Paris haute couture learns to make do and mend

Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:18pm EST
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By Sophie Hardach

PARIS (Reuters) - Swathes of silk and clouds of tulle charmed pop stars and the super-rich at Paris haute couture shows this week, while off the catwalk the talk was of ways to create luxury with meager means.

As big names like Christian Dior and Giorgio Armani flew in celebrities for an hour of opulence, newcomers revealed a somewhat less glamorous side of fashion -- such as personally sewing together gowns to save money.

"I like clothes that make me feel good, that I can mix," pop star Tina Turner told Reuters at the Giorgio Armani Prive show, dominating a front row full of actresses.

The feel-good factor of haute couture gowns is essential to the world's most expensive brands, helping them sell bags and perfume to the masses, but that formula seemed less certain as several houses faced deep losses and redundancies.

From Christian Lacroix to Cacharel, a number of famous names have fallen victim to the economic downturn. The not-so-famous ones are trying to survive with a mix of grit and elegance.

Alexandre Vauthier, who on Monday showed a collection of batman dresses in black or shock colors with chunky rhinestone belts and chokers, started his label about a year ago.

After his first collection last year, in the middle of the economic crisis, retailer Bon Marche ordered 15 dresses -- but Vauthier did not have the funds to have them produced.

"I was glad to earn a bit of money, so I hand-sewed the 15 dresses with a friend," he said. The two were holed up in a cottage in the countryside until they finished the job.   Continued...

<p>Models present creations by French designer Anne Valerie Hash at the end of her Haute-Couture Spring Summer 2010 fashion show in Paris January 25, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau</p>