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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.

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Grumbach said he considers Yamamoto’s controversial decision last year to start showing his top rtw line three months earlier than everyone to be a wrong one. The show is not on the Chambre’s official couture calendar, which is why Yamamoto will show off-schedule on Sunday. “Yohji is a fabulous designer and it’s a creative collection. It’s not the right season. There’s no reason to show innovation so early,” he said. “But it’s still another reason to come to Paris for couture, even if the way it’s done is irregular. You can’t come to Paris only twice a year.”

To be sure, the number of official couture houses participating in the week is shrinking, with the retirement of Yves Saint Laurent and the shuttering of his atelier. Louis Feraud recently suspended couture activity, and Balmain is skipping this couture week while it hunts for a new designer.

But next week’s calendar offers Italian couture newcomers Grimaldi Giardina, sponsored by Ungaro, along with a host of off-calendar shows by budding couturiers. “Each season, there are new names and it creates excitement,” Grumbach said. “Even if some clients don’t come, it won’t change the destiny of the industry.”

Only a few months ago, worries abounded about poor couture attendance, given the aftermath of the Iraqi conflict, anti-French sentiments in the U.S., the outbreak of SARS in Asia, a surging euro and other economic woes.

But interviewed last week, house presidents and couture directors said they have no fears, downplaying the impact of all those factors and forecasting attendance by anywhere from 100 to 400 clients next week.

“Our clients have no fear of traveling. They have private jets,” said Dior’s Toledano, chuckling.

And even if clients don’t come to Paris, the couture may come to them.

“We have had tremendous demand internationally to see our couture collections and have therefore been traveling with them,” said Emanuel Ungaro. “Couture is a concept that we are keen to take to people who would not usually be exposed to it, but who enjoy and celebrate glamour. We are actively opening up new markets in America and Asia and have plans for the fall to show in Dubai, Kazakhstan, and Los Angeles. We are taking our couture collections to a minimum of two new countries a year.”
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