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BOF: Monique Lhuillier is the latest designer to align with the Paris haute couture schedule.

04.4.17

NEW YORK, United States — Joining a growing cohort of ready-to-wear designers showing during haute couture week, Monique Lhuillier will present her Spring 2018 collection at an intimate runway show in Paris in July. The designer, known for eveningwear and bridal, will reveal her forthcoming resort collection at the same time.

“After showing for 15 years now in New York Fashion Week, I feel like it’s time to be in front of international editors and grow our international exposure,” says Lhuillier, who did not stage a runway show in February, presenting by appointment as she considered her next move. “Also, with my aesthetic… a lot of [my clientele] are in Paris during couture.”

Haute couture week is quickly becoming a popular choice for ready-to-wear designers aiming to cut through the clutter and align their main lines with the lucrative sales period for pre-collections, when buyers spend about 80 percent of their budgets. In January, both Proenza Schouler and Rodarte announced plans to show in Paris in July, following in the footsteps of Vetements, which made the move in early 2016.

“We see what’s happening, the way that things are moving,” says Pascal Morand, executive president of the Fédération Française de la Couture, adding that he thinks designers are also interested in aligning with the haute couture schedule because they want to be associated with the spirit and craftsmanship of the tradition. “I’m not surprised that this is attractive as an environment, because it is reflecting what is happening today — this need and wish to be close to the product and to have the power of the hand, and have this ultimate sensory experience,” he says.

“One of the attractions of Paris is that it is still this unique place where any journalist from any country comes.”

But of course, showing during Paris Couture Week also has several distinct operational advantages. “Moving your collection to an earlier date can be an extraordinary move in that you get to buy the collection earlier, you get to produce it earlier and you get to receive it earlier,” explains Ikram Goldman, owner of Chicago boutique Ikram. “With Rodarte, for example, their clothes are so brilliantly intricate that if they need an extra few weeks to get an item out, we should allocate for that.” Pieces that arrive at the end of September, for example, only have a few weeks on the floor before promotions begin in October.

While Goldman allocates much of her budget to runway pieces, most traditional retailers spent the majority of their seasonal budgets on pre-collections that deliver earlier and drive the majority of sales. By the time buyers see an in-season collection debut during fashion month, they typically have much less budget to spend. “They come back to the showroom in October, but it’s for a few key items or pieces that they should have in the shop that get attention,” says Nathalie Ours, partner at PR Consulting Paris.

Monique Lhuillier has never shown her resort collection on the runway and hopes that by showing both collections simultaneously, “[buyers] will be able to split the buy, and it will be more representative of what’s on the runway.”

She also hopes to gain more exposure to press and buyers from around the world, who come to Paris to see both couture and pre-season collections, which are typically presented simultaneously in showrooms. “The calendar of pre-collection is perfect for couture week,” says Lucien Pagès, founder of his namesake PR and communications agency. He says the schedule is even more beneficial in January, when the last day of Paris Men’s Fashion Week overlaps with the first day of haute couture. “You still have a lot of menswear editors who are in town, while the womenswear arrive for couture.” In July, however, one week separates the two sets of shows.

“One of the attractions of Paris is that it is still this unique place where any journalist from any country comes,” says Ours. Plus, haute couture week is not as packed as the city’s ready-to-wear weeks in March and October. “In five days in Paris, you can get a lot of attention,” she says. “You’re not in the middle of 100 shows, you’re in the middle of maybe altogether not even 50 shows, probably 30 shows. Then it means also in the news in general, they have more space for you.”

Pagès says the atmosphere of Couture Week is changing, too. “[Before], the press was much more luxury press and top editors. It was less cool than prét-a-porter.” Now it is more common for ready-to-wear brands to use haute couture week to launch fragrances, open stores or debut capsule collections. They take advantage of the editors and celebrity influencers who are in town for the evening couture shows. “I think it came with the explosion of events in fashion,” says Pagès.

“Coming to Paris, whether it’s October or July, makes a big difference on the international scene,” says Ours, predicting that the activity will spread across Paris Men’s Week and Couture Week. “My feeling is that it’s going to be a more and more important moment.”

The global awareness that Paris can provide is important to Lhuillier, who is eyeing potential new store locations in London and Hong Kong. But unlike the other designers mentioned here, she is not committing to the city and couture week long-term. Los Angeles, where her business is based, is another option. “We are open to experimenting with what’s right for the brand,” she says. “It feels very freeing.”

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