Haute couture (French) literally translates into dressmaking or high sewing. This is high-end fashion which is cost specific, occasion specific, custom fitted, bespoke and extremely high quality. Since the early, glorious years of fashion, haute couture clothing has been made by hand from start to finish and requires extreme skills to achieve. The fabric and detailing that goes into making a couture piece is expensive, rare and crafted by the most skilled minds and hands in the business.
As opposed to couture, high street fashion has its roots in the UK. High street fashion literally means the clothes that you could buy on your average UK high street. These include high street brands that mass produce clothes catering to a larger target audience, are affordable (larger price bracket) and aren’t very occasion specific. These clothes are ready-to-wear and keep changing season to season.
Clothing Type and Criteria
Haute couture brands widely consist of gowns, dresses, eveningwear. For a fashion house to call themselves one, they need to adhere to a specific set of terms and conditions given by the Parisian Chamber of Commerce.
They need to be:
1. Design made-to-order for clients with private fittings
2. Have a workshop(atelier) in Paris that employs at least 15 people full time
3. Present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.
Paris Couture Week is the best place to spot these fashion houses.
However, the term is also used to loosely describe all high fashion, custom-fitted clothing produced in fashion capitals around the world. Many fashion houses misuse the term by casually calling their pieces haute couture for them to sound high fashion.
High street brands, because they are mass produced, pay no credit to a specific designer. These brands have design teams that work together on their seasonal fashion or capsule collections. Everything from casual joggers, t-shirts, jackets, tops, dresses etc are produced by these brands.
Some of the official couture brands for the Spring 2017, that completely abide the law (are the members of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture) are Chanel, Givenchy, Dior etc. Some of the correspondent members are – Valentino, Elie Saab, Atelier Versace.
Now that you know the difference between haute couture and high street, let’s take a look at the Indian landscape.
Although none of the Indian brands are official members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, India Couture Week (FDCI’s flagship event) is a place where they can showcase their work.
While couture is still developing in India, high street fashion is easily accessible to Indians thanks to brands like Zara, H&M, Cover Story, Dorothy Perkins that have stores and online shops as well.
Image credits: insidechanel.com, fashionela.net, harpersbazaar.com, popsugar.com, fashionisers.com, vervemagazine.in