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The fashion term haute couture,

whose literal translation from French is

haute = high

couture = sewing

applies to clothing –

designed and crafted to bespoke specifications.

Couture fashion houses

belong to the Chambre Syndicale de Haute Couture, Paris

which is regulated by the French Department of Industry.

Founded in the 19th century by renown couturier,

Charles Frederic Worth – the father of modern haute couture,

today the Chambre  Syndicale de Haute Couture

 numbers around 16 member design houses.

Included,  in this rarified list are:

Christian Dior,  Jean-Paul Gaultier, Viktor & Rolf,

Chanel and Maison Martin Margiela and others.

There are strict specifications for members to adhere such as:

– having a workshop in Pairs

– employing at least 15 full -time individuals

in addition to upwards of 20 technical/specialist staff

– present two annual collections

– design bespoke clothing, to include at least one client fitting.

Given that it is entirely crafted by hand,

an haute couture piece is painstakingly labour intensive.

Created from expensive, lush fabrics –

the high cost of construction is reflected in the high price of the garment.

Yet the creative rationale of haute couture is

that is serves as a a platform for fashion innovation based

on the tradition of exceptional workmanship.

A possible added financial rationale?

Haute couture fashion helps to power

marketing of a label’s more affordable

ready-to-wear lines, accessories and beauty products.

This week the couture houses presented their Autumn 2014 collections.

A few that caught my attention:

(images from style.com):

Fall 2014 Couture

Viktor & Rolf

by Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren

couture viktor rolf_KIM0039.450x675

couture viktor rolf_KIM0063.450x675

a wearing of the ‘red carpet’

Maison Martin Margiela

coutureMMM_0486.450x675 coutureMMM_0397.450x675 couture MMM_0447.450x675

lux mats:  silks, furs, jewels

and a hint of drama:  ornate ‘face-cover wear’

by Ulyana Sergeenko

couture sulyana sergeenkoULY_1716.450x675 couture ulyana sergeenkoULY_1619.450x675 couture ulyana sergeenkoULY_1812.450x675

old-style Hollywood glam with modern accents

by Giambattista Valli

couture giambattista valliVAL_0943.450x675 couture giambattista valli 14VAL_1038.450x675 couture giambattista valliVAL_1004.450x675

informal meets formal cotillion:

head wraps, simple shirts

wide skirts of ruffles, lace and feathers

Schiaparelli

 by Marco Zanini

hats by Stephen Jones

couture schiaparelliSCH_0346.450x675 couture schiaparelliSCH_0226.450x675 couture collection f2014 schiaparelliSCH_0193.450x675

extravaganza!