Paris' Haute Couture, an ever more attractive destination

A symbol of fashion prestige in France, Haute Couture Fashion Week has seen its aura grow brighter in recent years, attracting more and more "guest members". Less crowded and positioned right after the Men's Fashion Week marathon and during the women's pre-collections sale, this event attracts more and more brands that are not present during the disrupted traditional Fashion Week calendar. 


Christian Dior Haute Couture runway show last January © PixelFormula

And so, the next edition scheduled for July 2 to the 6 in Paris, where the fall-winter 2017-18 collections will be presented, includes a rich calendar with 37 shows, and no less than five new names (AF Vandevorst, Azzaro, Proenza Schouler, Rodarte and Ronald van der Kemp) as guest members.
 
During the last edition in January, there were six brands that obtained the precious invite and five in July 2016. Until then, only two or three new names were admitted per season. As for the maisons benefiting from the haute couture label, such as Chanel or Christian Dior, there are only some dozen now remaining.
 
Last July, Vetements set the tone when it left Women's Fashion Week to join the Haute Couture calendar as a guest member. A year later, the streetwear-inspired brand headed by Demna Gvasalia, also artistic director of Balenciaga, is exiting Haute Couture, too crowded for its liking. Instead, the brand is this season opting for a presentation during Men's Fashion Week.
 
"Haute Couture presents in July what women will wear in the winter. With the traditional Fashion Weeks, we have confused two totally different moments: selling, which consists of presenting the collection to buyers a year before to have time to see their reaction and launch the production; and communication," said the head of Première Vision, Philippe Pasquet.


Proenza Schouler left New York to showcase at Paris Haute Couture this season

"Brands are reflecting on all the changes that are currently going through the fashion system. For women, March and October runway presentations are not the most appropriate dates, either arriving too early or too late, according to the different strategies of the Houses," said Stéphane Wargnier, Director of Studies of the Chambre Syndicale, and Communications for Petit Bateau.
 
"It is clear that pre-collections, which make up nearly 80 percent of sales, have become very on-trend today," he said. "Indeed, more and more brands want to anticipate deliveries in order to ensure a longer life for their collections. Hence the emphasis on pre-collections and women's fashion shows. It is in this spirit that American brands Rodarte and Proenza Schouler have decided to transfer to the City of Light to showcase during Haute Couture.”
 
Proenza Schouler announced in January this year "its decision to leave the traditional ready-to-wear fashion calendar in order to pursue a business model that is more aligned with the realities of today's business". Known for its avant-garde style, the New York label led by Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough will present on Sunday, July 2 a single fashion show for its main and cruise collections.
 
But Haute Couture Week is also appreciated for other reasons. Not only does it attract buyers from all over the world, but it also allows young participating brands to leave the anonymity of traditional Fashion Weeks, while showing their expertise, explained Bradly Dunn Klerks, the general manager of Dutch fashion house Iris van Herpen, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary on July 3: "For designers like Iris, who want to show a story and build a legacy, the Haute Couture Week offers an ideal platform where journalists and buyers take the time to see the collections."


Iris Van Herpen Haute Couture show in January 2017 © PixelFormula

"With online, the seasons no longer matter. We no longer see the difference between winter and summer in the collections, while the system is in the middle of an abrupt change, Couture is the only moment where journalists and designers can really talk to each other. For the designers, this week has a real impact," he said.
 
"There is no more space in the normal calendar. Paris Fashion Week is highly saturated, while during Haute Couture, there is undeniably more visibility. As a result, many young people start with Haute Couture and then go to ready-to-wear," says Laura Mancini, who founded her own brand of "ready-to-couture" in 2014.
 
To become known, this designer, a native of Puglia, Italy and working in Milan, has chosen for the last two years to showcase during pre-collections at Fashion Week Dubai, where "there is less confusion, and therefore more visibility and the chance to finalize sales. Participating in Dubai costs me less than a photo shoot. Then, thanks to the lookbook made there, I present the collection in a showroom in Paris with all the materials. So it's easier. What's important is being sold, more than being known," she concluded.
 
 

Translated by Jennifer Braun

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