Haute Couture: By the Numbers

by Erin

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For fashionistas, there is no greater thrill than purchasing a piece of haute couture. You can’t buy these expensive clothes ‘off-the-rack’ – oh no – couture clients must have insider connections directly with the luxury ateliers. While money talks in most circumstances, it won’t get you far here – ateliers are particular about who they will take on as haute couture clients. Just because you HAVE six-figures to spend on an haute couture dress, doesn’t mean you’ll get one. You must be of a certain ‘sophistication’ to be invited into the couture club. For a woman, it’s the ultimate status symbol.

The PR of a couture atelier (who shall not be named!) recalled the story of a famous Chinese actress who asked to purchase a couture gown. The atelier kindly declined her money. Her “image” they say was “not right for us”. Ouch!

So how much does it cost and who actually gets to wear it? In honour of the coming shows (starting January 22), we’re answering all the haute couture questions you were too afraid to ask.

 ‘V’ is for Vauthier! Supermodel Lindsey Wixson in Alexandre Vauthier

‘V’ is for Vauthier! Supermodel Lindsey Wixson in Alexandre Vauthier

Liu Wen walks for Vauthier, Fall 2013

Liu Wen walks for Vauthier, Fall 2013

Haute couture can be beautiful...

Haute couture can be beautiful...

but also shows new techniques in construction (On Aura Tout Vu)

but also shows new techniques in construction (On Aura Tout Vu)

What is Haute Couture?
True ‘Haute Couture’ is strictly governed by France’s Chambre Syndicale. A designer may only call himself a ‘couturier’ when he has been invited to join the exclusive club. Once in, designers must follow the rules that include having a studio in Paris with a minimum of 20 skilled employees, and to show a collection each season of at least 50 looks.

Haute Couture is handsewn

Haute Couture is handsewn

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And requires up to 150 measurements and multiple client fittings

And requires up to 150 measurements and multiple client fittings

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Who Can Afford Couture?
It costs more to stage an Haute Couture show than the collection usually makes in profit. But with the rise of the super-rich (tuhao, we’re looking at you), there are at least some ladies who can afford to buy these six-figure frocks. So, what’s the point? It’s a way for brands to show off their crème de la crème design and savoir-faire.

Chinese couturiers like Laurence Xu show in Paris

Chinese couturiers like Laurence Xu show in Paris

Xu uses traditional techniques like Nanjing embroidery

Xu uses traditional techniques like Nanjing embroidery

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But they must be formally invited by the Chambre Syndicale to officially call their designs “Haute Couture”

But they must be formally invited by the Chambre Syndicale to officially call their designs “Haute Couture”

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Photos: Brandie Raasch, Writer: Erin Stranyak

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