Friday, January 28, 2011

Snagging a Coveted (Second Row) Seat at the Paris Haute Couture

Ever since the couture shows turned into a media frenzy, most Middle Eastern clients have avoided attending them all together in favor of private viewings at the couture houses. While more regular customers increasingly chose to view the collections online, before having the house fly over a seamstress for the pre-requisite fittings.

Despite this, a new generation of Arab clients are increasingly attending the runway presentations for much the same reason as everyone else: to experience the sheer spectacle of an haute couture show. Although most of these clients are typically offered a front row seat, they will gladly give up their place in exchange for a spot in the second (or even third row), insuring they maintain their privacy while taking in the show.

The PR personnel and Directrices of the couture houses have taken note of the trend. So much so, that the seating charts at the shows are now divided down the middle. On one side of the room is the “press section,” where celebrities and editors are lined up, to insure that the paparazzi’s attention is turned away from publicity shy clients.

Couture client Daniele Steel attending a Christian Lacroix Haute Couture show in 2003 with her daughters Victoria, Samantha, Vanessa and Beatrice. Seated behind them to the right (in a green suit) is the well known Iraqi London-based couture client Nada Kirdar.

Today, American clients form a tiny fraction of couture’s regular customers, which includes a large number of young clients from the Middle East and Russia. The American line up at the Chanel couture show included from left: Dede Wilsey, Daniele Steel, Marie-Josée Kravis and Susan Casden.

Couture shows of past: An intimate presentation at Christian Dior, 1950’s

Dior’s couture salon, located on the second floor of its Avenue Montaigne head quarters. Most of couture’s regular clients from the Middle East, who still make the trip to Paris, head straight for the couture house’s private salon, where they can examine each piece up close and make their orders.

Typically, the couture salon is located on the second floor of a couture house and is off limits to the general public. Despite this, it is an informal atmosphere where clients can interact with the directrice and sales person. The clothes are usually hung on racks, with an in-house mannequin available to model a dress upon request.

The Givenchy and Gaultier Paris couture salons.

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