What is the difference between luxury fashion vs fast fashion?

We clearly see how important costumes are in life, in addition to the usual functions, today’s clothes also position as a high-speed communication network, because clothing is always attached closely to each human being, integrating into the individual’s being regardless of their social status. So, what is the difference between luxury fashion vs fast fashion

However, in the current fashion trend, we see many types of costumes called by different names: performance fashion, art fashion, mass production fashion, applied fashion. The way to use these terms is not scientific, it needs to have the right opinions about fashion, from the name to the method of fashion creation. Finally, there are two lines of fashion: High fashion and industrial production.

Luxury fashion (Haute couture)

Luxury fashion vs fast fashion – What is Haute Couture? We see fashion and costumes as two distinct categories. There would be no fashion without Haute couture. “Haute Couture is a French term used for the highest quality of tailor-made apparel designers by size. It is an art product that encompasses a great combination with the technological craftsmanship industry with specific high-end accessories such as feather, jeweler, embroidery manufacturers, to embellish their designs. Designers cannot call themselves couture unless they are adopted by the “syndicale de ta Fédération francaise de la couture” (French high-end fashion association) [3, 200]

After World War II, the term couture began to emerge in Europe from designers such as Dior and Givenchy, which are still famous for their luxury and class. The designs are specially made on measurements directly on the wearer’s body, which is exclusive, almost hand-made, careful to every detail, in a structure that is completely fit just for their own personal body and create perfection for each customer. After choosing the style she wants, the customer is measured and must be prepared with at least 3 accessories, sometimes more. The disaster will come when a customer sees an exactly same costume in the street.

The handmade design of Raf Simons in the Haute Couture collection of the Dior fashion brand, source: [4]

High-end couture costs a lot, depending on the brand designer Haute Couture. A high-end fashion house like Chanel will have about 150 regular customers and a brand like Dior will make about 20 customers with high-end fashion a year. “The cost of a high-end fashion item is around £ 10,000 for a simple gown and up to £ 40,000 and often exceeds that figure. For example, in 2002 a Chanel fashion dress cost £ 20,000. In mid-2004 an evening dress cost £ 50,000” [5]. If a person is not rich, it is hard to understand why the price of high fashion is so high, but it is the cost of service, workmanship, the difference of a unique design and the excellence of the best quality materials.

To produce a high-end outfit, it takes between 100-150 hours, sometimes up to 1000 hours. Luxurious evening party dresses can have thousands of hand-stitched beads made by famous embroidery experts in Paris or Milan, etc. Those experts make accessories or design hats, ornaments, buttons, belts, trinkets, shoes and fabric surface creations to add beauty to fabrics according to the fashion ideas created. Haute Couture is exclusive of luxurious, new and expensive luxury fabrics from: silk, chinfon, linen, fine wool, cashmeres, cotton, leather, suede or fur … fabric and color designs, which is dedicated to high fashion.

An important person is responsible for the customer (vendeuse), their orders and supervision throughout the process from the main product to the accessory. Designing and making maket with white cloth is similar to real fabric but economical, because expensive fabrics can cost £ 100 or more per meter. Makets can be manipulated, marked, and modified to fit specific life model (customer) specifications until their designers, staff, and customers are satisfied then instructs employees to tailor official products in selected and exclusive materials. A tailor will work on the products from the beginning to an end. Cutting and finishing is done in a closed room and this seamstress is responsible for everything produced in that room. The final stage of checking the finished product to the highest standards to ensure that it is high fashion, got approval and decision to give to the customer. In the end, the outfit must be really suitable, fit, highlight the customer advantages and reduce physical defects.

Figure 1: Models and designs of Haute Couture of fashion brand Dior

High fashion is expensive now, up to millions of pounds, so very few models are sold in the year. This is not surprising, given that only about 3000 such women worldwide can really afford to buy clothes at the highest level, and there are only about 300 regular buyers. Therefore, the high-class fashion designs only account for a very limited proportion, the profit from this activity is negligible, sometimes even a loss.

So, with such a low percentage of high-end fashion sales, why are the efforts and costs so great? The answer lies in the phrase “selling a dream”! A dream of fashion imprint, the beauty that ordinary people can hardly buy. But ordinary people can afford to use other products such as perfume bottles, scarves, jewelry, bags, high-end fashion brands that a supermodel often uses.

High fashion shows attract huge media and public attention. High-end fashion costumers can bring 1000 women around the world to wear with them. This makes great profits for high fashion designers through the sales volume in the international market. At the same time, the high-end fashion line is always a bridge between the fashion brand and consumers around the world for that brand’s industrial production fashion line.

Fashion of industrial production (ready-to-wear)

Luxury fashion vs fast fashion – Fashion is really like a world of illusion and an industry that brings in billions of pounds every year. If high fashion stimulates curiosity, arouses desire, in the ways we have just discovered above: the secrets of high fashion are explained, the complexity of the design. The design is described, whereas the fashion of industrial production has its own attraction with industrial production, in large quantities and standard sizes, spread over a wide range.

Ready-to-wear or prêt-à-porter often abbreviated to RTW is the term used for standard designs that are suitable for most people. They use standard specifications, factory equipment with fast product finishing techniques, to keep costs low, compared to a single model of the same design.

From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance there was almost no concept of ready-to-wear fashion, but by the 1700s, in the United States, China and Europe, the clothing industry had begun to develop. In 1820, the measuring cord was invented, which helped to size the clothes, and in 1846 the sewing machine that was invented by Eilias Howe added elements for the ready-made garments to simultaneously develop. Especially during the American Civil War, military uniforms were in great demand for production in large quantities, standard sizes, which made it possible to provide a wide range of fast and convenient apparel that tailors could not provide.

In the early nineteenth century, supermarkets became popular, and supermarkets opened everywhere to sell ready-made garments in Paris in 1838. In New York, Alexander Turney Stewart opened his own store, named AT Stewart, also known as Marble Palace (Marble Palace), on Broadway (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The first fashion supermarket Marble Palace (Marble Palace)

Ready-made fashion for children.


Isaac Singer’s electric sewing machine, born in 1889 [6], was a catalyst for ready-made garments. Ready-to-wear fashion has found a foothold in the middle class, where people who aren’t really wealthy to hire someone, ask to order their own clothes. The clothes of factories appear all over the world, because using the sewing machine has never been easier, an assembly line is extremely simple. Technological advances have had a significant impact on clothing production in factories in the late twentieth century. Most computer-related advancements, with a high degree of automation, product model parameters transferred to the computer, automatic fabric spreading and cutting are programmed to perform the required functions. Laser cutters can cut out each piece of garment in a single operation and can be pre-programmed to cut hundreds of pieces in different standardized sizes.

The construction of mass production products also has other standards of high fashion due to the industrial nature. Ready-made fashion offers a wide range of services for different ages from children, adolescents, to middle-aged and senior citizens, from menswear to womenswear, work, outfits, picnic to sports apparel, etc. So far, all high-end fashion brands such as Chanel, Dior, Lacroix or Julien Fournie etc. also produce this fashion line, which is the product line that brings a greater profit because it has higher volume than couture, which is practically benefit.

While high-end fashion is often presented with seasonal collections, by fashion houses called Fashion Weeks across cities, and the most prominent of these include London, New York, Milan and Paris, held twice a year, is also promoted in that way, but it is organized separately and earlier than high-end fashion. We need to have certain knowledge to understand and distinguish between high fashion and industrial production fashion when using, designing and talking about fashion. This is the difference between luxury fashion vs fast fashion. 


  1. Erika Thiet (1980 – reprint 2010), Geschichie des Kostüms, Henschelverlag, Berlin
  2. Kyoto Costume Institube (2004), LA MODE Du XVIII au XX siècle. Taschen
  3. Olivier Gerval (2009), Fashion concept to catwalk, Prgeone
  4. Victo, “The Fabulous World of Dior Haute Couture”, http: // ourworldourstyle. blogspot.com/2013/01/the-fabulous-world- of – dior – haute – couture.html 1/31/2013
  5. www.fashion.com
  6. Larousse (2001), People and inventions, Education Publishing House, Hanoi.



(Published on the Magazine of Fine Arts Photography, June 2014)


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