The best of the Academy Awards starts here with the latest haute couture looks from the top Parisian fashion houses and the A-listers who wear them.

Haute couture, by definition, is the pinnacle of fashion. “It’s about customizing and having an identity to your clothes,” says in-demand designer Elie Saab. Translation? Dresses that are handmade, stitch by stitch, in traditional ateliers, that cost upwards of $20,000. No surprise then that these elaborate creations typically wind up on high-profile actresses at heavily photographed awards galas.

With a diminishing number of couture clients (estimates put the figure at less than 300 women worldwide), the red carpet is actually one of the last havens for haute. Still, fashion houses march forward with couture shows that cost millions to produce, insisting this exclusive tier helps define the brand and generate coveted media attention — most notably, at the industry’s biggest night, the Oscars. “Seeing your designs on the red carpet is a great achievement for any designer,” says Saab. “And it’s worth every penny.”

A few of the highlights from last month’s Paris couture collections might just end up turning heads this year at the Kodak Theater.

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