Ready-to-wear and Haute Couture are two fashion terms that are thrown around a lot in the Nigerian fashion industry today. Both words are often used wrongly with one in place of the other.
Ready-to-wear, simply put, refers to a collection of designs by a designer produced in large or small quantities and in different sizes for sale.
The concept of ready to wear, according to archeological records, dates back to 1400 BC when the military uniforms in Ancient Rome was produced en masse and in Ancient Babylonia, where merchants were shipping and distributing ready-to-wear garments.
Over time, the idea of ready to wear garments has evolved and been refined. Now we have several ready-to-wear brands with different niches; from afrocentric ready-to-wear brands like I.rasa and SGTC by Detoke, to casual fit brands like Rhonkefella. Ready to wear seems to be flourishing in this part of the world.
Haute couture on the other hand, is the more abused term of the two, even by seasoned designers. Haute couture of french origin when translated to English, means ‘high fashion’ or ‘high dress making’; this simply implies that haute courture is a type of garment created by the most skilled craftsmen and designers with high end fabrics and materials for a specific person (usually a high end customer).
Haute couture is a legal term that can only be used by brands approved by the French Ministry of Industry. It is not Haute couture until it is pronounced so, and there are so many criteria to be met before any designer can qualify.
A popular misconception is that once a dress is hand-made it qualifies as high fashion; this is not so.
There are other determinants like the number of hours put in (100 – 700 hours), the amount of hands involved, the quality of fabric and the social class of the final consumer. 19th Century Englishman, Charles Frederick Worth is considered the Father of Haute Couture.
Haute couture in Nigeria has not gained so much ground, but few designers like Deola Sagoe and Mai Atafo have stepped up to the game and taken the bull by the horn, thereby making the Nigerian fashion industry proud and progressive.
Going forward we hope to see more brands use these terms appropriately and have more brands step up to the ‘Haute Couture’ stage, as it is definitely not for the faint hearted.