Haute couture, a French term for “high sewing" or "high dressmaking”, refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted fashions. In modern France, haute couture is a "protected name" that can be used only by firms that meet certain well-defined standards. However, the term is also used loosely to describe all high-fashion custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is made to order for a specific customer, and it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques.

The term can refer to:

The fashion houses or fashion designers that create exclusive and often trend-setting fashions

The fashion pieces created

Fashion week

A fashion week is a fashion industry event, lasting approximately one week, that allows fashion designers or "houses" to display their latest collections. Runway shows are typically the highlight of fashion week. The most prominent fashion weeks are held in the different fashion capitals.In the early and mid 2000s, fashion weeks sprang up around the globe to draw attention to designers elsewhere.

In the major fashion capitals, fashion weeks are semiannual events. "Fall" fashion weeks, showcasing designers' fall collections, are held January through March, and "spring" fashion weeks, showcasing spring collections, are held September through November. Fashion weeks must be held several months in advance of the season to allow the press and buyers a chance to preview fashion designs for the following season. This is also to allow time for retailers to arrange to purchase or incorporate the designers into their retail marketing.

Media event

Fashion weeks are attended by buyers for major stores, the media, celebrities, and members of the entertainment industry. In years past, fashion weeks were predominantly for "the trade only"; however, today they are entertainment and media events. They may incorporate live musicians, celebrity guests, lavish galas and charity events, and a few allow the public to purchase special passes to see the runway shows or attend expositions which display handbags, jewellery, shoes, hats and cosmetics. Many important fashion design schools participate in the shows, as well.

Ready-to-wear fashion

This is the fashion design term for clothing marketed in a finished condition, in standard clothing sizes (in casual usage, “off the rack” or "off-the-peg"). Some fashion houses or fashion designers create ready-to-wear lines that are mass-produced and industrially manufactured, while others offer lines that are very exclusive and produced only in limited numbers and only for a limited time. Whatever the quantity produced, these lines are never one of a kind.

The antithesis of ready-to-wear is different depending on whether it concerns women's or men's fashion. In women's fashion, high-end clothing made partly incorporating features requested by the client and to her exacting measurements is called haute couture.In men’s wear, it is usually called Bespoke.

Fashion houses that produce a women's haute couture also produce a ready-to-wear line, which returns a greater profit due to the higher volume turnover of garments and greater availability of the clothing. Relative to couture, ready-to-wear clothing is often more practical and informal, though this may not always be the case. The construction of ready-to-wear clothing is also held to a different standard than that of haute couture due to its industrial nature. High-end ready-to-wear lines are sometimes based upon a famous gown or pattern that is then duplicated to raise the designer's visibility level.

Fashion shows

Ready-to-wear collections are usually presented by fashionable couture houses each season during a period known as Fashion Week.This takes place on a city-wide basis and occurs twice per year. Collections for autumn/winter are shown early in the year, usually around February, and spring/summer collections are shown around September. Ready-to-wear fashion weeks occur separately and earlier than those of haute couture.

These famed fashion weeks being held in many major cities, are both highly-anticipated and well-publicised. Many couture houses also present menswear at fashion shows, but the more high-end exclusive men's ready-to-wear makers largely eschew this practice and instead concentrate on use intricate handwork and ultrafine fabrics along with their exclusivity to promote themselves. The end result is a ready-to-wear suit that costs as much or more than many independent tailors charge for a full bespoke suit.

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