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Has Australian Designer Bowie Wong Been Inducted Into the Haute Couture Club?

An Australian designer has been initiated into fashion’s very top tier. Well, at least that’s what the Sun Herald reported over the weekend.


“Sydney’s Bowie Wong has been confirmed as the first Australian-based designer to join fashion’s most exclusive club: Paris haute couture,” gushed the Sunday paper’s Amy Cooper. “Speaking to S from Paris, Wong revealed he’ll be showing his collection, Immortality, at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week in July, alongside great names such as Chanel, Dior, Valentino and Gaultier.”

To whet those notoriously picky Parisian appetites, the designer is held a curated “sneak peek” presentation on Tuesday night in advance of that upcoming runway show.

It all sounds like a fairytale for a designer with a proudly ‘Made in Australia’ label. But it seems it might be just that – at least, it’s worth taking the story with a grain of salt. As Patty Huntington of Frockwriter pointed out in response to the Sun piece, showing as part of haute couture week isn’t quite the same thing as showing a collection during haute couture week. First, you have to be invited by the Chambre Syndicale. And secondly, it’s actually illegal to slap the trademarked words “haute couture” on your label at will. 

Evidently Wong is aware the restrictions are rigorous. “You can’t just suddenly appear as an overseas designer. You have to politely explain who you are,” he told the Sun. But that’s putting it rather simply.

Wong would be attending as an entry level “Membres Invités”, for which, as Huntington notes, the lengthy selection process likely won’t begin for months. And while Wong won’t be arrested for putting “haute couture” on his invitation, he should exercise a bit more caution. Particularly if, as he tells the Sun, he was warned about approaching the Paris fashion coterie by none other than Elie Saab

We’re all for seeing local designers making waves overseas. But in order to do that you’ve got to keep the fashion gods happy – and they’re not partial to displays of hubris.