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Careers As a Couture Fashion Designer

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Ah, the glamorous world of haute couture — the eye-popping one-off garments, the emphasis on creativity, the chance to work with the best designers from around the world. While you might think creating and producing designs for Chanel is your only option, performing arts companies and accredited French houses also require couturiers. There's also always the option of going independent and catering to the luxe needs of high-flying clients. Whatever your choice, your job will be the epitome of "simply fabulous."

Fashion Design For Apparel Companies

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Most top fashion companies, such as Prada, Carolina Herrera and Valentino, have a haute couture line that may be not-so-practical for street wear but helps further the 'look' of the brand. Fashion designers in the haute couture departments of these companies may either put the created designs into production or spend time visualizing and creating these designs themselves. You'll need strong technical skills to pull off the intricate looks. You'll constantly be sourcing and buying fabulous new fabrics and embellishments. Since most major houses are based in New York or California, you'll need to move to find suitable work. Of course, you could also look overseas to fashion capitals such as Paris and Milan.

Traditional French Haute Couture

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For those who want to engage in a truly authentic and old-school haute couture experience, nothing will do, darling, except to work at one of the Parisian design houses that are part of the French haute couture trade association. These houses are strictly regulated and exclusive. To gain employment in this highly-regarded but small field, it's best to attend the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. It specializes in preparing its students with the technical expertise they need for innovative couture and also serves as a feeding ground into association-accredited houses.

The Performing Arts

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Less than 2 percent of fashion designers work in the performing arts industry in the US, but there is definitely an established need for couture fashion in such areas as dance and theatre. Original, innovative, and complex designs are the hallmark of high-level productions in particular. Typically, jobs in this industry require research into styles of particular historical periods and working with the director to create attire that adheres to the overall vision. Being mindful of the costume budget is also an invaluable skill.

Independent Couturiers

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Wealthy and fashionable cities are ripe with opportunities for independent couturiers. High-end areas are prime for couture shops, though some designers choose to simply keep up a workshop clients can visit for fittings and consultations. Since the demand for haute couture will be small, even in a major metropolis like New York City, designers will likely end up doing every bit of the design, production, marketing, accounting, and other tasks themselves. Work can vary from original designs to duplication of high-end designs to wedding and prom dresses.


Alana Vye is a Canadian writer living abroad. She had a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Toronto and has worked in online marketing and publicity. She's also an avid traveler who has visited Asia, Europe and Central America.

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