Haute Couture vs. Luxury: What Sets Them Apart


What is Haute Couture?

When dis­cussing Haute Cou­ture, many peo­ple con­fuse it with terms like “high fash­ion” or “lux­u­ry fash­ion.” How­ev­er, the real­i­ty is quite dif­fer­ent. Haute Cou­ture rep­re­sents a lev­el of crafts­man­ship, cre­ativ­i­ty, and exclu­siv­i­ty that is dis­tinct from oth­er types of fash­ion.

As we dis­cussed in our pre­vi­ous arti­cle on the evo­lu­tion of fash­ion, Haute Cou­ture gar­ments are made by hand and by mea­sure to fit an exact clien­t’s mea­sure­ments, while lux­u­ry ready-to-wear col­lec­tions are pro­duced in mass with a stan­dard siz­ing and avail­able eas­i­ly in stores or online. But the require­ments for being in the Haute Cou­ture club go even fur­ther, as they are defined by French law.

High standards

To be offi­cial­ly called “Haute Cou­ture,” a brand must meet strict cri­te­ria, includ­ing:

  • cre­at­ing orig­i­nal designs that are made entire­ly by hand in a Parisian ate­lier employ­ing at least 20 arti­sans.
  • pre­sent­ing two col­lec­tions per year in Paris with at least 25 dif­fer­ent pieces, and
  • being spon­sored by an exist­ing Haute Cou­ture brand to enter the cir­cle.

After ful­fill­ing all of these cri­te­ria, a brand can enter direct­ly into Haute Cou­ture or be con­sid­ered a “mem­bre cor­re­spon­dant” if their ate­liers are locat­ed in anoth­er coun­try. Some brands are also con­sid­ered “invit­ed mem­bers” if they don’t meet all of the require­ments yet, but are on the right track to do so. These invit­ed mem­bers can present their col­lec­tions on the same Haute Cou­ture Fash­ion Week as full mem­bers, which pro­vides a sig­nif­i­cant boost in vis­i­bil­i­ty.

Cur­rent­ly, there are only 16 brands that meet the high stan­dards required for Haute Cou­ture. These mem­bers include Ade­line André, Alexan­dre Vau­thi­er, Alex­is Mabille, Bouchra Jar­rar, Chanel, Chris­t­ian Dior, Franck Sor­bier, Giambat­tista Val­li, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaulti­er, Julien Fournié, Mai­son Margiela, Masion Rabih Kay­rouz, Mau­r­izio Galante, Schi­a­par­el­li, and Stéphane Rol­land.

The “mem­bres cor­re­spon­dants” are Alaïa, Ate­lier Ver­sace, Elie Saab, Fen­di, Gior­gio Armani Privé, Iris Van Her­pen, Ulyana Sergeenko, Valenti­no, and Victor&Rolf.

Haute Couture today

Although Haute Cou­ture is a declin­ing art form from an eco­nom­ic stand­point, it still rep­re­sents the high­est stan­dard of cre­ativ­i­ty and crafts­man­ship in the world of fash­ion. While each piece can cost hun­dreds of thou­sands of euros, Haute Cou­ture shows cre­ate an icon­ic imagery around the brand, which inspires thou­sands of ready-to-wear pieces and gen­er­ates mas­sive prof­its with acces­sories and cos­met­ics.

Haute Cou­ture is an amaz­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion of beau­ty and com­plex­i­ty in fash­ion, inspir­ing gen­er­a­tions of design­ers and fash­ion lovers. Despite esti­mates sug­gest­ing that only 200 cus­tomers world­wide can afford to buy its final prod­ucts, Haute Cou­ture con­tin­ues to thrive due to its exclu­siv­i­ty, pres­tige, and cre­ativ­i­ty.

In recent years, Haute Cou­ture has also tak­en steps to become more sus­tain­able, reduc­ing waste by reselling left­over fab­ric and allow­ing oth­er brands to use it for their pieces. In addi­tion, most Haute Cou­ture brands have elim­i­nat­ed the use of fur, show­ing a com­mit­ment to eth­i­cal and envi­ron­men­tal­ly con­scious fash­ion.

Using less ani­mal parts, reduc­ing its waste and pro­duc­ing by demand only, Haute Cou­ture remains an essen­tial part of the fash­ion indus­try, rep­re­sent­ing the high­est stan­dards of cre­ativ­i­ty, crafts­man­ship, and exclu­siv­i­ty, cre­at­ing art that inspires the entire world.

In-Depth Resources

Written by David Ferrero
March 1, 2023

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