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“We need to revitalize couture week,” Jacques Mouclier, president of the Chambre Syndicale, told WWD in October 1996. “We have been thinking about the future of haute couture and its creativity.”
He wasn’t the only one. Ever since Pierre Bergé proclaimed “haute couture is dead” to WWD reporters in 1991, everyone was discussing whether the made-to-measure industry was lost for good. Thus, Mouclier’s then-radical move in 1996: opening up the couture ranks, which had already dwindled to 15 couturiers, to ready-to-wear designers. Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier were the first to participate. On the flip side, Jean-Louis Scherrer pulled out of the upcoming collections, according to industry observers who spoke to WWD, because of Mouclier’s decision. Jean-Claude Catalan, general director of Scherrer, denied that was the cause.
Still, the spring 1997 couture season proved a milestone moment—and for more than just these newcomers. John Galliano, after a swift stint at Givenchy, showed his first collection for Christian Dior, while Alexander McQueen, positioned at Givenchy, did the same; Bernard Arnault’s newly installed LVMH renegades would thrill as two of fashion’s greatest showmen. It heralded a new era for the couture system.
“Who says there are no private couture customers?” wrote WWD on January 22. “Christian Dior was packed with clients the day after John Galliano’s debut show for the house. Appointments were scheduled solidly from 8:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., the three couture salons were filled to capacity and the directrice de couture, Caroline Grouvelle, was forced to conduct fittings in her office.”