What Defines “Haute Couture?”

The birth of the profession is attributed to Charles Worth, who opened the first true Parisian couture house on Rue de la Paix in 1858, offering bespoke, handmade garments to the most fashionable members of society. In 1945 the term Haute Couture became a legally registered designation of origin – similar to Champagne or Gorgonzola – meaning haute couture clothing can only be produced in Paris. Over the years the number of couture houses have waxed and waned but it has always been a very exclusive club.

In modern times, who is and isn’t allowed to designate their collections as haute couture is decided by the Chambre Syndicale’s board of directors. This board is presided over by Ralph Toledano (president of the FHCM) alongside members Pietro Beccari (Christian Dior), Delphine Bellini (Schiaparelli), Riccardo Bellini (Maison Margiela), Philippe Fortunato (Givenchy), Bruno Pavlovsky (Chanel) and Sophie Waintraub (Jean-Paul Gaultier).

However, in recognition that extraordinary design talent does not hail from Paris alone, the Chambre Syndicale also grants ‘Correspondent’ membership to houses based outside the city. There are currently seven Correspondent members: Azzedine Alaia, Elie Saab, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Versace and Viktor & Rolf. In addition to this, the Chambre Syndicale invites a number of ‘guest members’ to show during Haute Couture week in Paris each season. These members, which currently include Ralph & Russo, Guo Pei and Iris Van Herpen among others, may only use the term ‘couture’ to describe their collections but can graduate to full haute couture status after two years (four consecutive seasons).

So what does a design house need to do to qualify for haute couture recognition? Most importantly, it must create made-to-measure clothing for private clients and include personal fittings as part of the production process. It must also have a workshop in Paris (if not a Correspondent or guest member) employing at least 15 full-time staff and 20 full-time technical workers and present two collections per year (in January and July) comprising both formal and daywear looks.


Members of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture at the end of 2023:

Adeline André
Alexandre Vauthier
Alexis Mabille
Bouchra Jarrar
Christian Dior
Franck Sorbier
Giambattista Valli
Jean-Paul Gaultier
Julien Fournié
Maison Margiela
Maison Rabih Kayrouz
Maurizio Galante
Stéphane Rolland


Atelier Versace
Elie Saab
Giorgio Armani Privé
Iris Van Herpen
Ulyana Sergeenko
Viktor & Rolf
Guest members
Ashi studio
Charles de Vilmorin
Christophe Josse
Gaurv Gupta
Georges Hobeika
Imane Ayissi
Juana Martín
Julie de Libran
Maison Sara Chraibi
Rahul Mishra
Robert Wun
Ronald van der Kemp
Thom Browne
Yuima Nakazato
Zuhair Murad