Haute couture continues to defy financial crisis

Italian designers have once again proven their stance at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week, withVersace marking a powerful come-back while Giorgio Armani, Giambattista Valli and Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy continued to make headlines with their Haute Couture collections. Much like the previous Haute Couture Week in Fall 2011, all fashion houses have expressed a strong defiance of the world financial crisis, Fabio Mancone of Giorgio Armani summing up  ”couture customers are better equipped to face economic uncertainty than others”.

Less immediately explicable is why this rarefied Parisian world should currently be dominated, both artistically and economically, by Italians. Backstage after her first couture show in eight years, Versace was twice asked why she had returned, and she gave two different answers. The first time, she said simply “because I missed it.” The second time, she said it was because in the aftermath of the hugely successful mini-collection by Versace for H&M, “I didn’t want people to forget that Versace is a haute couture house.” The timing suggests a third possible motive, or at least a happy coincidence: with Christian Dior still hunting for a replacement designer for John Galliano, the Dior shows have been scaled down, from stadium-sized spectacles to in-house salon presentations seating 240 people each time.

When Versace designs haute couture, she does not begin misty eyed and reverent about the great traditions of couture, eager to pay homage to the ghosts of embroiders past. Instead, she focuses on the Versace customer, and designs the collection of her dreams. “The Versace woman is very conscious of her body. But she has a hint of classicism in her” said the designer after the show.

The starting point for each dress was a corset whose edges were trimmed in curving, polished gold metal. The gold gleam neatly advertised that these dresses are painstakingly made to measure – there’s not a lot of give in metal, after all – while adding the late-night, sexed-up undertone which is key to Versace.

LVMH, the luxury giant behind the Christian Dior label, is at pains to reassure the fashion world that the 11-month wait for a replacement designer for Galliano has done nothing to damage sales. Antoine Arnault, scion of the LVMH fortune, recently described the LVMH attitude to Dior as “zen”. Monday was the second haute couture show by Bill Gaytten, who has taken the helm at Dior after serving as Galliano’s right hand for 15 years. His couture debut last July having taken a critical mauling, this was a retrenchment by Gaytten and Dior. Staged in the Avenue Montaigne headquarters, it was an intimate, old fashioned presentation. The remarkable engineering that goes into a couture silhouette is indeed a thing of beauty and wonder, and as a collection to keep the Dior tills ringing this was a resounding success.

adapted from The Guardian

At the same time, Dior’s understated show and continued lack of an officially appointed creative director could very well mark Bernard Arnault’s latest strategic approach to luxury branding. His son, Antoine Arnault who heads French menswear brand Berluti voiced his father’s conviction about the end of bling and the return to old fashioned approach to events. Chanel has been sensibly banking on the same trend and despite its show being held in a huge location (Grand Palais) has created a large decor which almost halved the usually large crowd.

Other international luxury brands which have been booming despite the international economic crisis, irrrespective of the region globally, thanks to a anti-bling and no-logo strategy are: Loewe (LVMH), Celine (LVMH), Bottega Veneta (PPR), Mulberry.