I always heard people say, “This collection is from Fashion House Louis Vuitton” or “Versace Fashion House produces the best work each fashion week” and I thought what? What is a fashion house? Why are we calling it that? You hear this term thrown around a lot in the high end fashion industry, and if you are as confused as I was, then you’ve come to the right place. As you enter into the world of finer things, there is a lot of terminology, etiquette, and poise you must acquire to fully understand and appreciate the fine art aspect of design. Also referred to as ‘Fashion Haus” or “Maison Couture”, it’s important to understand what a fashion house is and how it applies to the apparel industry (1).
Is it a giant house that everyone lives in? Well, not exactly… But it does house many famous designers under one brand. A fashion house is the umbrella or parent company that hires the best fashion designers in the industry to produce a variety of top of the line seasonal outfits. Usually they produce both ready-to-wear lines as well as couture, which is a custom piece by the fashion house for a client request. Typically, the fashion house has an infamous symbol or logo and their namesake alone tends to carry the most premium garments. However, fashion houses can also accumulate other brands targeted at different regions and customer bases in the market.
Where Do We Get the Term ‘Fashion House’?
Paris, France is the ultimate hotspot for fashion. In fact, it’s where fashion was believed to get its start. Back in the 1800’s it was typically that a dressmaker would only work on their products, selling the final dress to customers. Sometimes they would have assistants who would perform basic sewing tasks, but there was no flare, passion, or artistic edge to the clothing world yet. It wasn’t until 1826 when Charles Frederick Worth came along. From 1826 to 1895, Charles was believed to be one of the first fashion designers in the world (2). He first started out as a draper, sewing home goods but decided to take his skill into apparel. He started a traditional of advising customers what would look best on them, then creating a piece and presenting the finished product.
As his work began to progress, Charles got more creative. Soon, he began working with local artists to create patterns, then would present the patterns to the clients before presenting them with the finished piece – a move that was way outside tradition at that time, but one that changed the trajectory of fashion forever. Soon, fashion houses everywhere began popping up around Paris, hiring artists to work at their fashion houses, creating beautiful custom garments for each customer.
The Fashion Capitol of the World
As fashion began to boom in the early 20th century, Paris, France quickly became the fashion capitol of the world, and still remains a popular hot spot for fashion today. New developments and designs would take place in Paris fashion houses first, then created a ripple effect throughout the rest of the world. During this time, the fashion rage was mostly haute couture, which is an exclusive piece from the top fashion houses made with high quality natural materials for exclusive individuals only. It was, and still is, for the A-list, who’s who of the fashion world.
Soon the fashion industry caught fire, and the entire world wanted in on this new way of dressing. No longer were clothes meant for just practicality, but you could instead wear a work of art from your favorite designer or fashion house – a feeling still very much addictive even today. Towards the mid-20th century, clothes started being mass-produced (queue the ‘fast fashion’ industry). As mass production increased, people began to have more options of clothing to wear, and they started choosing clothes that fit their own flavor and style instead of relying on the latest trends to prevail.
Fashion Houses Today
Thanks to the boom of fashion, specializations in fashion designing have also sprouted. Now, designers are taking their artwork into lingerie, swimwear, loungewear, business wear, bridal wear, womenswear, menswear, children’s wear, and many other avenues. Many different fashion houses choose to focus on either a small part of these, and sometimes even all of these – creating beautiful timeless pieces and trends for every aspect of one’s life. Today, fashion houses are home to some of the most incredible, inspiring, and innovative artists in the world as they continually produce new trends, patterns, designs, and ideas.
Fashion houses now lead the world in apparel and breaking into one is no easy task. The designers lucky enough to step foot into a fashion house usually go to school for fashion design and do years of grunt work and coffee runs before they are even able to submit a design. The fashion house is usually made up of one main master designer, who has climbed their way to the top with forward-thinking and creativity, and usually sets the tone of the whole us. Under them are several next level designers committed to making the dream come alive through hard work and determination. The house also includes artists, pattern makers, seamstresses, couturiers, tailors, sample makers, and many more. Together, everyone plays a part in creating new cutting-edge fashion with the hopes of setting the next big trend on the runway.
Preparing For the Runway
Usually fashion houses go through four main seasons of apparel – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Each season, it is typical for the fashion house to prepare a runway to showcase their latest works and designs. Each show must have a select venue location, models, an overall theme, and the right atmosphere. Many hours of preparing and planning go into the runway show alone, and from there the work is showcased.
In order to attend a runway show, one must be invited by the designer themselves or by others in the house. Fashion houses only want the most influential people in the industry at their shows, so being invited to one is an automatic status achievement. If you are invited to the runway show, and especially if you are sitting in the front row, it is required that you must wear something from the collection – and if you’re an A-lister or close friend of the designer, these pieces are usually shipped directly to you prior to the show. This is an important piece of runway etiquette that everyone must follow at every runway show.