Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bylaws of Haute Couture

photo by Patrick Demarchelier for Vanity Fair

My fellow D+R guest-blogger Greg Allen's puzzlement over the purpose of haute couture reminded me of an article I recently read in Vanity Fair. What I found most interesting, was learning that the use of the term "haute couture" is governed by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, in Paris (where else?):
According to the bylaws of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, a division of the French Ministry of Industry, an haute couturier is a designer who presides over the creation of hand-finished made-to-order clothing, in a “laboratory” that employs at least 20 workers in Paris. The haute couturier must present a minimum of 25 ensembles twice a year, in January and July, and construct a garment over the course of several fittings, directly on a client’s body or on a dress form replicating her physique....From a peak of 200 before World War II, only 11 authentic haute couturiers remain; additionally, there are four correspondent members. (Giorgio Armani joined as one in 2004.) Just two Americans have ever been classified as haute couturiers—Mainbocher (retired 1971) and Ralph Rucci, who was accepted as a guest member in 2002. (After five years and 10 collections, a guest may advance to full membership.) “If someone is simply a couturier,” explains a Parisian expert, “all that means is that you are sewing.” And, the Parisian adds, if a dressmaker uses the term “haute couturier” without the Chambre Syndicale’s sanction, “he can be arrested.”
(Bold is mine, because I didn't want you to miss that last part.)

Link to article
Link to photos from article