Thursday, July 9, 2009
Well so far this week at the Paris haute couture shows we have seen Christian Dior downsize its usual big bucks runway spectacle to a low-key presentation in the rooms above the Dior shop – and hack off half the outfits to send models out in their underwear. Christian Lacroix present what may have been his very last collection, after declaring bankruptcy. And now on the closing day of the haute couture schedule, the pièce de GFC résistance: Jean Paul Gaultier's show not only appears to have been sponsored by Streets’ Magnum ice creams, he actually walked down the runway to take his bow holding one. And if that wasn’t absurd enough, then this just-posted report in New York magazine’s The Cut blog, provides the following, hilarious, coda. Evidently Magnum ice creams are not well-known in the US. Because when The Times of London Tweeted that Magnums were being handed out to showgoers – New York magazine assumed The Times was talking about “Magnum condoms".
And didn’t seem to think much of it really. Even though a condom brand sponsoring a presentation of six figure ballgowns isn’t, well, something you see every day. Particularly when it's not your garden variety condom, but a brand of extra-large frangers that are marketed by Trojan.
Things aren’t quite that bad yet but who knows what the Spring/Summer 2010 Ready to Wear season will bring.
Ready-to-wear is one matter. That is, mass-produced, off-the-rack clothes that you can buy in boutiques and department stores.
By the same token however, up until now, you never saw much sponsorship collateral at shows in the big fashion cities - as distinct from RAFW in Sydney and London Fashion Week, where the brands are much smaller. This is because, presumably, the companies behind the big brands a/have the marketing budgets to spend on fashion shows and moreover b/consider that additional sponsorship collateral would only serve to undermine their branding.
Haute couture is a little different.
To begin with, the sample collections are far more expensive to produce. These are hand-crafted, often heavily-embellished garments that will be sold on a made-to-measure basis only. The more elaborate dresses - for example, Erica Packer's Christian Dior haute couture wedding dress - involve hundreds of hours of handwork. Hence the six figure price tags.
With money no object and, theoretically, no practical/commercial restraints on a couturier's imagination, haute couture is supposed to represent the absolute "dream" or essence of French fashion.
Yes, there are super-rich clients who can afford it and who keep the business going (as mentioned on Monday, Chanel reports that 2008 was a record year for its couture division). However haute couture is essentially an image proposition: a glamorous, and terribly expensive, loss leader that is used to promote the more lucrative volume divisions, ie the ready-to-wear, the accessories and of course, the far more accessible fragrances and beauty products.
But while the former president of the ice cream division of Unilever now runs one of the world's biggest luxury conglomerates - Gucci Group's Robert Polet - so far not even Gucci, which is ready-to-wear only, has considered aligning itself with ice creams.
You have to wonder what the very image-conscious Paris shows organising body, the Chambre Syndicale de la haute couture Parisienne, thinks about Gaultier's flagrant Magnum sponsorship - and whether it enhances the image of the struggling haute couture industry, or in fact cheapens it.
Moreover, what does Hermès think about it?
Not only is Gaultier creative director at the French luxury leathergoods brand, last year Hermès increased its stake in Gaultier's own company from 35-45percent. If Gaultier is flush with funds, why did he seek assistance from Streets?
Click here to see the Jean Paul Gaultier collection, which included the week’s omipresent power shoulders, trench coats – including a nifty trench bodysuit – bodycon, fur, Sydney native Alexandra Agoston-O’Connor in a pair of croc overalls and Melbourne native Emily Trimble in a mullet version of the trench. That is, miniskirt at the front, party at the back - a trend also witnessed at Chanel. Given that it means less ultra-expensive, hand-embellished haute couture fabric overall for the dresses in question, perhaps we can also blame this trend on the economic climate.
New York Mag, pls see below for some Magnum comparisons.
A Magnum ice cream:
Not to be confused with a Magnum condom:
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