Wed, Jan 14, 2009 - Page 14 News List

The economy is on the outs, but fashion is always in

Didier Grumbach, head of the most important organization in the French fashion industry, talks about how the global economic crisis is affecting the world of style

By Catherine Shu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Dressed in a sharp black Issey Miyake knit jacket, Grumbach offered more of his thoughts on the relevance of fashion weeks and the impact of corporatization and globalization on the creative process of designers.

Taipei Times: The economic crisis is forcing some designers to find alternative ways of presenting their collections, while Viktor & Rolf have pulled out of the spring 2009 fashion week in order to experiment with showing their clothing online. With all these things happening, what is your argument for the relevance of fashion week?

Didier Grumbach: A fashion show is a necessity when there is need of a demonstration. If it is innovative, provocative or controversial, then it has to be presented on a moving body. If a collection is not provocative, then it does not need a fashion show. Newness is always slightly vulgar and you must not be frightened to be vulgar, because creation is rapture and if there is no creation, then there should not be fashion shows.

In Paris, everything we show must be exported to America. If a collection only sells in France, then we never show it on the official calendar. We don’t care about the designer’s nationality. We have 10 different nationalities represented on the runway. There is no nationality on the runway, there cannot be. But what is really important is to open a way for the industry to continue. If there is no creation on the runway, then the industry is wrecked. Creativity is more important than marketing; creativity is tied to a brand. The brand is more important than the product itself. When you buy a Hermes necktie for a gift, you do not care that it is twice as expensive as another necktie, because you have an entire universe in it that you relate to.

TT: There have been reports that representatives from Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman are skipping the haute couture shows in Paris later this month. Fashion magazines are sending fewer editors as well. Are couture designers concerned about the impact this might have on their business?

DG: Couture is in fact not an industry, it is a savoir faire, a craft, and is a complement to ready-to-wear. When haute couture was organized and structured the way it was in 1944, there was no ready-to-wear as we know it today. Everything was made for you. Creative ready-to-wear did not exist. Today Chanel and Dior, the most mythical couture houses, are also at the same time among the biggest exporters of ready-to-wear, and without their ready-to-wear lines, their couture lines could not exist. Ready-to-wear is the reality, but couture is an essential element of the image. It is a service. If you love Christian Lacroix, you buy Christian Lacroix ready-to-wear, but when you have a special occasion, you have Christian Lacroix couture made for you. Couture is something that is a plus, but it is not the heart of the business and it cannot be.

TT: What is the value of haute couture then to the fashion industry?

DG: The brands that we all know were founded by artists who expressed themselves on the body rather than on a canvas. Yves St Laurent was an artist, Balenciaga was an artist and Chanel was a precursor to them. There is a big difference between couturiers and a stylist, who brings a collection into the retail market. That is a job that can be learned and that can be taught. But the creativity cannot be taught. It is a gift and something that we cannot invent.

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