Why You Won’t See One-of-a-Kind Haute Couture during NYC’s Fashion Week

Ralph Rucci 2012 Couture

One may see an haute couture gown during such fashion bonazas as the recent Golden Globes or the coming Academy Awards, yet it is a rare few designers who construct actual couture gowns. Many dresses at these celebrity events may be gorgeously crafted with luxurious fabrics, yet they do not qualify to the rigid standards of haute couture. In the spirit of NYC’s Fashion Week anticipation, we at Lives of Style want our readers to be well informed about what they will see on the runway and what to call it.

Audiences during NYC’s Fashion Week will see ready-to-wear designs which typically will be modified for the mass market. Even the beautiful gowns cascading down the runway are placed within the pret-a-porter category. There is a real reason why few designers are in the couturier game – the detailed regulations.

When looking up the definition for haute couture, from the French meaning high sewing, one will find a variety. There are specific criteria which qualify true haute couture items. First, a designer must be a member of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture (Trade Association of High Fashion), and follow it’s precise rules of providing hand sewn, custom-made dresses; employ at least fifteen persons within an atelier in Paris; and produce a seasonal show to the Parisian press with a minimum of thirty-five runs for evening and daytime attire. Strict regulations around having design businesses in Paris creates a challenge for American designers to fulfill on the rules mandated by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris (Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris). This is a large reason why many American designs cannot qualify as couture gowns even if the methods of production are similar, besides the cost of creating couture gowns.

Haute couture fashions are also divided into specific membership categories: official, foreign, guest, jewelry, and accessories. The only American designers who have been official haute couturiers are Ralph Rucci and Mainbocher. Patrick Kelly came close when he became the first person of color to have membership into the Fédération française de la couture, du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode (Federation of Fashion and of Ready-to-Wear of Couturiers and Fashion Designers) – this is the governing group over all of the French fashion industry.

Now that we have that cleared up, we should not have any confusion about the fashion seen in a little over a week!

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