The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture was created in 1868 by Charles Frederick Worth as an association of French couture houses intending to try and stop their designs being copied. Its international renown has contributed to making Paris the fashion capital of the world.
A legally registered designation of ‘haute couture’ was established in 1945.
The organization has progressed and changed names many times. It now exists as one of several chambers of the Fédération Française De La Haute Couture et de la Mode. It regulates which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses. It is a body which promotes, educates, represents, defends and advises within the industry. It also deals with piracy of designs, foreign relations and timetabling the fashion collections. It runs a fashion school, established in 1930, to train hopeful designers.
To qualify as a couture house, designers must produce 50 new and original designs of day and evening wear for each collection, with 2 collections a year. They also must employ at least 20 people in an atelier, amongst other stipulations.
By the end of the 20th century, the number of houses declined. There are currently just 18 official members.
Couture houses charge an entrance fee to wholesalers and retailers to view the collections and buy the rights to create clothing inspired by the collections.
The future of couture is uncertain. Those who can afford it are a minority and those that choose to buy it are often an ageing clientele, with many younger socialites and celebrities preferring to wear an up and coming designer. It could be argued that its main value is now as a marketing tool while producing other product lines fit for the masses.