Paris designers tough out the crisis
A model is made up backstage prior to the presentation of Lebanese designer Elie Saab's Spring-Summer Haute Couture 2009 fashion collection in Paris January 28, 2009 - Photo : Benoit tessier/Reuters
After the gloomy atmosphere in New York and the cancellation of around 10 shows in Milan, in the French capital it promises to be business as usual, with 91 catwalk presentations, around the same figure as last season.
As usual, the major players - Dior, Chanel, Gaultier, Lacroix, Saint Laurent et al -- will form the backbone of the calendar, with dozens of smaller fashion houses from all over Europe and Asia jostling for attention on the sidelines.
And a discreet veil is being drawn over any budgetary constraints being observed because of the recession.
"For us, it's business as usual" insisted staff at Chanel. The house, which announced that it was cutting certain expenses at the end of last year "as a precautionary measure", has invited the usual 2,200 press and buyers to its show at the Grand Palais exhibition building.
At Dior, famous for the lavish scenarios of its shows, the reaction was "It's a subject we don't really care to talk about."
"The houses will cut their expenditure by cutting down on the number of invitations they sent out," one regular at the shows told AFP, saying she expected to receive far fewer invitations this season than usual.
There are other ways of economising. For example, the small label Anne Valerie Hash decided against hiring a room which can seat 500 in the purpose-built Louvre complex, which hosts many shows. Instead it is staging two presentations on its own premises.
Similarly Sonia Rykiel is presenting her collection in her original boutique on the boulevard Saint Germain to 700 guests, instead of the usual 1,000. But a spokeswoman insisted that this was "not about cutting costs, but getting back to the intimate atmosphere, closeness to the clothes, of the 1970s."
The Celine label is not showing this time, not for any financial reason, the house stressed, but because it is "going through a transition" after replacing its artistic director Croatian Ivana Omazic last September with Britain's Phoebe Philo, former head designer at Chloe.
Apart from Lebanon's Robert Abi Nader, who until now has shown during the haute couture collections, there are four other newcomers: French designers Corinne Cobson and Roland Mouret, Japan's Hiroko Koshino and the Indian-Danish label Peachoo+Krejberg.
Mouret, the London-based self-taught former model, is a favourite with the Hollywood red carpet crowd, whose clients include Nicole Kidman, Scarlett Johansson and Bond girl Rosamund Pike.
Corinne Cobson, daughter of the founders of the Dorothee Bis label, created her own brand in 1986, which enjoyed its heyday in the 1990s with her hallmark satin jeans topped with tight leather blousons, notably worn by the singer Vanessa Paradis.
Hiroko Koshino is just the latest in a line of Japanese designers hoping to launch themselves into the European market from Paris after becoming a big name at home.
The Peachoo+Krejberg label owes its extraordinary name to the pairing of Indian textile designer Peachoo Datwani and Dane Roy Krejberg, a former artistic designer for Kenzo's men's wear line.by Dominique Schroeder
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