Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How They Wear it: Marie-Josée Kravis, Susan Casden, Susan Gutfreund

Left Column
How they wear it: Marie-Josée Kravis

One could be forgiven for assuming the ranks of couture’s buying public are only populated by ladies who lunch and women of leisure. In fact couture also attracts a number of women who are not only financially independent but are at the height of their professional careers. Thus haute couture also counts a number of prominent professionals-doctors, lawyers, and the CEO’s of multinational companies-amongst its most loyal clients, who see couture as a way of projecting a confident and professional image in public. Marie-Josée Kravis is one such client.

A respected economist and author hailing from Montreal, Quebec, today she lives in New York with her husband Henry Kravis, a billionaire financier. She is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, President of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and also serves on the International Advisory Board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. She recently became a member of the Board of the Qatar Museum Authority. In addition to their home in New York, they also maintain a home in Paris, France.
Kravis was a loyal customer at Yves Saint Laurent before his retirement. Today although she doesn’t frequent one specific designer, she is often seen in Chanel and Dior. She’s is an example of a client who understands what works best on her and will try to adapt a designer’s creations to suit her, by removing additional embellishments or requesting a garment in a color unique to her alone.

From top: With her husband Henry Kravis in Chanel haute couture, Spring 2007; In Yves Saint Laurent haute couture, Fall 2001.

Center Column
How they wear it: Susan Casden

The Los Angeles based client Susan Casden is most recognizable as the “couture client” who appeared in the final episode of “Signé Chanel,” Loïc Prigent's documentary which chronicled the final weeks leading up to the showing of Chanel’s Fall/Winter 2004/2005 haute couture collection.

This doyenne of West Coast society, who is the wife of Alan Casden, a real estate billionaire, is reportedly Chanel's top U.S. couture client. “The first couture outfit I ever bought continues to get frequent wear," says Susan Casden of a Chanel ensemble; a black boucle jacket with a white tuxedo blouse and a black lace, tulle and feather skirt purchased after the fall collection in 2000. Over the past five years, Casden has become a serious collector, flying to Paris twice each year to attend the collections and always returning with purchases that display couture's signatures: detailed handiwork, intricate beading and unique fabrics. She is also a customer at the houses of Dior, Givenchy and Gaultier.

Casden recently received the ultimate honor from the House of Hermès (one usually reserved for such icons of fashion such as Grace Kelly and Jane Berkin) when a bag was named after her, “The Susan.” Featuring the signature Birkin closure, the roomy hold-all boasts a multitude of storage compartments. "The shoulder Birkin was quite cumbersome. This one I can take anywhere with ease," explained Casden, who waited one year for it after meeting with Hermès designers last July and traveled to Paris three to four times to monitor its progress. She shied away from revealing its price, but said it was similar to a standard Birkin.

From Top: With her husband Alan Casden; In Gaultier Paris, Fall 2006.

Right Column
How they wear it: Susan Gutfreund

A former Pan Am flight attendant, Mrs. Gutfreund hit the pages of fashion magazines 20 years ago with a splash when she accumulated a sizable haute couture wardrobe during the heyday of the stock market boom of the 80’s and early 90’s. She is the second wife of John H. Gutfreund, who ran one of Wall Street's powerhouse securities firms at the time.

During this period she frequently traveled by Concorde between her homes in New York and Paris, where she lives with her husband , in a sumptuous hotel particulier off the Boulevard Saint-Germain. In New York she spent $20 million with the French decorator Henri Samuel adding a staircase to her Fifth Avenue duplex that was almost as grand as the one in her Paris home.

With an encyclopedic knowledge of furniture and textiles, she recently set up her own interior design business and often speaks of her love of fabric innovations and embellishments, especially with regards to haute couture.
From Top: With her husband John Gutfreund photographed in Paris; In Chrisrian Lacroix Haute Couture, Fall 2005.
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