Paris fashion hub welcomes couture, menswear shows
Paris once more turns fashion capital of the world for a week starting Wednesday, playing host to menswear shows before haute couture's heady mix of craft and luxury casts its spell over the city.
Models, buyers and fashion writers are to converge on Paris for a week of trend-spotting - and hobnobbing - as Italy's Versace fetes its return to the couture club, in a glamorous buzz at odds with the ambient economic gloom.
But first, on the heels of the past week's Milan shows, 51 designers will send out their menswear looks for autumn/winter, with newcomers including the first clothing line by the LVMH-owned luxury boot maker Berluti.
The fashion pack is keenly awaiting the first men's line by Kenzo's young new designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, the New York duo who took over at the LVMH brand last summer.
Also from New York the Cambodian-American designer Phillip Lim - whose "3.1" brand is pitched as elegant streetwear - makes his debut in Paris, as will the laid-back Japanese label Kolor.
And the Londoner Kim Jones will be showing his second collection for Louis Vuitton, after a well-received debut last June.
On Monday, men's fashion makes way for haute couture, with two dozen houses sending out one-off creations - whose dizzying artistry is matched only by their astronomical price tags - over three days of exclusive shows
After an eight-year hiatus, the Italian brand Versace and its line "Versace Atelier" make a much-awaited return to the couture calendar on Monday.
Also from Italy, the 45-year-old Giambattista Valli who showed a first couture collection as a guest label last season, graduates to the status of full member of the family.
Monday evening also promises a visual treat with the show by the young Dutch creator Iris Van Herpen, who stunned Paris last season with bold, otherworldly creations fusing computer-drawn futurism with painstaking workshop craft.
But day one of the couture shows will otherwise be dominated by Dior, which remains in the spotlight since John Galliano's chaotic departure last March in the wake of a drunken, racist outburst.
All eyes will be watching to see if the house, steered for the past 10 months by Galliano's right-hand man Bill Gaytten, chooses this week to name a successor, with the Belgian Raf Simons currently tipped for the job.
Tuesday comes the turn of two great French houses - Chanel and Givenchy - sharing the spotlight with small French designers Alexandre Vauthier (a favourite of R'n'B star Rihanna) or Julien Fournie.
Jean Paul Gaultier grabs the limelight on Wednesday, alongside the French-Chinese designer Yiqing Yin, known for her sophisticated drapes, who was invited to show a guest collection this season.
Haute couture is a protected appellation in France, awarded based on strict criteria like the amount of work carried out by hand and in-house, and the share of pieces made-to-measure.
Chanel, Dior, Gaultier and Givenchy are the only major French houses that show couture, joined by a number of smaller French houses, as well as Italians Valentino and Armani, and now Valli and Versace, and the Lebanese designer Elie Saab.
Haute couture caters to a core client base of no more than 100 women worldwide. They are joined each year by another 100 who will treat themselves - or be treated - to a once-in-a-lifetime dress, for a ball or a wedding.
A unique creation from a young designer is never less than 15,000 euros (20,000 dollars); double that figure for something from a big-name house. Wedding dresses can go for 100,000 euros or more.
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