Haute Couture (French for 'high sewing') - is a common term for high fashion as produced in Paris and imitated in other fashion capitals such as New York, London or Milan. A haute couture collection is made-to-order for a specific customer, which means that it is custom sized to fit these customers exactly.
High-quality, expensive fabrics are used, many hand-executed techniques are incorporated and it is sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish.
In order to qualify as a haute couture house certain number of formal criteria must be met, such as being part of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and showing a new collection twice a year presenting a minimum of 35 different outfits each time.
A list of eligible houses is made official every year by the French Ministry of Industry.
Ready-to-wear (Prêt-à-Porter) - are the collections you can buy in stores. They are standard sized clothes, not custom fitted, suitable for large production. Every haute couture house also markets prêt-à-porter collections as these constitute the larger part of their income. The couture division sometimes generates no profit at all, but is only an advertisment for the notoriety of the fashion house. Ready-to-wear collections can also be split into two categories: designer/createur and confection collections. Designer collections have a higher quality as well as an unique design.