In January, the catwalks of Paris shone with the haute couture creations for spring/summer 2012. This arena for creative fantasy always brings out the best in inspired design and execution, and the level of workmanship from the ateliers in this, the first Paris Couture Week of the year, was quite something to behold. However, while this week provided cause for celebration, it was also a stark reminder that France has, thanks to some stringent law making, got the world of haute couture (if you’ll pardon the pun) sewn up. The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture founded in 1868 (now under the umbrella organisation The Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode) legally protects and controls the Haute Couture label and only fashion houses that have been designated by the French Ministry of Industry can use it. Paris then, is, and always will be, the capital of haute couture. But that doesn’t mean that the craft behind this pinnacle of fashion design isn’t alive and well elsewhere.