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Tue 22 Oct 2013 11:45 AM

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Why Dubai's fashion designers aren't haute couture

Paris' criteria has made it difficult for local talent to make the cut says Salma Awwad

Why Dubai's fashion designers aren't haute couture

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.

ABK 6 years ago

Great article!

Madison 6 years ago

Well, Its simple. Craft quality is key and atelier in Paris/France can ensure a proper audit of the quality of the final product. I have personally purchased many items from Ezra and several other designers in UAE, pretending to be Haute Couture. The final quality is way below French and Italian workshops. They have a lot to do before calling their final product Haute Couture. Building a master piece that last a day is not French Standards.

In addition to the above, i have noticed that many UAE designers replicate creative work done elsewhere.

Quality, Creativity and finally durability of the handmade garments have all to be considered.

I suggst Esra to invent his own Category of couture and compete in it.


Madison Jameson

susan gale 6 years ago

Paris seems to be operating a closed shop here. The regulations are very narrow, but when a foreign designer actually fulfils them, surely his or her work should be seen as haute couture! However a title means little in the global, ever-changing world of fashion. It is creativity that counts, together with the finest workmanship. Paris cannot lay claim to being the sole player in this respect.

Solo 6 years ago

The region is in dire need for an official body that not only promotes but reforms and regulates this multi-billion dollar industry. D3 is a start.

And like Ezra, there are many exceptionally 'Haute' designers that are truly worthy of such a privilege.