Dior Chief Optimistic for Couture Future as Paris Shows Begin
Christian Dior chief Sidney Toledano on Monday told Agence France Presse the house was winning new couture customers and that China was the "big market of tomorrow", as womenswear artistic director Raf Simons kicked off four days of shows in Paris.
Lee Radziwill, sister of the late Jackie Kennedy, and Princess Charlene of Monaco were among those who turned out for Simons' second couture show since replacing the disgraced John Galliano last year.
Bernadette Chirac, wife of former French president Jacques Chirac, and Valerie Trierweiler, President Francois Hollande's partner, were also in the front row.
With sleet falling outside, there were nervous scenes in the Place de la Concorde as fashionistas slipped on ice in five-inch-high turquoise stilettos.
Inside, however, Simons transformed a corner of Paris's Tuileries Garden into an oasis of greenery and birdsong for a spring 2013 collection with a strong emphasis on layering and lack of symmetry.
"I wanted to do a very self-explanatory collection this season. I wanted it to literally be about the season; to be about the very idea of spring," he said.
Standing out were dreamy silk evening dresses in pale blue and black teamed with opaque stockings and towering two-tone heels.
Others included a bright yellow, off white, black and nude silk bustier cocktail dress and a midnight blue light wool tuxedo.
"There is a sense of the collection growing and changing from where we started with the couture last season. Yet still always with a sense of continuity and reality for the wearer," Simons added.
Toledano said Dior was constantly expanding its client base and paid tribute to Simons' contribution.
The Belgian designer was appointed last year following the sacking of the flamboyant Galliano after a video emerged of him hurling anti-Semitic abuse in a Paris bar.
Dior Couture had had an "excellent" 2012 with new clients especially in South America and Asia, Toledano said.
The situation in the U.S. also improved in 2012 with a "revival of consumption at the luxury end of the scale".
As a result of the impact of Simons' collections "we saw more young clients… there is a wearability… the Raf effect on haute couture is very important", he added.
New couture customer Emily Hwang, 40, a property investor from Singapore, said she was one of a growing number of Asian clients.
Speaking after Italian designer Maurizio Galante's show on Monday, she told AFP she had been introduced to couture by her business partner and fallen in love with it.
"I think Asia is ready now, it (couture) is coming up especially in China, there is a lot of spending power now."
The mother-of-two, whose husband is in diamond mining in Asia and South Africa, said European and U.S. designers had started to understand Asia's potential.
"They are interested to showcase what they have," she said, adding that "at the end of the day it is all about sales, that is what is important."
Catering to no more than 200 of the world's richest women, haute couture is a protected appellation in France, awarded based on strict criteria such as the amount of work carried out by hand and in-house.
Four days of spring 2013 couture shows wrap up on Thursday.