Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode

Sidaction Gala Returns to Paris Couture Week After Two-Year Hiatus

Sidaction Gala Returns to Paris Couture Week After Two-Year Hiatus

PARIS — The fashion industry celebrated the end of Paris Couture Week with the Sidaction gala dinner, back for its first physical edition since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.Designers and celebrities came together for the fundraising event, organized in partnership with the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, and hosted by Sidaction ambassador and artistic director Jean Paul Gaultier, who launched proceedings with a fashion show featuring the contestants of “Drag Race France.”

Jean Paul Gaultier at the Sidaction gala with the cast of “Drag Race France.”
François Goizé/Courtesy of Sidaction

Dotted around the room were designers including Matthew Williams, Iris van Herpen, Glenn Martens, Camille Miceli, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, Alexis Mabille, Bianca Saunders and Yang Li. Also present were Tracee Ellis Ross, Camille Razat, Big Matthew, Rossy de Palma, Jeanne Damas and Carla Bruni, who was joined mid-dinner by her husband, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

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“I work for Netflix,” French actor Samuel Arnold demurely replied to a guest who wondered why he looked so familiar. Since his summer will be spent on the set of “Emily in Paris,” where he portrays the ever-sarcastic Julien, he wasn’t planning ahead all that much.
“Who knows? I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow,” joked the actor, noting that the hit show had opened doors for him abroad. In his sights is Los Angeles, especially now that he has signed with prominent talent agency APA.
Taking in the Pavillon Cambon Capucines decked in red, Arnold declared the evening “mesmerizing” and said he was happy to support the cause. He didn’t know about the always buzzy lucky draw. “Already being here is a prize in itself,” he said.

Inès de la Fressange and Guillaume Henry
Dominique MAITRE/WWD

Guillaume Henry was still taking in the responses — good and bad — to Julia Fox’s appearance in his first physical runway show for Patou.
“She’s not one of my personal muses but all the girls at the office were talking about her all the time,” he admitted. The designer became interested in Fox once he saw her supporting emerging designers, and his team reached out.
“She represents a [new wave] of female empowerment. For me, a ‘militant woman’ looked like [French politician] Simone Weil. Today, she’s wearing micro-skirts and boots, she totes her kid like a bag, and it’s fascinating,” he continued, describing Fox as “smart, in love with clothing and a bit nervous” and comparing her to a modern-day Marilyn Monroe.
Fresh from winning the ANDAM Fashion Award, Lisi Herrebrugh and Rushemy Botter were preparing to head to the Cayman Islands – part vacation, part research trip. They’ve been running their Botter menswear brand with a team of just three people and were grateful for the 300,000-euro prize money.
“First of all we’re going to invest it in more structure in Botter, hiring people, also in developing fabrics, so bio-fabricated from algae, working with engineers. We can move quicker now,” Botter said.
The evening was a breather for Paris-based Spanish designer Arturo Obegero, who had donned one of his jackets with a dramatic fluted open neckline with tuxedo trousers.
Before he can enjoy a summer break that will see him head toward the Mediterranean, he was doubling down on the production of his menswear line. “After a collection, I always have a kind of epiphany that I then have to process. So things will be cooking throughout the summer,” he said between courses.

Victor Weinsanto and Charles de Vilmorin were feeling energized by the influx of tourists and fashion editors to Paris. “Life is finally returning. I hope it lasts. It feels good and it motivates you,” said Weinsanto. “Yes, it’s good to see things going back to normal and almost more extreme than before, I feel. It’s really quite brilliant,” de Vilmorin enthused.
But the two fledgling designers don’t plan to join in the revelry. Asked what his plans were for summer, Weinsanto said: “Work.”

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Ralph Toledano: Why Paris Is Flourishing

Ralph Toledano: Why Paris Is Flourishing

The buzz is coming back — online and IRL.
Paris Men’s Fashion Week is in full swing, declared officially open on Tuesday via a spirited video address from “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy. Travis Scott is in town to unveil a collaboration with Kim Jones at Dior, one of a handful of brands holding live runway spectacles with real audiences. Editors and influencers from across Europe have trickled back into the French capital for the first time in about 15 months as pandemic-related restrictions ease on a good swath of the continent.
On the heels of the men’s wear showcase is one of the newsiest haute couture weeks in decades, which has Ralph Toledano smiling. The president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode spoke to WWD about the resilience of the French fashion industry, the effervescent cultural scene in Paris and why haute couture is flourishing.

WWD: Like most European countries, France endured long and difficult lockdowns. How would you describe the industry reactivity?
Ralph Toledano: We have to pay a huge tribute to the French fashion industry for its spontaneous and impressive efforts to fight the pandemic and its financial consequences. Amid shortages of face masks and sanitizing gel, the industry converted its facilities to produce them freely. In addition, the biggest luxury groups turned down the financial help offered by the government support plan, notably in terms of furlough indemnities.

On the business side, the reactivity and the resilience of French fashion brands have been impressive. Whereas in other countries, a lot of companies have disappeared with a high number of jobs eliminated, the French fashion industry has come out of the crisis stronger than ever, and ready to embrace the new growth opportunities.
Companies have reviewed their offer, downsized their collections, adapted them to new needs and adjusted pricing. They digitalized their activities in an extremely fast way, strengthening their direct relationship with the customer. They took advantage of their strong presence, and performed exceptionally well in the only growing markets in the world — Asia Pacific and, notably, China. Sustainability has also become a top priority, and even if there is a long way to go, our sector is now focused on the task.
WWD: Paris took the lion’s share of attention for the women’s fall 2021 shows, with a media impact value $132 million. Those Launchmetrics tallies put Paris ahead of Milan, and dwarf smaller fashion weeks in New York and London. What does the data tell you?
R.T.: Data shows how strong the impact of creative videos has been. Digitalization spawned new areas for creativity and opened the doors of fashion to the final costumer all over the world. It has been a giant step.
WWD: How will Paris Fashion Week maintain its stature as the most important fashion capital, physical and digital?
R.T.: The same selection criteria have been applied for the participants since 1868 for haute couture and 1973 for ready-to-wear: creativity, craftsmanship and internationalization. We will continue using the same guidelines, which have made Paris the indisputable fashion capital of the world. It is now also the fashion capital in the digital world. Our position has lately been strongly reinforced by the support of public powers. I’m referring to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has met with editors and helps us with show venues, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron, who has welcomed designers to the Élysée Palace for gala events, spending time with the city’s creative movers and shakers.

WWD: This men’s week, and the forthcoming haute couture week in particular, feature an encouraging number of physical shows. Do you expect a full return to live fashion weeks soon?
R.T.: We expect a total return to physical shows in September, as long as the health situation continues to improve. Press, buyers, designers and fashion professionals in general can’t wait to resume physical shows. Digital events cannot replace them: The full expression of creative fashion requires a real-life emotion. But the industry will now also benefit from the creative digital power. Digital tools, notably videos and livestreaming, will generate a considerable amount of content for the brands to communicate with their communities.
WWD: What’s the future of the federation’s digital platform?
R.T.: The digital platform that we have set up with Launchmetrics has been very successful and we will keep on developing it. We have already started doing that this season, introducing NFTs and augmented reality. The platform is also inseparable from the media partnerships that we have built up, in particular with YouTube, Canal and now Tencent. We will continue to enrich this global ecosystem with our members.
WWD: Most fashion weeks, including Paris, splintered during the pandemic, with several major brands showing on their own calendar now. How will the federation entice them back?
R.T.: First, let me state that the huge majority of our brands have followed our decision to release their videos at exactly the same slots as pre-COVID-19. A very limited number of brands did not for different reasons: delays in industrial production; post-production schedules after shooting videos, etc., but as soon as physical fashion weeks will get back, these impediments will naturally vanish.
WWD: The see now, buy now model seems to be gaining currency again. How does the federation feel about it?
R.T.: When this model was suggested, we stated very clearly that it could work for strictly marketing-driven brands, but absolutely not for creative brands. Time has shown that we were right.
WWD: Do fashion weeks still have professional resonance, in your view, or are they becoming pure consumer events?

R.T.: The rationale of fashion weeks is more legitimate than ever. Ask any professional — they will all tell you how impatient they are to go back to the pre-COVID-19 fashion weeks. Virtual showrooms, for example, were extremely helpful during lockdowns, but buyers will tell you that they are often disappointed by what they receive just because they could not see, touch and evaluate the silhouette or the fit of a physical sample in person. They could not meet face to face with their vendors either, and those moments are essential to build a mutually profitable relationship.
On the other side, the digital tools have proven extremely effective to reach out to the final client, which is critical for the success of our brands. Being in touch with your community, being able to communicate your purpose and your values, and assemble a strong data base is indispensable for the brands.
WWD: Paris is brimming with new cultural venues, retail attractions and scores of new restaurants and galleries. How do you explain this explosion of new energy, and how is the federation seizing on it?
R.T.: There is now a huge entrepreneurial and cultural energy in France, which is the most attractive European country for investment. Almost 1 million companies of all types have been created in France in 2020 and the tech and start-up scene is flourishing, as was shown at the successful VivaTech event recently. Fashion and luxury are at the heart of the Parisian identity.
The great initiatives emerging now in Paris will strengthen its economic and cultural power. Paris Fashion Week as a major global event will benefit from this enriched ecosystem and at the same time contribute to its success.
WWD: I understand the federation is stepping up its efforts around emerging designers. Can you elaborate on this and explain how they fit into the ecosystem?
R.T.: The federation has a department dedicated to emerging brands, which brings its expertise in every single aspect of fashion management. Sphere offers a showroom for these brands at every fashion week, and it is now running at full speed through June 27. For the last seasons, we put in place a virtual showroom through a collaboration with Le New Black.

Last September, we also created a fashion fund to financially support emerging brands during this pandemic crisis, and I thank very warmly the fund contributors, including the big French brands. We have a committee that decides how to dispense the money, and we’ve helped between 25 and 30 designers per season. Emerging talents are the future of fashion, either by working for existing brands or by starting their own companies. We are therefore committed to support them.
WWD: Paris Fashion Weeks have always been a platform for talents from around the world. How are the upcoming men’s and couture weeks stacking up in this regard?
R.T.: The selection of newcomers, as well as the exit of previously invited brands, are decided by industry experts committees chaired by the president of each Chambre Syndicale. The current men’s and upcoming haute couture weeks will be transitional, as they are mixes of digital events, physical shows held in Paris as well as shows taking place abroad because of the COVID-19 crisis. The majority of the presentations will still be digital. In total, we will have 72 houses for men’s wear and 34 for haute couture.
WWD: People have been predicting the end of haute couture for years, yet here we have a calendar brimming with new names. How do you explain this?
R.T.: Some people, notably the late Pierre Bergé, predicted that haute couture would die. Time showed that they were wrong and haute couture remains a major and distinctive pillar of French fashion. In a world more and more digitalized and profoundly transformed by AI, it represents the highest degree of human know-how and creativity.
Economic factors explain the strength of haute couture. Since the 1980s with the inception of the Reaganomics in the U.S., the globalization of the economy has, in the Western world, made the rich people wealthier and the number of high-net-worth individuals higher. The fall of the Berlin Wall sparked an impressive growth in Eastern Europe, and yielded a substantial number of ultra-wealthy people, notably from Russia. Finally, the extraordinary development of Asia Pacific and China, especially, brought a large group of new high-income customers. At the same time, sales in the Middle East kept growing.

The offer has also improved and expanded. The most prestigious fashion houses and heritage brands have heavily invested in haute couture as it is a unique laboratory for rtw, an exceptional vehicle in terms of image and a profitable business for the major players. Haute couture entices designers wanting to express freely their creativity, discover the possibilities offered by new technologies and new sustainability practices. Each season, the federation receives an impressive amount of applications for admission in the haute couture calendar.
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Paris Couture Houses Adopt Remote Working

Paris Couture Houses Adopt Remote Working

PARIS — When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
That seems to be the motto for Paris Couture Week, as leading luxury houses and designers adapt to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic by showing their exclusive, made-to-measure creations virtually and learning to work with their wealthy clients remotely. 
“This pandemic has led us to develop a new way of presenting collections digitally. It’s forced us to be imaginative,” said Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, French fashion’s organizing body.
“When we emerge from this, as we eventually will, we will return to physical shows, but we’ll be able to enrich our communication content with all these different things we’ve tested and very often successfully implemented on the digital side,” he added.

Houses that had planned to stage physical shows this season were forced to adjust at the last minute after French authorities banned public gatherings in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19. As another wave of lockdowns spread across Europe and beyond, Jean Paul Gaultier, Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad, Georges Hobeika and Ralph & Russo dropped out of the couture schedule.
A sketch from the Christian Dior Haute Couture spring 2021 collection.  Courtesy of Dior

Despite the challenges, 28 houses are participating this season, including Chanel, Dior, Giambattista Valli, Giorgio Armani Privé and Valentino. Kim Jones is set to make his highly anticipated women’s wear debut for Fendi, marking the first time the Roman house, which usually shows once a year in July, presents a spring couture collection. 

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The season will also mark the full return of Alber Elbaz to the fashion scene, more than five years after he exited Lanvin. The designer is to unveil his long-awaited AZ Factory project on Jan. 26 with a film, the first volley of his new digital and entertainment-driven approach to fashion. 
Rounding out the newcomers are U.S. artist Sterling Ruby, who closes the week with his S.R.Studio.LA.CA. brand, and 24-year-old Charles de Vilmorin, making his couture debut less than a year after launching his label. Although not on the official schedule, New York-based label Area also plans to present its first couture line on Jan. 28. 
After sitting out last season in Paris, Giorgio Armani had hoped to host a physical show in Milan to support his home city. “I announced this back in May when we thought that we would be out of our difficulties by this January. However, that sadly proved to be over-optimistic,” the designer told WWD.
Instead, he will hold a fashion show behind closed doors at Palazzo Orsini, to be broadcast on social media. “My couture ateliers have been working hard for months now on a new collection, and I believe it is right and proper to show this to the world, even if that is via a screen rather than in person,” Armani said.
He noted that the first time he broadcast a couture show was in 2007.
“I was probably the first designer to do so. There is actually something I like about showing the world of couture to a wider audience. Naturally, by its very nature couture is a refined and rarefied art, but its symbolic significance is that it expresses a designer’s aesthetic at its most unconstrained and imaginative — in the context of fashion, it is creativity in its purest form,” Armani argued.

Chanel also switched its plans at short notice. The French luxury house initially hoped to stage two shows for 300 guests each at the Grand Palais in Paris. It has tapped photographer Anton Corbijn to shoot the looks and film a runway show without guests that will be unveiled online on Tuesday.
“We had worked from the start on two possible scenarios for the next collections, both for haute couture and ready-to-wear. It’s important to be able to anticipate the situation and not to be caught out,” said Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS.
He reported that clients had responded positively to the house’s Métiers d’Art collection, filmed in December at a chateau in the Loire Valley with an audience of just one: celebrity ambassador Kristen Stewart. “We’re trying to reinforce the storytelling,” the executive said. 
Its last couture collection, presented digitally in July, sold less than usual, though Pavlovsky was encouraged to see that top customers engaged with the ateliers in Paris via Zoom, FaceTime or Teams. “Deliveries are taking longer, not because the workshops are slower, but because it’s harder to connect with clients,” he noted.
Fittings are done remotely, and Chanel has set up specialized teams in countries like China and the U.S. to coordinate the process. “I think it will work even better this season, because we learned a lot of lessons from the first one,” Pavlovsky said. “We’re trying to be as open as possible and to listen to our clients’ wishes.”
A sketch from the Schiaparelli Haute Couture spring 2021 collection.  Courtesy of Schiaparelli

Proof that working long-distance can be effective: Schiaparelli designed, produced and shipped Lady Gaga’s outfit for the presidential inauguration in a record 10 days. “The distance did not stop us, on the contrary, it made us more creative and more daring,” said the house’s chief executive officer Delphine Bellini.
“We’ve rethought the way we see and do things,” she continued. “We have completely embraced digital, both to communicate remotely, present our collections, direct fittings with our clients, but also by providing them with an exclusive e-boutique associated with personalized services from our sales team.”
Having been forced to postpone a planned event in Los Angeles in December, Schiaparelli hopes to open a shop-in-shop at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City this year. Viktor & Rolf, meanwhile, is working with multibrand retailers on a series of pop-up exhibitions, beginning in Tokyo in February.
“We believe that we need to keep combining physical and digital, with the idea that on the physical channel, we can display a deeper level of content, because you can really see the product, you can touch the product,” said Andrea Collesei, CEO of Viktor & Rolf.
After the popular success of Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren’s digital couture presentation last season, featuring a satirical voiceover by singer Mika, the brand plans to extend the event beyond its couture week slot. 
“We believe that it’s important to create content throughout the whole season, and so contrary to last time, you will see content dropped not necessarily only during the show, but also during the following months,” Collesei said.
“The designers find that the digital presentation is giving them the freedom to emphasize even more the experimental approach to their couture, so they are really keen on working on that side and using the presentation of couture as a sort of content factory,” he added.
The label is also tweaking its bridal, eveningwear and cocktail lines as it prepares to launch a revamped website and e-commerce platform in the first quarter. “The old concepts of eveningwear, formalwear, casualwear — they don’t make any sense anymore,” Collesei said.
“In our opinion, the new request of the consumer is for a product that is more fluid, a product that you can wear for a social event, but also for a video call, or because you’re comfortable at home, but you want to wear something special. So we are trying to experiment around with that,” he added.
Armani said the demand for couture at the moment is mainly from Asia and the Middle East, where health restrictions have been less severe in recent months. “This makes me think that once the rest of the world starts to regain its equilibrium, we will see an increase in demand for beautiful things, including couture,” he predicted.
Still, it won’t be business as usual, the designer predicted. “The fashion industry has, in my opinion, been due for a reckoning for a while now. Concerns like waste, the environment, too much product of poor quality, a marketing-driven approach that can lead to a disconnection with what the consumer really wants,” he enumerated.
“I hope that fashion will now review its priorities, learning from this experience,” Armani added.
Schiaparelli’s Bellini is also convinced the future format of couture week needs to adapt, even if she’s looking forward to the return of runway shows, which support a vast ecosystem of workshops and suppliers in France.
“Profound changes have taken place and I do not believe it would be relevant to go back to what was done before COVID-19, and do it the same way,” she said.
“We have to look at things in a different way, take the time to build projects in a more responsible way and acknowledge the fact that things must evolve, that there are societal and environmental issues that we must not turn away from,” the executive added.
Though Chanel has already announced it plans to stage its cruise show in May in Les Baux-de-Provence, a picturesque hilltop village in the south of France, Pavlovsky was wary for the immediate future. 
“2021 will be another year of transition,” he said, noting that the house has suspended all plans to stage repeat shows for its Métiers d’Art and couture collections in the first half of the year. “It’s clear that fashion week in March will still be a little weird.”
See also: 
Schiaparelli Designer Talks About Dressing Lady Gaga for the Inauguration
Jean Paul Gaultier Postpones Couture Show
Elie Saab Drops Out of Paris Couture Week

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