The fashion circus hits Paris Tuesday as the women’s autumn-winter ready-to-wear shows come to town, with the industry deeply divided over the catwalk calendar and three major houses still without designers.
As a storm gathers over whether labels should ditch a century of tradition and show collections as they go on sale in the shops, all eyes will be on the young Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia’s first collection for Balenciaga.
Many are curious to see how the 34-year-old one-time refugee, who made his name with gritty oversized streetwear, will shake up the venerable label, once a favourite with Jackie Kennedy and European royalty.
His own edgy Paris-based label Vetements staged its last show in a Chinese restaurant in Belleville, one of the French capital’s grittily hip quarters.
Three of France’s major labels are still without artistic directors after a string of shock departures at the end of 2015 that saw Raf Simons leave Dior for “personal reasons” and Alber Elbaz pushed out at Lanvin.
AFP / Francois Guillot
Yiqing Yin has concentrated on her own label after leaving Leonard
The young Franco-Chinese designer Yiqing Yin, who left Leonard to concentrate on her own label, has also yet to be replaced.
In the meantime the studios of all three houses have been putting together their collections, with Dior boss Sidney Toledano telling AFP that he would not be rushed into finding a replacement for Simons for one of fashion’s most sought-after jobs.
“It’s not like presidential elections where they are deadlines,” he said.
– Showdown –
But there appears to be no avoiding the looming showdown between some of the biggest names in US fashion and the industry’s traditional European giants over whether collections should go on sale as soon as they hit the catwalks.
AFP / Francois Guillot
Raf Simons left Dior for ‘personal reasons’
Traditionally, the public has had to wait between four and six months before they could buy the clothes featured in each season’s shows.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) claims the “system is broken” and completely out of step with an era of instant gratification.
Instead of the autumn-winter shows taking place in the spring as happens now, it wants them to be staged at the beginning of each autumn, with spring-summer collections following suit.
However both the French and Italian federations have come out strongly against a switch to so-called “see now, buy now” system.
Fashion mogul Francois-Henri Pinault, whose Kering group owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga, told reporters the whole idea went against the “dream and desire” that drives the industry.
But US designer Tommy Hilfiger — who in September will offer his customers the chance to buy straight from the catwalk — is adamant that change is coming.
“The younger customer does not want to wait any longer, they want to see it and wear it that day or the next day. So we’re going to change the rules,” he told AFP.
Fellow big hitters Tom Ford, Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Diane von Furstenberg and British luxury brand Burberry are set to follow suit with Rebecca Minkoff already offering 70 percent of her collection for immediate sale.
But Paris, which jealously guards its status as fashion’s creative capital, said the change was purely commercially driven, with the French Couture Federation claiming that young designers would suffer.
Thousands of fashionistas are descending on the French capital for the more than 90 catwalk shows of the twice yearly Women’s Fashion Week, which now extends over nine days.