Only Chanel for Lunch

Quick Overview of the Intricate World of Haute Couture

Haute couture is the established name for elegant dressmaking, excellent artistry of fashionable garments. An haute couture garment is made specifically for the wearer’s measurements and body stance, fitted to perfection for that specific client. As you can imagine, it comes with a high price tag. In order to understand the intricate mechanisms of haute couture world, you need to understand its unique standard and requirements.

Haute couture is a fashion qualifier only certain fashion houses are allowed by law to use. If they meet the tight criteria, they become members of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne. They must present twice a year in Paris a collection of a minimum of 50 haute couture pieces made exclusively in their ateliers.

Coco Chanel

Haute Couture Fashion Icon Coco Chanel

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Haute Couture – a form of art killed by the mass production

Haute couture is no longer the main source of income for any of these fashion houses. The creation and display of their custom clothing bears more of a brand function. The business investment with real return on investment and direct impact on bottom line comes from their ready-to-wear and the luxury fashion lines. The increased internalization of the fashion scene, along with the revolt against the established fashion standards made mass production the most viable income generator for the fashion houses. As a result, prêt-à-porter become the new business standard in the fashion industry.

Fashion is divided into 5 price markets: Designer, Bridge, Better, Moderate and Budget. Budget/Moderate clothing which ranges from $1-$150 per item is what 98% of all people buy. Better consists of clothing from $150-$300 per item…while Bridge are considered secondary lines produced by designer labels to make more money by having a wider range of customers buying their merchandise. Bridge would be from $300-$800 per item. The designer market consists of high fashion/Haute Couture clothing worn by a small percentage and go from $800 – thousands per item

A few more affluent people are happy with buying design clothes from exclusive lines made in very limited editions, yet, for the members of the haute couture club, if a movie star wore it, it’s done! None of them would wear a dress that was advertised in any shape or form outside the events dedicated exclusively to the club members.

Ava Smith & Karen Elson by Craig McDean for Vogue Italia September 2013 Haute Couture Supplement

Ava Smith & Karen Elson by Craig McDean for Vogue Italia September 2013 Haute Couture Supplement


No such thing as American Haute Couture

Haute couture, as the name suggests, has its origins in France. Wealthy women used to either travel themselves to Paris or at least place orders to Parisian established dress makers. You can find only two American names in the 150 years old history of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne. According to FashionModren, the last American haute couture designer was Ralph Rucci in 2009. Besides the immense workload and limitless talent they need to display, the most important reason for the American designers to shy away from haute couture might be the fact that most often the payoff is not worth it. Ready-to-wear seems to be a more lucrative market for the money-driven American fashion houses.

Lady Gaga Haute Couture Chanel

Lady Gaga wearing Chanel Haute Couture (left) & the corresponding sketch by Karl Lagerfeld (right)


Haute Couture – a form of wearable art

Haute Couture is a rare form of fashion, where clothes and garments are entirely made by hand. Haute couture requires talented designers to use unique techniques often times kept secret. An haute couture atelier preserves and owes a piece of history. Each garment requires hundreds or thousands of hours of hard labor to become a perfect match for an affluent client. There are no two identical paintings the same way as there are no two similar haute couture dresses.

The Classic Dior Haute Couture for Marion Cotillard

The Classic Dior Haute Couture for Marion Cotillard, 1948

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Art is oftentimes preserved in places open to public, where you can visit and admire for a few hours then turn back to your daily routine. But many collections are private, put together with passion and a lot of money by people for which art is a way of living. Many of the “new money” clients of the haute couture club might still wear jeans and sweaters now and then. But for most of the “old money” very rich, extremely discreet members of the club, haute couture is a way of living. They have specific clothes and garments for particular events and moments of the day. Excluding any alternative, these exquisitely fashionable people have only Chanel for lunch…


Emanuela Neculai is a fashionista with European background, currently living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA. As a teenager Emanuela has been influenced by the Eastern European culture and fashion trends. The European elegant style has left a strong mark on her taste and preferences. Follow Emanuela on Google+

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