Yes, You Can Still Run a Successful Couture House

While plenty of tears were shed after Christian Lacroix's final couture show last summer, the imminent demise of the craft has been talked about for d
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While plenty of tears were shed after Christian Lacroix's final couture show last summer, the imminent demise of the craft has been talked about for d
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While plenty of tears were shed after Christian Lacroix's final couture show last summer, the imminent demise of the craft has been talked about for decades. As the 2010 spring/summer season kicked off yesterday, the topic has risen to the top of the conversation heap yet again. But here's the thing. Couture will never die. Well, not completely. There will always be super super rich women--right now, most of them live in the Middle East--who are willing to spend six figures or more on fancy dresses. And in today's WWD, European editor Miles Socha argues that emerging economies like China are just now dabbling in made-to-measure, so those are the markets couture houses should be focusing on. What's more, there is still money to be made in traditional markets like Europe and the US as well. Sure, couture costs a lot to produce, but it also costs a lot to buy. As long as the house has other streams of revenue coming in--accessories, perfume, ready-to-wear--it can afford to keep the couture arm going.

The sector can even profit. When you've got the money to pour into a very pricey area of production, the results are usually better. Givenchy, for example, is predicting an 10-20% increasing in couture sales for 2010. (The LVMH-backed brand saw a 10% jump in 2009.) Dior, also backed by LVMH saw couture sales increase in both 2008 and 2009. And Chanel's sales increased by more than 20% in 2007, just before the crash. So what, then, should a someone like Lacroix, who has no taste for secondary lines, let alone fragrances and accessories, do in order to preserve his way of life? Take the Jimmy Choo route and go bespoke. The famous shoemaker hasn't been a working part of his eponymous collection for years. Instead, he operates a small studio called Jimmy Choo Couture, where he makes customized heels for clients. If Lacroix could do this while making a little bit of money off of his current licensing agreement, his clients would stay happy and the great couturier could move on from this whole debacle, proving to a younger generation of designers that they could accomplish the same thing.