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.

Jaqui Lividini, senior vice president of fashion merchandising at Saks, said she also would welcome a Chanel couture show stateside. “Change is what keeps our industry evolving,” she said. “Whenever people come up with a new idea, it’s a good thing.”

As for keeping couture week pure, retailers said they relish the opportunity to see as many collections as possible while they’re in Paris — made-to-order or produced in quantity.

“For me, it’s really good to be able to go around and see as many people as I can,” said Joan Kaner, senior vice president, fashion director at Neiman Marcus. “It always helps to get a leg up on the next season.”

Glenda Bailey, editor in chief of Harpers’ Bazaar, said she doesn’t mind the mix. “As journalists, we’re interested in the news,” she said. “We have to respect peoples’ right to choose when they show, whenever they are creatively ready. I’m all for people breaking the rules — so long as everyone knows what the rules are.”

Ingrid Sischy, editor in chief of Interview, disagreed, though, saying, “I’m all for mixing things up. But for me, the best thing would be to have [couture] alone under the microscope. For me, that would be the best kind of aesthetic experience.”

Chanel’s Montenay also insisted apples and oranges should be kept separate — with one exception. She noted that Chanel, Dior and Boucheron are unveiling fine jewelry collections next week. “Haute jewelry goes with haute couture, but prêt-a-porter doesn’t,” she said. “It’s the right time [for fine jewelry] because the people who know real luxury are here.”

Asked about the specter of a Chanel defection, Didier Grumbach, president of the Chambre Syndicale, said: “Each company has its own policy. Chanel is working fabulously these days. Why would you change something that works so well?”

Grumbach said he views Paris as having four runway showcases per year, which each house uses as it sees fit. “Look at Christian Lacroix,” he said. “He kept his couture slot and decided ready-to-wear doesn’t need a show.”
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