Fish and Fowl Mix: Paris Couture Week Injects More RTW

On the eve of the Paris couture week,the relationship between the highest level of fashion and ready-to-wear is stirring some debate.

PARIS — Are couture and ready-to-wear fine bedfellows — or distant cousins who should remain separated?

It’s a question generating debate on the eve of couture week here, which kicks off Sunday night with spring rtw by Yohji Yamamoto, followed by winter couture by the likes of Givenchy and Valentino, and winter rtw by Loulou de la Falaise and Revillon.

The Chambre Syndicale, which organizes fashion weeks in Paris, touts the variety show as a reflection of a fast-evolving industry — and retailers are applauding.

But Chanel, concerned that couture week’s hodgepodge of collections and seasons is diminishing its exclusive luster, is mulling a move to New York in January, which sets the stage for even more calendar turmoil.

“Couture must remain very exceptional and exclusive,” Chanel president Françoise Montenay said in an interview. “We are adaptable. If things are getting too sad here, we might go [to New York]. We are always challenging ourselves.”

“I agree with Chanel,” said Sidney Toledano, president of Christian Dior, although he added there are no immediate plans to show John Galliano’s Dior couture anywhere other than in the French capital. “We want to keep Paris very strong and we should keep very high standards. The press should be focused on haute couture and creativity.”

But anxious clients have begun weighing the possible ramifications of couture week with no Karl Lagerfeld —even if they still plan to come this season despite the strength of the euro and the continuing chill between the U.S. and France.

“To take Chanel away from the couture week would be disappointing. It would be a void,” said Becca Carson Thrash, a Houston socialite. “If Chanel doesn’t show in Paris, that might give people the notion of, “Why should I go?’”

Others took a positive view.

“I think it would be great to see something like that in New York,” said couture client Marjorie Raein (née Gubelmann). “I can understand, though, why all the luxury houses and others are peddling cell phones and all kinds of products during couture. It’s smart marketing.”
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