After the loss of almost 80,000 jobs (worldwide) yesterday - and an Icelandic prime minister - to the credit crunch, it is perhaps heartening to note there is one industry doing well: la haute couture:
"We may be in recession but the top end of the rag trade certainly hasn't noticed," the Times remarks in its piece on the spring/summer launch of the Dior collection yesterday.
Dior has apparently shown a sales increase of 35% on 2007. Chanel, it is reported, also has sales figures up 20%.
The Dior president, Sidney Toledano, gave a neat summary of the anomaly. "The demand for very high-end products continues to be very strong. Very rich people are not suffering from the crisis
and workshops have been very busy."
We may be in recession but the top end of the rag trade certainly hasn’t noticed. Haute couture, the premier league of fashion, where a single dress can cost more than £200,000, is in rude health. Dior, which presented its new spring/summer collection in Paris yesterday, in a show that cost about £2 million to stage, has shown a sales increase of 35 per cent on 2007.
John Galliano, its creative director, was bullish, displaying a flamboyant selection of gowns owing more to Marie Antoinette than Make Do and Mend.
Chanel, which presents its collection this morning, is also on the up, boasting 20 per cent sales increases on last year. Sidney Toledano, Dior president, said that these sales figures were not a blip in a dwindling market. “The demand for very high-end products continues to be very strong. Very rich people are not suffering from the crisis and workshops have been very busy,” he said. Industry sources believed that the double-digit increases will continue.
For a house to attain haute couture status " translated literally as “high sewing” " it must adhere to several important requirements. La Chambre Syndicale, couture’s governing body, insists that they must design made-to-order clothes for private clients, present at least 35 looks at the shows twice a year and own a workshop in Paris that employs at least 15 craftsmen or women. It is no wonder that there are only 20 or so designers left.
The handmade traditions and rigorous selection process have remained the same for more than a hundred years. The industry notoriously guards its customers’ identities. Until recently 60 per cent of the 1,500 or so women who perch on gilt chairs in Parisian marquees twice a year to watch the world’s most expensive clothes float past have been American.
But the client base is shifting. The Park Avenue princesses such as Betsey Bloomingdale are a dying breed. Deprived of funds in recent seasons, their seats have been commandeered by women from emerging markets. While couture houses keep quiet about their clients, Russian, Chinese and Middle Eastern women, whose ostentatious dress sense suits the couture aesthetic, now make up the majority.