A model on the Chanel runway during Paris Fashion Week Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2009/2010. Photo: Chris Moore, Catwalking/Getty Images

It seems everybody is cutting costs these days -- even the fashion industry's loftiest names.

Unfortunately, the first on the chopping block are also the most skilled: France's "petite mains," the specialized fashion artisans who are integral in the making of haute couture garments.

These embroiderers, seamstresses, tailors and milliners give haute couture fashion its high-quality finish (and hefty price tag).

But the profession is a dying one, shrinking by 80% since 2007 as fashion houses like Chanel, Azzaro and Christian Dior outsource their production.

As a result, these small businesses are appealing to the French government for help, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Do we smell a fashion bailout?

Chanel has smartly bought up several of the failing artisan houses -- presumably helping Karl Lagerfeld keep his haute couture edge -- but the industry is still in trouble.

Now, the French government is stepping in, hosting a meeting today with officials, industry executives and artisans to talk about tax breaks and new labeling procedures designed to highlight the craftsmanship of each piece, says the source.

Will haute couture survive? Stay tuned...

In the meantime, check out which haute couture beauty trends translate from runway to real life.