1 The phrase “Haute Couture” is the French translation of “high sewing”. The term is protected by French law and was used for the first time in 1908.
2 The story began with English designer, Charles Frederick Worth, who established the first Haute Couture house at 7 rue de la Paix, Paris, back in 1858.
3 The phrase Haute Couture is used about a garment that has been made by hand from beginning to end, created by 2,200 of the most experienced seamstresses. They are known as ‘Le petite mains’ (small hands).
4 Haute Couture is an exclusive club, and like the best clubs the rules are very strict. Collections have to be shown in January and July and there must be 36 separate original designs of evening and day wear. Ateliers must employ a minimum 0f 20 full-time staff and designs must be made-to-order. It’s no mean feat to be allowed to call yourself a “Couture House”: you need to belong to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris. There are currently around 18 members .
5 A garment takes from 100 to 700 hours to make. There can be no compromise when it comes to the quality of the materials used. Absolutely no expense is spared.
6 Karl Lagerfeld continues to set the bar extraordinarily high with his stunning shows. In 2014 he exceeded all expectations by turning the Grand Palais into a shimmering
7 Chanel’s SS2015 Couture bridal collection typifies the extravagance of Haute Couture: 100 seamstresses spent 22,000 hours in just three months creating 73 looks. A staggering 97,000 sequins were used, plus 3,000 flowers.
8 The prices are astounding. A made-to-measure ball gown could easily cost the same as a luxury car. Increasingly, customers are coming from China, Middle Eastern countries and Russia.
9 The number of Couture houses in France has fallen substantially over the years. There are now only 10 left, while back in 1946 there were 106.
10 The biannual shows are like theatre performances, with a story, a stage (the runway), actors (models), costumes and of course an audience. Clothes are incredibly sumptuous and studded with pearls, Swarovski crystals and many other rare beautiful and expensive jewels.