Haute couture (French translation means "high dressmaking") refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted fashions. The term haute couture is a protected name by law that can be used only by firms that meet certain well-defined standards. However, the term is also used loosely to describe all high-fashion custom-fitted clothing, whether it is produced in Paris or in other fashion capitals such as Milan, London, Rome, New York and Tokyo.
The Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de states 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:
~Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
~Have a workshop in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
~Each season (i.e., twice a year), present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.
The term haute couture has been misused by successive ready-to-wear brands and high street labels since the late 1980s so that its true meaning has become blurred with that of ready-to-wear fashion in the public perception. Every haute couture house also markets ready-to-wear collections, which typically deliver a higher return on investment than their custom clothing. In fact, much of the haute couture displayed at fashion shows today is rarely sold; it is created to enhance the prestige of the house. Falling revenues have forced a few couture houses to abandon their less profitable couture division and concentrate solely on the less prestigious ready-to-wear.
In the 1960s a group of young designers who had trained under men like Dior and Balenciaga left these established couture houses and opened their own establishments. One of the most successful of these young designers was Yves Saint Laurent.
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