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Haute Couture vs. Ready-to-Wear

As you may have seen recently, we’ve been featured in a few newspapers and magazines and we are so pleased that people are interested in what we’re doing! However, there seems to be a little confusion over some of the technicalities and we thought this would be a great opportunity to correct a couple of misunderstandings where journalists haven’t quite got their research spot on, and also talk about the structure of the fashion industry as a whole and where we see ourselves fitting in.


So, we’ve made a quick comparison of the key differences between the two main tiers of the fashion industry below; haute couture, and prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear).



HAUTE COUTURE

When it comes to garment construction, design, and fabrication this is undoubtedly the absolute best of the best. Being a requirement that every piece is made to measure for each and every client, it’s not uncommon for clients to be brought to a Parisian atelier for multiple fittings to ensure the garment is tailored to the specific style and size of the client.


Ellie Saab Haute Couture

If the garment isn’t a one-off piece, it is designed to be worn by only a hand full of clients and if that’s not exclusive enough for you, there is a very strict set of conditions that must be met before a piece can even be considered haute couture. A key thing to note is that regardless of how exclusive or exquisitely made your garment is, it is not truly haute couture until it is appointed so by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture - and once a fashion house has their approval it is considered haute couture by French law.


Chanel Haute Couture

To name just a few conditions of haute couture, the fashion house must have an atelier with at least fifteen full-time staff members located in Paris, they must design and produce custom pieces for their clients with an absolute minimum of one fitting for every single piece, and they must present a collection of at least fifty original designs to the public every season (that’s twice a year!) of both daywear and evening wear.


So just to recap, as much as we would love to be, we certainly don’t consider ourselves haute couture.


READY-TO-WEAR

To be ultra-technical this is usually called ‘prêt-à-porter’ which is just a literal French translation (well, ready to wear is the English translation of the French!). Now, ready-to-wear is very high quality clothing that is made for customers in different sizes. While it is not necessarily mass produced, it is available to a wider variety of customers as the more efficient manufacturing process and generally more ‘wearable’ fabrics will significantly decrease the cost compared to haute couture garments.


House of Bluebell Ready-to-Wear

As with anything in life, ready-to-wear can range in price and quality, but the general idea is that garments should be made to standardized sizes and while they are not meant to fit every person absolutely perfectly they should fit the majority of people fairly well, and shouldn’t require a tailor to make them wearable (although of course it’s not unheard of to have ready-to-wear garments altered to get a truer fit).


So, a quick recap (don’t worry, there’s no quiz):


Haute couture is only made in Paris by a select number of qualifying fashion houses. It is made using techniques which require a lot of skill and work from the house’s team and can easily cost upwards of tens of thousands of pounds.


Ready-to-wear can be made by any fashion house world wide and can be of varying quality and price. Higher end ready-to-wear companies (like us!) may chose to include traditional techniques and even couture techniques but make garments to standardized sizes that should ‘fit most’ rather than to specific client sizes.


As one final note, we should point out that we do also make one-off custom pieces for specific clients (which fortunately come nowhere near to the price of haute couture pieces!) We like to consider these as custom pieces. Some people like to call them couture but, while this is very flattering, it is not technically correct for the reasons above.

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