Thursday, May 28, 2009

Couture loses another master?

The fashion world has been given another kick in their stylish pants with the news that Christian Lacroix, the french couture house, has filed for bankruptcy protection today.

The U.S.-owned company has been having major financial issues for years; never making a profit and barely breaking even. Customers have been cancelling or reducing orders and ready-to-wear sales for the fall season were down 35 per cent.

But it's not just Lacroix that's in trouble: Luxury behemoth LVMH just scrapped a plan to open a Louis Vuitton flagship store in Tokyo and earlier this year Chanel laid off 200 temporary employees.

The Times explains the impact of Lacroix's filing:

"The loss of Christian Lacroix to Paris haute couture is immeasurable. Although the designer hopes to hold a small presentation during the July couture season, this was the last house established under the formal couture rules. Even a restructuring would likely have severe implications on his 125-member staff."

But the haute couture market has been on the downturn for a long time; either closing because they didn't make enough of a profit or the great masters have stepped down (or died.)

I wrote an article about the decline of haute couture in Naked Eye magazine and related it to Valentino's retirement. My reason for saying that haute couture was a dying business was because of big business. Couture is not profitable. In fact just putting on an haute couture show can cost millions of dollars which the company will not make back. There are only a handful of people who can afford couture and their numbers are dwindling fast.

So it should be no suprise that Lacroix, renowned for its beautiful couture, is filing for bankruptcy protection. The real money is in accessories and ready-to-wear but even that market is taking a beating since people are realizing that it might be a tad bit insane to spend $1000 on a bag or $3000 on a dress.

The Times says:

"But just as royalty now has less attention than celebrity, so couture has lost its unique prestige, with the word bandied about by any high-end designer. And whereas fragrances produced from the mystique of haute couture once kept the houses afloat, now it is just as likely that a hip jeans brand like Diesel or a celebrity like Jennifer Lopez will have the perfume hit that has stubbornly eluded Lacroix."

So, with Paris Haute Couture week coming quickly in July, will there be one less House showing a collection? A friend of mine thinks that the company will be bailed out but I'm not so sure. Who would want to buy a company that doesn't make money?

But for the sake of fashion, I hope Lacroix will get help and is able to present a collection. We need beautiful clothes to look at now more than ever.

Photos from the Christian Lacroix Spring 2009 Couture show:


s. said...

I'm so sad...

WendyB said...

It's really true that people throw around the word "couture" without having any idea what it really means. I blame Juicy!