The actual term ‘haute couture’ is protected by law and according to the Syndical Chamber for Haute Couture, “only those companies mentioned on the list drawn up each year by a commission domiciled at the Ministry for Industry are entitled to avail themselves thereof”.
The criteria to which a fashion house must adhere in order to be categorised haute couture were laid down in 1945 and updated in 1992.
These rules are simple, to be designated as haute couture a company must have an atelier (workshop) in Paris that caters to private clients, a minimum of fifteen people must be employed at the workshops and they must present to the press in Paris each season (spring/summer and autumn/winter) a collection of at least thirty-five runs consisting of models for daytime wear and evening wear.
The cost for many companies to meet these requirements has become prohibitive in recent years – hence there was a period in the eighties when fashion houses used the term ‘Haute Couture’ without meaning it.
As of 2010 members of the Syndicate Chamber of Parisian Couture are as follows:
Haute couture clothing typically requires three fittings. It usually takes from 100 to 400 hours to make one dress, costing from £12,000 to over £60,000.
Today only 2,000 women in the world buy couture clothes. Only 200 are regular customers. Often, designers will loan clothes to movie stars or other public figures for publicity.