Fashion’s brightest stars – from established names to newcomers – descended upon Paris for Haute Couture week from January 20-23, 2020. The looks and sets told elaborate and beautiful stories, each making history in their own right. Jean Paul Gaultier’s farewell to fashion shown a spotlight on one such account and inspired us to look into the narrative of haute couture through the years.
Haute Couture, synonymous with high-fashion, is the creation of exclusive custom fitted clothing that is constructed by hand from start to finish and made from high-quality, expensive, and often unusual fabric. The designs employ an elaborate attention to detail that can only be finished by the most capable and experienced sewers.
Father of haute, Englishman Charles Frederick Worth, established the first haute couture house in Paris in the year 1858. Although Worth was already a well-known dressmaker, his rise in the fashion industry can be attributed to the patronage of Empress Eugénia, wife of Emperor Napoleon III and known trendsetter at court. The House of Worth operated as a very successful fashion dynasty for almost a century, when his great-grandson retired from the family business in 1952.
There are strict requirements a designer must meet to earn the label of couture house and to be able to use the term haute couture.
-The designs must be made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings
-The designer must have a workshop in Paris that employs at least 15 full-time staff members
-They must also employ a minimum of 20 full-time technical workers
-And last, the designer is required to present a collection of no less than 50 original designs to the public each season, consisting of day and evening garments.
There are a few Haute Couture Houses established in the 19th century that are still in operation today!
Louis Vuitton (1854):
Louis Vuitton started in the design world as a trunk maker. 150 years later, the iconic brand is one of the worlds leading international fashion houses.
At 181 years, Hermès is the oldest fashion house that is still operating today, and very successfully! With humble beginnings as a saddlery company, the first Hermès bag came to be in 1922.
A dressmakers errand girl at the age of 13, Jeanne Lanvin opened her first millinery, hat shop, at the age of 18. By the time she turned 45, Jeanne had become one of the most commercially successful couturier in Paris. To add to her list of accomplishments, Jeanne also launched Arpège, one of the world’s most successful fragrances still to this day.