Paris haute couture strips down in crisis

Mon Jul 6, 2009 1:20pm EDT
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By Sophie Hardach

PARIS (Reuters) - The Paris haute couture shows opened with pared-down collections and sober comments Monday, as the financial woes of designer Christian Lacroix forced even the world's most extravagant fashion scene to face economic reality.

On the catwalks, sequined gowns with billowing trains spoke of luxury, but backstage the talk was of cash-strapped Americans and crisis-hit Lacroix, whose fashion house is under creditor protection and struggling to find a buyer.

"The collections of the 1990s, the 2000s, which were all about spectacle -- that's over," couturier Stephane Rolland told Reuters before his show of soft white, grey and black draped dresses and sharply tailored jackets with pleated collars.

"I think couturiers have understood that haute couture has to be about sellable, commercial pieces, exceptional ones of course with a true Parisian savoir-faire," said Rolland in a changing room crammed with photographers, stylists and half-naked models.

Even British designer John Galliano, who in January defied the economic crisis with opulent silk gowns, showed a simpler yet playful collection featuring tulle skirts with corsets and lace dresses with garter belts for Dior.

U.S. socialites, Asian tycoons and Middle Eastern royals in search of wedding dresses have kept a small number of haute couture houses and their Parisian workshops afloat, and at the last round of shows that fan base still turned out in force.

But the fate of Lacroix, whose fairytale displays of embroidered silks and bubble dresses used to be one of the highlights of the Paris shows, cast a shadow over this season.


<p>A model presents a creation by French designer Christophe Josse as part of his Autumn/Winter 2009-2010 Haute Couture fashion show in Paris July 6, 2009. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes</p>