Growing up in the 80’s, hand-made clothing were seen to be of inferior quality. Ready-made clothes directly purchased from clothing stores were preferred. In most neighbourhoods, clothes made by the local tailor or seamstress were reserved for the underprivileged members of society. Infact, tailoring or dressmaking as a trade or occupation was often despised. Fast forward to today, these hand-made and fitted clothes by the local tailor, seamstress or designer are now coveted and highly priced!

Haute couture clothing is marked by superior craftsmanship and is usually made by hand with a team of specialised artisans for the client. They represent the best quality fashion money can buy.

If you are a Fashionista, you are very familiar with the term and designs. For the rest of you, haute couture are the kind of clothing that make it to the Red Carpet Events world wide such as Award Ceremonies for Actors, Singers and Designers. They are characterised with Glitz and Glamour mostly worn by the Rich and Famous! For the “Ordinary” people, they may spend their hard earned cash on these designs only when marking milestones in their lives.

Modernized haute couture are not made for sell, they are meant to showcase designer skills and creativity. They are constructed to enhance brand image and visibility as opposed to making money from its trade.

According to Vogue Magazine, Paris’s Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM) has widespread influence in the fashion industry and it governs the art of couture. Their events are tightly controlled and attended by invitations only. Inorder to be eligible for haute couture status, designer members must create made-to-order garments in a studio of at least 15 full time staff, as well as 20 full time technical workers in one of their studios.

Collections must be presented with a minimum of 50 original designs, including day and evening looks. The designs are presented to the public in January and July. The wears are created for private clients, with each piece requiring more than one fitting. Guest members are invited each season. This is a very elaborate and complex undertaking.

As Dr. Valerie Steele puts it, France has long been the fashion capital of the western world. At the center of this dominance lies the beauty, detail, and innovation of haute couture. Despite the competition from all over the world, many experts believe that Paris remains the most glamorous and competitive fashion capital. Many of the world’s most talented ready-to-wear designers also choose to show their collections in Paris. Research shows that one of the key indicators of fashion city success is the presence of excellent fashion schools and Paris is not lacking in this.

To showcase the haute couture designs, “Fashion Weeks” have become popular. These are fashion industry events held for a week where fashion houses, designers, or brands display their latest collections in runway shows to buyers and the media. These events influence trends for the current and upcoming seasons. The most prominent of these events are held in fashion capitals around the world including New York, London, Milan, and Paris. These cities receive majority of the public media coverage.

In Kenya, we have the Nairobi Fashion Week. It is a creative idea targeted to be a meeting place for the nation and Africa’s most creative talent. It is an event created to showcase East Africa’s designers, stylists, producers, commentators, sponsors and everyone in between to a global audience.

Haute Couture is a misused phrase that actually has very specific rules for qualification. It is a French phrase meaning “high dressmaking”. These are garments created as one-off pieces for a specific client. The practice originated in the 19th Century with Charles Fredrick Worth.