Jan 25, 2015
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Paris fashion week shifts up into Haute Couture mode

Jan 25, 2015

After days of men's ready-to-wear clothes, Paris Fashion Week shifted up a gear on Sunday to its marquee event: the Haute Couture shows that happen only in the French capital.

Italian house Versace was be the first to step into the prestige whirl of handmade women's collections for spring-summer 2015.

In all, 24 catwalk shows, including ones by Chanel, Christian Dior and Valentino, are to take place, filling palaces, museums and more offbeat venues in Paris with celebrities, journalists and the extremely wealthy women who can afford the creations whose price tags run into tens of thousands of euros (dollars).

France is the only country to boast Haute Couture, twice a year, in January and in July.

The designation is protected by French law and attributed exclusively by the ministry of industry.

Houses -- French and non-French -- that win the label have to show their high-end clothes are entirely made by hand and tailored to each client.

Only 14 outlets are allowed to say they are full-fledged Haute Couture, most of them highly recognisable French designers.

The most recent to be admitted into the very exclusive club is Alexandre Vauthier, which counts pop divas Rihanna and Beyonce among its fans.

Many other wannabes are lined up hoping to get in.

Some of the other shows happening in Paris are by fashion houses that have achieved an intermediate status, or which have been invited on a temporary basis. Versace, Valentino, Viktor&Rolf, Yiqing Yin and Schiaparelli are in those categories.

- 'International notoriety' -

"The Haute Couture label allows a brand to make its name internationally more quickly and gives a lot more visibility," explained Didier Grumbach, a fashion expert and former president of the Federation Française de la Couture that organises the shows.

Schiaparelli, a legendary house founded in 1930 that once rivalled Coco Chanel, will roll out its creation on Monday despite the surprise departure of its esteemed Italian creative director, Marco Zanini, last November.

The brand had been in hibernation for six decades before making its Haute Couture comeback a year ago.

Internationally famed brands Dior and Chanel will show on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

And on Friday many eyes will be trained on Jean Paul Gaultier, who late last year announced he was ditching his ready-to-wear collections entirely to concentrate on Haute Couture and other projects.

The biggest hole in the calendar is Maison Margiela, which has taken on John Galliano three years after the British designer disgraced himself out his Dior job by making drunken anti-Semitic comments in a Paris bar.

In a snub to Paris and those who spurned him, Galliano opted this month to show an "artisinale" collection in London -- a decision that raised eyebrows and that, if repeated, could cause Margiela to lose its Haute Couture status.

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