Some might consider Haute Couture as fashion craze or a relict of old times, but for me it is all about cherishing craftsmanship as every item is made-to-measure by hand, resulting in pieces of clothing that are unique and close to perfect.
Although based on the idea of the Englishmen Charles Frederick Worth who founded his fashion house in 1857/58 in Paris, Haute Couture is a very French thing. The term literally translates as 'high sewing' and refers thus to the art of dressmaking. Already in 1868 the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Française was founded in order to protect the craftsmanship. To fulfill the criteria, these days a designer must create made-to-measure clothing for private clients and offer personal fittings. They must also have a full-time workshop in Paris that employs no fewer than twenty staff members and present two collections a year comprising both daytime and formal evening wear.
Each season the fashion houses need to apply again as a full member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to introduce the term 'haute couture' for their own creations and carry the name Maison de Couture and Grand Couturier.
Besides the full members, there are also invited guest designer who present their shows or corresponding members whose atelier can be located outside Paris.
pictures by Dior (1,3,5,6), Chanel (2,4)
In recent years the amount of Haute Couture houses has decreased immensely due to the high costs and a shrinking clientele. While after the end of World War II over 100 fashion houses were full members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, in the early 1990s there were just about 20 houses left. On the other hand, for example the Italian based designer duo Dolce & Gabbana introduced in 2012 an Alta Moda line, which is the Italian correspondent to Haute Couture, to be able to offer unique pieces to a special clientele.