What is haute couture? A guide to fashion’s exclusive world

Giambattista Valli

Haute Couture (French for ‘high sewing’ or ‘high dressmaking’) refers to the creation of exclusive garments. It is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish.

Haute Couture has very specific rules for official qualification. In France, there is an association called Federation de la Haute couture et de la mode (The federation of Haute-couture and fashion). The federation sets the dates for Paris fashion week and it establishes industry standards on quality in France. The federation is comprised of three Chambre Syndicale, which selects who is or who is not an official Haute Couture house. To be considered as an official Haute Couture house you must follow these qualifications:

1 . The house must design two collections a year with a minimum of 35 designs for each collection including both day and evening looks. Currently, the Couture collections are presented twice a year, in January and in July.

2 . These designs must be produced on a made-to-order basis for private clients one at a time with more than one fitting. It usually takes about 100~400 hours to make one dress.

3 . The Haute Couture house must use an atelier workshop that employs at least 15 full-time staff. They must also have at least 20 full-time technical workers in one of their workshops.

The Federation also has a fashion school – Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la couture Parisienne, which is famous for teaching technical atelier skills and craftsmanship above all subjects in fashion. But you don’t have to study at that school to become a couturier.

Official Haute Couture members

  • Chanel
  • Maurizio Galante
  • Bouchra Jarrar
  • Alexis Mabille
  • Alexandre Vauthier
  • Frank Sorbier
  • Dior
  • Jean Paul Gaultier
  • Stéphane Rolland
  • Givenchy
  • Adeline André
  • Giambattista Valli
  • Julien Fornié
  • Maison Margiela
  • Maison Rabih Kayrouz
  • Schiaparelli

Correspondent members

  • Ateliers Versace  
  • Valentino  
  • Elie Saab 
  • Giambattista Valli
  • Fendi Coutoure
  • Giorgio Armani Privé
  • Iris Van Herpen
  • Miu Miu
  • Viktor & Rolf

Every season they invite some guests to show as well. Some of them are Walter Van Beirendock, Sean Suen, Comme des Garçons and more.

Charles Frederick Worth (October 13, 1826 – March 10, 1895) is considered to be a father of Haute Couture.

Giambattista Valli
Giambattista Valli


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