For the first time ever, Haute Couture Fashion Week (6 to 8 July) will be held online for the AW20 season to meet social-distancing rules and travel restrictions. The oldest and most revered fashion week, known for its escapism and grandeur, couture shows have transported audiences to the moon (see Chanel AW17, which transformed the Grand Palais into a space station) and 3,500 years back in time (look no further than John Galliano’s SS04 collection inspired by ancient Egypt).What is haute couture?
Originating in late 19th-century Paris, haute couture—which, translated into English, means ‘high dressmaking’—is fashion at its most refined. “Haute couture is a spearhead in terms of creation—a fantastic laboratory of both craftsmanship and design innovation,” Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, told Vogue last year. “[It] is a land of free expression for designers, as well as an image builder for brands.”
Ahead of Haute Couture Fashion Week, we break down the numbers behind the elaborate craft of couture.1858
A Vogue illustration of a model wearing a brown and black floral patterned gown with a cross back by Charles Frederick Worth, 1939.
© Photography Carl Oscar August Erickson / Condé Nast Archive via Getty Images
The year British designer Charles Frederick Worth—regarded by many fashion historians as ‘the father of haute couture’ and ‘the first couturier’—established the first Couture House at number 7, rue de la Paix in Paris.1868
The year the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM) was founded. The FHCM promotes French fashion culture by presiding over Paris women’s and men’s Fashion Weeks. It also endorses designers who exhibit a quality of craftsmanship that meets the level required to show on the official Haute Couture Fashion Week schedule.150
The average number of hours required to create a simple couture dress or suit from start to finish.1,000
Inside the Chanel Atelier, July 2018.
© Photography Luc Braquet
The average number of hours required to create a piece involving fine embroidery and other embellishments. Look 39 in Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel AW18 haute couture collection took almost this amount of time to complete.1,600
The number of hours it took to complete Chiara Ferragni’s Dior haute couture wedding dress designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri.6,000+
The number of hours required to create the most elaborately embroidered and embellished couture gowns.4
Chanel Couture AW18.
© Photography Go Runway
The size of the team dedicated to creating a single couture garment at Chanel; consisting of one première (head seamstress) and three seamstresses.10
The number of fittings it can take for a heavily embroidered, one-of-a-kind gown to be customised to its client. Simpler garments adopted from runway models require fewer fittings—often only two—and take six to eight weeks to deliver. Some couture clients have a mannequin made to their measurements so that they don’t have to travel to Paris for repeated fittings.70
Valentino Couture SS20.
© Photography Go Runway
The number of seamstresses employed in Valentino’s Rome atelier; this expands to 80 during the collection period.2,200
The number of seamstresses who are qualified to work on couture worldwide. The collective is called les petite mains, which literally translates to ‘small hands’.2
The number of times fashion houses present their haute couture collections each year. Spring/summer collections are shown in January, while autumn/winter collections are shown in July.16
Jean Paul Gaultier Couture SS03.
© Photography Shutterstock
The number of houses legally entitled to use the name ‘haute couture’. To be eligible, each member must do at least one fitting, present 50 looks a year and hire a staff in an atelier in Paris. The official haute couture members are: Adeline André, Alexandre Vauthier, Alexis Mabille, Bouchra Jarrar, Chanel, Christian Dior, Franck Sorbier, Giambattista Valli, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Julien Fournié, Maison Margiela, Maison Rabih Kayrouz, Maurizio Galante, Schiaparelli and Stéphane Rolland.7
The number of ‘correspondent members’ or foreign members whose ateliers are not based in Paris. These include: Azzedine Alaïa, Elie Saab, Fendi Couture, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Versace and Viktor & Rolf.4,000
The estimated number of haute couture clients around the world, which includes Queen Rania of Jordan as well as Debra L Lee, former CEO of Black Entertainment Television and now a non-executive director on the Burberry board.9,000 to 1m
Givenchy Couture SS20.
© Photography Getty Images
In euros, the cost of a simple haute couture dress to a more elaborate gown. Unlike ready-to-wear, haute couture garments don’t come with a set price tag—rather, the final bill tallies the cost of each material and the number of labour hours involved.Also read:
Maria Grazia Chiuri on the female surrealist artists that inspired Dior’s AW20 haute couture collection
Rahul Mishra will return to the official couture week calendar in a new format
Hermès's Bali Barret talks to Vogue about the “impossible” double-sided scarf that was over ten years in making