Haute couture is the epitome of prestigious fashion design. Having this label bestowed upon you, however, is a complicated matter, and means some of the best designers are being unfairly left out.
In France, the term haute couture is protected by law and is defined by the chambre syndicale de la haute couture. It has put forth four defined rules that regulate "which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses":
1. A design is custom made for a specific client with one or more fittings taking place.
2. The designer has to have a design house (atelier) with at least 20 full-time technical people employed.
3. The designer has to have another atelier in Paris that employs at least 15 full-time people.
4. Twice a year and in each season, the designer must present at least 35 looks, of both day and evening wear, on a runway.
“I don’t know why it is so difficult for us designers in the UAE to infiltrate Paris Fashion Week because of these rules that they have,” said Ezra Santos, one of the most talented and sought after couture designers in the UAE. “Paris has made a rule of what couture is, and I think it is wrong to put a rule.”
Ezra, who has run his own atelier on Al Wasel road since 2004, currently runs a million dollar business and has 65 employees working full-time. The intricate handwork and detailing on a single dress takes a team of 30 people to complete in 15 days, amidst a minimum of four fitting sessions and one-on-one meetings with his clients. His creations can’t be considered as anything but true couture.
So, why does he not get the title from Paris? His fashion house meets all but one of the above rules, which is to have a workshop in Paris.
These rules are designed to protect Paris’ status as the home of high-end fashion. They created this coveted title and they intend on keeping it. But it’s not a fair assessment and true gauge of a designer’s talent.