Sharp cuts, no bubbly at Dior as Paris sobers up

PARIS Sun Jan 25, 2009 11:16pm IST

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PARIS Jan 25 (Reuters) - Dior scrapped the champagne and laid on the glitter at its menswear show in Paris on Sunday, trying to seduce reluctant buyers with casual suits, adventurous cuts and sparkly detail.

Christian Dior's (LVMH.PA) (DIOR.PA) Chief Executive Sidney Toledano sounded a cautiously upbeat note, saying the fashion house did not plan to cut any jobs despite the global downturn.

"It's a positive mood. We are saying in these times, it is important to dress as elegantly as possible," he told Reuters backstage after the show, surrounded by models and stylists.

Belgian designer Kris Van Assche displayed wit and craftsmanship with pin-striped hooded tops, sparkling embellishments on suits and jumpers, and a shirt that was buttoned up at the back, revealing a coquettish triangle of bare skin.

"It's about showing the cut, the material, things that are as pure as possible," Toledano said. "And you also have to make people dream, because it's a show."

But Dior's optimistic effort only partly masked the somewhat sombre atmosphere at this year's autumn/winter collections.

Luxury executives used to describe their sector as fairly recession-proof, saying the super-rich would always shop, but plummeting stock markets and teetering banks have hurt even the biggest spenders.

At the same time, the downturn has cut deep into a broad base of aspirational fashion fans -- mostly young, female professionals buying the shoes and handbags worn by their favourite celebrities.

Fashion show regulars noted that Dior and other houses have cut back on the glamorous venues and extravagant festivities that used to be a staple of Paris fashion week.

"I think they've generally hired fewer models, and there are fewer parties," said Yannick Maentele, a 19-year-old German model relaxing backstage after the Dior show.

"For example, there's no champagne here right now, that's a contrast to last year. But then again, it used to be so decadent, so maybe this is not a bad thing." (Editing by Jon Boyle)

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