The fashion world is filled with terminology that can be confusing, but perhaps the biggest question most ask themselves when it comes to the industry is: What is the Difference Between Haute Couture and Ready to Wear? Today we’re diving into what separates the two and sharing the facts with you.
What is the Difference Between Haute Couture and Ready to Wear?
We’ll start by sharing how the term Haute Couture originally came to be. Haute Couture translates to “high sewing” and relates to the extreme attention to detail sewn within a garment and reserved only for truly one-of-a-kind pieces. The name originated from Fédération Française de la Couture, which is the governing body for the French fashion industry, and started as the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 1868 by Charles Frederick Worth.
As for Ready to Wear, or what the French call prêt-à-porter, these are pieces of high-end garments that are available to purchase at store front boutiques, high-end department stores and online boutiques. However, it’s important to remember that many of the big name designers such as Dior or Vera Wang who are known for their couture pieces also offer ready to wear collections.
Now what is the process that designers have to experience before they can officially produce a couture collection? Well, it starts with having to receive official permission from the Syndical Chamber for Haute Couture, which is based in Paris. According to this agreement, designers have to show their collections twice a year and have no less than 35 pieces in each collection, to make the couture collection more unique and offer the most to consumers.
Can’t afford Haute Couture? That’s ok, only 2000 people worldwide annually purchase Haute Couture (not just “borrow” it for the red carpet). However, lucky for everyone else, Haute Couture actually inspires ready to wear collections. In fact, they both influence the mass production level of the fashion industry. This occurs because the industry knows that customers want the couture look, but at more accessible and affordable price point. Good thing too, because the average time spent on a couture dress is around 300 hours and costs upwards of $90,000 where as a ready to wear is between 50 and 100 hours and significantly less expensive.
There is one last term that has found itself in between Haute Couture and ready to wear: a brand’s “diffusion line“. A brand’s diffusion line allows shoppers to buy a more casual and less expensive brand piece created by the designer of the house. For example, the Armani Collezioni collection which is a ready to wear line, is the sister (and more expensive brand) of the AX aka Armani Exchange line which would be considered his diffusion label. Karl Lagerfeld designs for Chanel Haute Couture, Chanel ready to wear as we’ll as his own Karl line which can be considered a diffusion brand that represents his artistic vision and design aesthetic, but is not directly associated with the Chanel house.
Another way Haute Couture and ready to wear differ is the way in which they are presented on the runways.
As mentioned before, Haute Couture fashion houses are committed to present their collections twice a year of at least 35 pieces, including both day and evening wear. These two collections are presented every six months at half a year in advance. With elaborate and expensive sets and invite-only guest lists, these Haute Couture fashion runway shows are just as exclusive as the collections themselves.
When it comes to ready to wear fashion shows, these shows are only presented once a year and a year in advance. For example, the Winter 2017 collection was presented in Winter of 2016. Ready to wear shows are also elaborate and very artistic, however the exclusive guest list is a little more broad with room for celebrities, press and fashion bloggers. This is because the designers of these collections want to reach the masses as their ready to wear lines are more suitable for the majority of the population.
Vogue’s top 10 ready to wear collections for 2017:
1. Hood By Air 2. Rodarte 3. Simone Rocha 4. Marques ‘ Almeid 5. Gucci
6. Loewe 7. Balenziaga 8. Céline 9. Valentino 10. Louis Vuitton
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