It’s Couture Fashion Week in Paris – woohoo, clothes we will never be rich enough to touch let alone wear! We’re sure you’ve been swooning over the magnificent creations being sent down the various designers’ runways this week but what exactly IS Couture? What makes a dress Haute Couture, how much does a piece cost and why do designers still even show these designs during Paris Couture week?

Here’s your handy guide:

It’s Tres, Tres French

In order to be considered Haute Couture the clothes a designer sends down the catwalk must have been made in Paris in an atelier with at least 20 full-time members of staff.

Ulyana Serjeenko Paris Couture

Ulyana Serjeenko Haute Couture AW14. Source: STYLE.COM

Haute Couture Has its Very Own Governing Body

Entry to the Paris Couture schedule is strictly policed by the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris – in order to become a couture designer, fashion houses must meet stringent guidelines…


– Pieces must be made for private clients and made to measure with at least 2 fittings.
– Couturiers must present a collection of at least 50 original designs…
– …Twice a Year
– To be an official member of the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie your head designer must be French. Otherwise you are just a ‘correspondent member’. Sorry Donatella!

In France, the term ‘Haute Couture’ is Protected by Law

They really take this stuff seriously don’t they!?

Christian Dior Couture

Christian Dior Haute Couture AW14. Source: STYLE.COM

It’s an Exclusive Club

There are estimated to be only about 4000 couture customers in the whole of the world. Twenty years ago this number was less than 100 but economy growth in Russia and Asia has increased the number of people in a position to buy these wonderful creations.

It’s a Dying Art…

But it’s having a resurgence and 10 years ago Chanel bought 6 of the most revered couture ateliers including Lesage (master embroiders), Lemarie (specialist in feathers), Massaro (shoe makers), Goossens (goldsmiths), Desrues (costume jewellers), Maison Michel (milliners), and Guillet (creator of fabric flowers), to ensure that the craft of haute couture could continue in the modern era.

Chanel Couture Fashion Week 2014

Chanel Haute Couture AW14. Source: STYLE.COM


Daywear can range from a paltry £10,000 to upwards of £50,000 for a gown. There have been designs encrusted with diamonds that have cost millions though, so the sky is the limit with Haute Couture!

Considering dresses can be crafted with real gold thread and embellished with crystal, gems and even diamonds and they can take over 800 to make… the astronomical prices kind of make sense!

It’s All About the Brand Baby!

Designers can actually lose money on selling couture dresses. They might sell one for £50,000 but if it costs £30,000 to make, 10 ateliers and hundreds of man hours it’s not financially profitable but the prestige and press coverage makes it worthwhile!

Giambattista Valli Couture

Giambattista Valli Haute Couture AW14. Source: STYLE.COM

So, there you have it, there’s your guide to Haute Couture, so you can follow the spectacle this week safe in the knowledge you have the inside scoop.