In the past, it was mainly older women who had access to luxurious fashion. These days the clientele is getting younger and haute couture is becoming even more visible on social media. In the first rows of the couture shows there are not only fashion experts, stars and regular customers, but also young influencers who diligently share every model presented with the large number of followers via live broadcast. In order to keep the future in their own hands, brands are learning the language of millennials without forgetting their mother tongue. With 18 million subscribers, for example, the Italian Chiara Ferragni is one of the most successful bloggers worldwide. For her wedding in 2018, her Dior chief designer Maria Grazia Chiuri personally made around three personalized wedding dresses. And even if the majority of the self-made millionaire's subscribers are not even of legal age, there is still a high level of interest in cooperation with luxury brands, since such campaigns address potential future customers.

Dior also gives an insight into the magical studio work with fascinating making-off videos on Instagram and makes the heart of a young fashion lover beat faster with every needle prick. With classical music and quick close-ups of the sewing work, the videos create a perfect staging that is modern but does justice to traditional craftsmanship. Chanel does it similarly, but uses stronger beats in some making-off videos. All in all, it has an attraction. In our fast-moving times, viewers of the videos are fascinated by the fact that they cannot simply order the model with a click of the mouse. It is a creation made of the finest material that couldn't be more intimate. The exquisite piece of clothing is custom-made by the designer and a team of couturiers and tailored to the customer's body. According to Bain & Company, 19 to 35 year olds make up around 45 percent of global sales of luxury goods. They are daughters, heiresses, wives and business women from Asia or Eastern Europe. So that they can identify with the first-class fashion on the catwalk and in the campaigns, the models are tailored to the customer. It is important that the entire shopping experience is perfectly tailored to the exclusive customers. Because you don't just pay for the garment itself, but for the entire “experience”.

Ornate applicationsand sequin embroidery, hand-rolled hems, swinging godets and nostalgic smocking - in our specialist bookATELIER - EXPERTISE FROM PRACTICE you will find many interesting instructions for the most diverse handicraft techniques for decorating haute couture dresses.