The oldest and most revered fashion week, known for its escapism and grandeur, catwalk shows have even transported audiences 3,500 years back in time (see John Galliano’s spring/summer 2004 collection for Christian Dior, inspired by ancient Egypt). Vogue breaks down the facts and figures behind the elaborate craft
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, tells Vogue. “[It] is a land of free expression for designers, as well as an image builder for brands.”
Ahead of Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week spring/summer 2024, we break down the numbers behind the elaborate craft of couture.
A Vogue illustration of a model wearing a brown and black floral patterned gown with a cross back by Charles Frederick Worth, 1939. Photo: 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.
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.
The average number of hours required to create a simple couture dress or suit from start to finish.
Inside the Chanel atelier. Photo: Luc Braquet
The average number of hours required to create a piece involving fine embroidery and other embellishments.
The number of hours it took to complete Chiara Ferragni’s Dior haute couture wedding dress designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri.
The number of hours required to create the most elaborately embroidered and embellished couture gowns.
The size of the team dedicated to creating a single couture garment at Chanel; consisting of one première (head seamstress) and three seamstresses.
The number of fittings it can take for a heavily embroidered, one-of-a-kind gown to be customised for a 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.
The number of seamstresses employed in Valentino’s Rome atelier; this expands to 80 during the collection period.
Photo: Acielle StyleDuMonde
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”.
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.
Christian Dior haute couture AW23. Photo: Acielle StyleDuMonde
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.
9,000 to 1 million
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.
Schiaparelli haute couture AW23. Photo: Acielle StyleDuMonde
Originally published on vogue.co.uk