couture is here

Foreigners, Celebrities Keep Couture Afloat

This is a good morning indeed, because the couture shows start today in Paris. And, with it, news outlets are asking the obvious question: Are $50,000 dresses relevant or just downright inappropriate in a time of record unemployment and global financial distress? Naturally, fashion houses called upon to answer this question said couture is more relevant than ever. The president of Chanel cited record couture sales in 2008; the president of Gaultier said sales were “unscathed” in 2008; the president of Givenchy said sales soared 80 percent in 2008; and the president of Valentino said 2008 marked the house’s best performance ever in terms of couture sales. However, that was 2008. This year all those presidents expect sales to slip.

Sales are soaring at Christian Lacroix, which recently filed for bankruptcy and is putting a couture collection together on a tight budget. Orders are still pouring in for the spring collection presented in January. The president of that house suspects some clients may simply want a piece before — if — Lacroix couture becomes extinct. And other clients, she said, are placing orders to show their support for the designer in this trying time.

Houses that are not Lacroix are relying on two primary groups of people to keep business puttering along this year: foreigners and celebrities. We self-conscious and/or newly broke Americans aren’t buying couture this year. But!

Noted [Christian Dior president Sidney] Toledano: “There are more and more millionaires in China — more than in France.”

Fashion-house chiefs also have their eyes on the rich people of Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. And of course, celebrities:

[Valentino president Stefano] Sassi noted Jennifer Aniston’s appearance in Valentino couture at last February’s Oscars led to “immense” coverage worldwide, “so there are certainly other, and new ways to exploit and obtain visibility for the great creative effort and exquisite craftsmanship that is still so much a part of Valentino’s DNA.”

Although award season has ended, there remain celebrity vehicles for couture houses to capitalize on. Like Madonna, who wore brand new Givenchy couture by Riccardo Tisci on the second leg of her Sticky and Sweet tour Saturday in London. And as for Givenchy’s couture competitors who missed the boat on that one, Britney Spears is doing a second leg of her tour, too!

P.S. Dior walks today, so get ready.

Couture Rides the Economic Storm [WWD]

Foreigners, Celebrities Keep Couture Afloat