Couture Versus Ready-to-wear
Ready-to-wear or Prêt-à-Porter is basically shows that you see on the runway where the fashions may not always seem as wearable as most of the clothing you may see in a mall however most of this type of fashion is designed by a designer, crafted by a team of tailors and seamstresses, and produced all over the world from Asia to Italy.
When most people see couture they are confused as to where a person could wear such incredible fashions. They are often an exact interpretation of what the designer is inspired by and therefore, at times, more exaggerated forms of fashion. A Versace Ready-to-wear dress may have metallic gold leather inserts whereas the couture line will have mirrored gold metal inserts. The materials used in couture are always more opulent and extraordinary such as gems, pearls, gold fibers, and the most luxurious wools and silks. 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.
Another element of couture fashion is the political element. There is a governing body that controls who is accredited to be an official couturier and who is invited to be a couturier for the season or year. The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture determines who is an official member, a correspondent member (designer from outside France), and Guest Members. But before the governing body decides who they select to be an official couture house, the brands must first abide by the rules:
- Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
- Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
- Must have 20 full-time technical people in at least one atelier or workshop.
- Each season (i.e., twice a year), present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.
There are hundreds of lines that call themselves Haute Couture, but in order to properly label a line “couture” or “haute couture” they must be accredited by The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Also it is common knowledge that couture houses see a higher return on their investment with their Ready-to-wear lines and at times they see a loss but Couture collections get exposure across the world and are an excellent way of exposing a particular designer to the fashion market. If someone loves a couture dress but can’t afford the extravagant price tag, they can step into the Ready-to-wear version of the brand and buy a piece of the artistic vision for a fraction of the price. And if you still can’t afford it, then by the fragrance!
Alternatively a shopper can buy a piece of a brands diffusion line which is a more casual and less expensive brand created by the the designer of the house. For example has a couture line, the Armani Collezioni collection which is a RTW line, and he also creates the AX (Armani Exchange) line which would be considered his diffusion label. Karl Lagerfeld designs for Chanel Haute Couture, Chanel (Ready-to-Wear), and his own Karl line which could be a diffusion brand that represents his artistic vision but is not connected with the Chanel house.
Still confused? Come fashion week Jan 21-24 2013 the Spring haute couture shows will be in full force and I will be at the shows presenting you with details and reviews from the shows. Stay tuned!