Couture Correction

I read a great piece in The Daily Telegraph on Sunday, June 7, 2009 that I really wanted to share here. But as I am discovering, not only is Internet service here woefully behind, so is Web design. I’ve never encountered so many slow sites, horribly arranged sites, sites with text too small (and not scalable), and sites riddled with so many technical issues they are impossible to use (more about that later).

The article I wanted to share (which cannot be found in the online archive for the paper just one day later, hence my little rant above), was about the local propensity for referring to any designer duds as “couture,” or “haute couture.” The author of the article proceeded to explain why it is incorrect to call just any high-end designer frock a “couture” piece.

You can read the full definition and history of haute couture on your own, but no matter the price tag, this is why 99% of designer clothing cannot even qualify as couture:

In France, the term haute couture is protected by law and is defined by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris based in Paris, France. Their rules state that only “those companies mentioned on the list drawn up each year by a commission domiciled at the Ministry for Industry are entitled to avail themselves” of the label haute couture. The criteria for haute couture were established in 1945 and updated in 1992.

To earn the right to call itself a couture house and to use the term haute couture in its advertising and any other way, members of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture must follow these rules:

  • Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
  • Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
  • Each season (i.e., twice a year), present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.

However, the term haute couture may have been misused by ready-to-wear brands since the late 1980s, so that its true meaning may have become blurred with that of prêt-à-porter (the French term for ready-to-wear fashion) in the public perception. Every haute couture house also markets prêt-à-porter collections, which typically deliver a higher return on investment than their custom clothing…much of the haute couture displayed at fashion shows today is rarely sold; it is created to enhance the prestige of the house.


Oh yeah, and a separate rant dedicated exclusively to Internet irritation coming soon.

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