The couture shows started in Paris today. The three-day-long parade of fashion's most fabulous, blatantly exorbitant clothes is a terribly ironic event for These Economic Times. You might think that couture, like every other part of the fashion industry, would be braced for the credit crunch; that designers would downsize their visions for newly sobered fashion sensibilities; that the wealthiest fashionistas are so ashamed of showing the outside world how rich they are they've decided to skip the couture shows this season. Well friends, we couldn't be more delighted to tell you that you'd be wrong. As you can see above in John Galliano's spring 2009 Christian Dior couture collection, designers aren't holding anything back.
Executives at labels like Dior, Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Christian Lacroix expect no drop in client attendance. Chanel's president of fashion told WWD he expected growth in couture in 2009 (last year, the division saw a double-digit sales increase). The president of Givenchy forecasts a 20 percent increase in couture sales in 2009. The really rich people who buy this stuff will always be rich enough to do so. And new customers are trickling in — often from places like China, Japan, and the Middle East — who can pick up the slack if American or European clients hold back. With the worldwide pool of couture customers numbering in the hundreds, adding just one new client is a big deal.
"In more of a crisis situation, you need to be very close to your clients," said Lacroix president Nicolas Topiol. (Because no pain is greater than that which you witness but don't feel yourself.) Houses will continue improving special services extended to couture customers. For instance, if you purchase a couture Givenchy wedding dress, the house will dispatch a seamstress to you on the day of the wedding for last-minute adjustments, wherever you are in the world. They'll also help you pick hair and makeup artists and photo and video crews to document your entire couture experience, from the show to the fittings to the wedding itself.
We're glad couture designers aren't toning anything down, because these few days show just how amazing clothes can be. And just like there's no point in drinking low-calorie champagne, there's no point toning down couture. If all the dresses fit through a standard-issue doorway, we may as well start wearing burlap sacks.