In France, the term haute couture is regulated by law, and a fashion house must follow a very specific set of rules in order to qualify for the criteria that grants them couture house status. While the term haute couture may get thrown around all too much today, the official haute couture designers continue to produce the highest quality and most exclusive pieces seen by the fashion world each year.
First established by Gabrielle Chanel, Chanel is a French couture house that has revolutionized the fashion industry on more than one occasion. Chanel has branched out over the years, but their couture collections are still an integral part of the brand, and are one of the most highly anticipated couture collections each year. Unlike what many other couture designers are experiencing, Chanel’s couture collections have seen a significant rise in sales, and this is largely due to the fact that the average age of a couture customer has fallen, with younger generations now wanting to acquire their very own one-of-a-kind piece.
Kenzo Takada launched his couture house in Paris in 1970, and was part of a new generation of designers who wanted to push the boundaries when it came to couture’s traditional conventions, not liking the strict rules that seemed to be so set in stone. Kenzo did exactly this, shaking up the rules of couture with his colorful and exotic prints, and the way in which he mixed unique elements of his Japanese heritage with the Parisian elegance that haute couture is known for helped him to quickly gain a strong loyal following and a sturdy reputation.
British designer Vivienne Westwood has had a huge influence over the fashion industry with both her haute couture as well as her ready-to-wear. The designer’s trademark eccentricity results in collections that are fun and quirky, and the fact that she now considers herself to be an eco-pioneer in the fashion industry, and is never shy with her political viewpoints, has only earned her even more respect from critics.
Christian Dior founded his couture house in 1946, and showed his debut couture collection in 1947. The house was over-run with orders from world famous stars, and even members of royalty, cementing his reputation as one of the best couturiers in the world. In 1949, Dior was the first couturier to license his name to a range of luxury accessories, quickly spreading his brand all over the world. While the French Chamber of Couture disapproved of this move, it was not long before the profitable practice of licensing was adopted by most of the other couture houses.
Haute couture is an important tradition in the fashion industry, and while couture may not be the main revenue stream for the majority of designers, it is still a way for them to showcase their most spectacular ideas, with couture pieces trickling down the fashion chain and influencing the very same clothes that you are likely to purchase in the next couple of seasons.