Paris Vs Los Angeles

International Herald Tribune, March 9-10, 2002 If Paris is the fashion capital of the world, why are so few world-famous celebrities flying the tricolor? Year after year, the red carpets outside the American awards shows are awash with the dazzling creations of the Italians Giorgio Armani, Donatella Versace and Valentino. And staple American designers Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein never miss a ceremony. But Parisian outfits are few and far between. For more from Jessica Michault, go to
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Page 9 from 03/09/02 Second SATURDAY SECOND at 6:07PM, 03/08/02 by amq ** City of angels versus city of light By Jessica Michault FASHION Saturday-Sunday, March 9-10, 2002 International Herald Tribune 9 PARIS f Paris is the fashion capital of the world, why are so few world-famous celebrities flying the tricolor? Year after year, the red carpets outside the American awards shows are awash with the dazzling creations of the Italians Giorgio Armani, Donatella Versace and Valentino. And staple American designers Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein never miss a ceremony. But Parisian outfits are few and far between. At this year’s Academy Awards on March 24, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity at stake, it seems unlikely that France will fare much better. If you listen to the all-important stylists, it is the fault of the French designers themselves. Jessica Paster, who has dressed many stars including Minnie Driver in a red Halston ensemble and Joan Allen in a coral-incrusted Michel Kors dress at last year’s Oscars, said she would love to use more French designers but ‘‘the dresses are just so hard to get and the French don’t seem to understand the value of the awards shows.’’ Phillip Bloch, whose regular clients include Julia Roberts and Halle Berry, agrees. ‘‘We call and the dresses are not available or they send the wrong one and they never arrive when they are supposed to. They just don’t get that we are on a tight schedule.’’ This lack of entente cordiale might simply be geographical: The city of lights is thousands of miles from the city of angels. While most of the top Italian fashion houses have offices in Los Angeles, many French houses don’t. Without an office in Los Angeles, it is difficult to handle the logistical requirements such as sending out samples and booking fittings that are needed to Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images persuade a celebrity to wear a designer’s dress. One French house that has become a hit with The pop singer Pink, at the Grammy awards, wearing the hip crowd is Emanuel Ungaro. This year, an ensemble by Jean Paul Gaultier. I for the first time, Ungaro has decided to send a contingent to Los Angeles a week before the 74th Academy Awards. The house is hoping to repeat the success of last year’s Emmys when Sarah Jessica Parker, the star of ‘‘Sex in the City,’’ decided at the last minute to wear a pink Ungaro dress to the ceremony. ‘‘Nothing beats being in Los Angeles. The awards shows are nonstop, and it is difficult to organize from Paris,’’ said Robert Forrest, a consultant for the Ungaro fashion house. Bad timing may be a factor in the lack of French gowns on the red carpets. The peak weeks of the American awards season take place this month — at the height of the preparation and presentation of Paris ready-to-wear col lections. Yet some houses make the grade. Dior’s eastmeets-west embroidered pinstripes for Cate Blanchett and Yves Saint Laurent’s laced up leather for Nicole Kidman at this year’s Golden Globes were two striking success stories. But perhaps it is significant that the YSL’s Tom Ford is an American and Dior’s John Galliano is British. Many French designers rebel against the hustle and bustle of the ever-expanding awards circuit. The fast pace leaves them nostalgic for a time when things moved a bit slower, people took the time to appreciate the work, and there was an opportunity to make a personal connection between a star and a designer. Michele Chatenet who, with her husband Olivier, counts Gwyneth Paltrow and Vanessa Paradis as clients for their E2 customized vintage creations, looks back with fondness to the golden days of celebrity dressing. ‘‘I wish it could be like in the past when Marlene Dietrich and Audrey Hepburn would fly over to see a collection in Paris and then choose the clothes they wanted to wear,’’ she says. Christian Lacroix who put ‘‘Mulholland Drive’’ star Naomi Watts into a pink lingerieinspired dress for the Golden Globes concurs. ‘‘I much prefer to be chosen than being too pushy,’’ he says. ‘‘The personal contact is so important,’’ says Lolita Lempicka, a designer. ‘‘When stars come to Paris, we spend time together picking out the right outfit and start to build a relationship.’’ Perhaps the limited number of Parisian creations on the red carpet has to do with the French psyche. While American and Italian designers seem happy to play second fiddle to the celebrities, the few times a French design did make an appearance at the Academy Awards it was almost always a show-stopper. Who will soon forget the dress Jean Paul Gaultier put last year’s best actress nominee Juliette Binoche in, a flirty flapper gown swathed in pearls, while Dior’s back-to-front tuxedo jacket was a mellow dramatic look for Celine Dion. Both outfits were panned by the American press, even if they were applauded in the pages of glossy fashion magazines. Lacroix admits that it takes a certain type of woman to wear an European ensemble. ‘‘European dresses need self-confident women because they are, except Armani and Chanel, very operatic,’’ he says. If the French outfits seem over the top, they may be intended to be costumes more than clothes. ‘‘The French don’t easily change their ways,’’ says Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, a French designer. ‘‘The French have always preferred to collaborate with films, mixing together art and cinema.’’ Castelbajac has been working with Brian De Palma on his latest film ‘‘Femme Fatale’’ and sees this as a good way to reach an American audience. Castelbajac thinks that ‘‘French creations belong more on a flying carpet than on a red carpet. The designers put creativity first and stars are afraid that their dress will get more attention then they do.’’ Jessica Michault is on the staff of the Interna- Naomi Watts, at the Golden Globe awards, wears tional Herald Tribune. Christian Lacroix’s pink lingerie-inspired gown. Lucy Nicholson/Agence France-Presse Corner of England in Paris gets a colorful makeover By Pat McColl W PARIS ith a burst of color, one of the city’s oldest shopping destinations, Old England, has been recently redone, turning it into one of Paris’s most modern shopping venues. While the stained glass window with the coat of arms of Britain and the monumental mahogany staircase are still there, the firstfloor women’s area has been recarpeted in a rich raspberry color. Tables piled high with cashmere or Shetland sweaters are ablaze with hot pinks, turquoise or orange. Hung along one wall are duffel coats in 25 different colors, with new colors added every season. About 4,500 coats are sold every season. On the same floor, there is a corner for Tod’s shoes, handbags and totes in a rainbow of pastel colors and childrenswear. ‘‘Every 60 years, we do a redo,’’ said JeanMarie Henriquet, head of Old England. The business was established by his great-grandfather, Alexandre Henriquet, in 1867. It has been at its present location, 12 Boulevard des Capucines, since 1886. The refurbishing was completed in December. While it brings the store into the 21st century, it keeps its original image as ‘‘a corner of England in Paris,’’ Henriquet said. ‘‘In the beginning, and right up until the 1930s, everything in the store, mainly menswear, was custom-made. The only offthe-peg clothes were outfits for chauffeurs or valets,’’ said Henriquet. ‘‘During World War I, we did custom-made uniforms for British, French and American officers.’’ As well as English fabrics, there were objects like silverware, clocks and wicker baskets for packing bicycles for train travel. Today on the main floor are Old England’s own labels, shirts from Turnbull & Asser, Edward Green shoes, a corner for Hackett’s, plus in-store boutiques for what Henriquet calls ‘‘a showcase for the great British luxury names such as Fortnum and Mason, stationery from Smythson of Bond Street and ports and whiskeys from Berry’s Bros and Rudd of St. James Street.’’ Displayed in showcases dating from the 1930s are fragrances from Floris, Penhaligon’s, Atkinson and Geo. F. Trumper. As Henriquet adds, ‘‘We had the décor, and in the redo we kept its soul and its spirit.’’ There are also Old England stores in Lyon and Toulouse plus 36 ‘‘corners’’ in Japan. If Old England’s decor is a link with the past, Marni’s is a leap into the future, with the shiny stainless steel steps framed in white painted stones that lead into the surrealistic interior, a white opaque long narrow island encircled with those painted stones. Trend-spotting: new spins on old techniques By Michele Loyer N T he shop, at 57 Avenue Montaigne, like the Marni shops in London, Milan and Tokyo, all designed by Future Systems, is the largest so far. The clothes, designed by Milan-based Consuelo Castiglioni, float on curved stainless steel branches, an enchanted forest of abstract tree-like structures. Duck or you’ll have a pastel floral-printed dress drift into your path. Elsewhere, crinkled silk peasant blouses or high-waisted little dresses hang from linear curved stainless steel railings, everything doubly reflected in oversized oval mirrors or in the boutique’s stainless steel ceiling. Tiny metal-studded handbags, shoes and floral painted jeans are part of the Marni environ ment. Another Italian firm, Coccinelle, has just opened a boutique in Paris, at 326 Rue St. Old England, pictured in the late 19th century, is today one of Paris’s most modern shopping venues. Honore, for its collections of handbags, shoes, small leather goods and other accessories. The firm now has 26 boutiques as well as corners in more than 1,500 stores from Hamburg to Riyadh. For spring, early bestsellers are Coccinelle’s natural straw handbags banded in natural leather. While not exactly a newcomer to the Paris boutique scene, Stealth, at 42 Rue du Dragon, which opened a year and a half ago, is that increasingly rare boutique to seek out new names, not just one name, for its avant-garde mix of menswear and womenswear. The shop’s owners, Robert Dodd and Markus Klosseck, describe their mix as ‘‘somewhere between urban underground and exclusive upmarket’’ with a speciality in retro futuristic Japanese toys. For spring, among their exclusives are London’s Maharishi first line for men and women mixed with Fake London, Clements Ribiero and handbags by Anya Hindmarch. Pat McColl is a free-lance journalist based in Paris. A new wave in Tokyo pursues the next Cool Look By Kaori Shoji T thing in my life up to that point,’’ she said. Furuta made her debut in 1997 with her label Toga, a name that suggests simplicity and relaxaTOKYO tion. ‘‘My ideal is a loosely defined, softly textured he economy is in shambles. The nation is outfit that nonetheless is intricately engineered going down the tubes. Amid the moans and completely three-dimensional. In other and groans, it seems like the only bastion words, I want the woman to be relaxed but I don’t of mental security, the examples of real want her to be unbeautiful,’’ Furuta says. creativity, are in fashion. Toga released its first Tokyo autumn/winter In spite of everything, the Japanese are still collection last year with a theme called ‘‘rooming’’ fiercely fashion-minded and focused on the next — Furuta describes it as the kind of clothing one Cool Look. And supporting their enthusiasm is a can toss on chair backs and wear in the privacy of new generation of young designers, some with one’s room. ‘‘A woman’s room is her own territory, tiny start-up operations working out of small and quite symbolic. It’s where she can be by herapartments. Others have quickly and adroitly self. And for a long time, women in Japan just climbed the industry ladder, often with blessings didn’t have that space,’’ she adds. from established designers from whom they had Now becoming a metaphor for Japanese girlishdeclared independence. ness is mina, a brand launched six years ago by Among the hot new designers to watch is Hiroaki Akira Minagawa, who started out as a textile deOhya, who is described by Issey Miyake as ‘‘genius, signer and now has his own shop in Tokyo. Mina repure genius.’’ What more can a designer want? flects Minagawa’s love for Scandinavia — the world Ohya, 30, was employed by Miyake straight out of Pippi Longstocking and Swedish candy wrappers of Bunka Fukuso, Japan’s leading fashion school. — combined with his incredible craftsmanship and Miyake groomed him in everything from polite knowledge of textiles. For his spring/summer 2002 corporate attitudes to an unerring eye for line and collection, he used 230 different kinds of textiles. form, eventually putting him in charge of one of His work has struck a chord with young Japanese the brands in his conglomerate. women. Chizuka Shimizu, 21, has a mina bag patAt the same time, he made it clear that it was terned with small, delicate white clouds as well as okay for Ohya to start his own brand. Ohya now has Minagawa’s ‘‘rainstorm shirt,’’ a white shirt on two brands: his own increasingly popular Ohya and which are drawn red, blue and orange rain spatters. the already established Miyake label called Haat. Chizuka says that mina represents ‘‘all that I love Ohya’s love for both Japanese pop culture and about Japan.’’ She adds, ‘‘It teaches you things about Japanese high technology is reflected in his Japanese art. I can’t relate to ukiyoye (wood block designs. His cashmere sweater customized for the prints) or anything like that, but mina’s stuff has Sony Aibo (a pet robot dog) helped launch his cathe same kind of feel, only much more modern.’’ reer while the Astroboy (a sci-fi animus from the Which of course, is what Minagawa aims for. His ’60s) is a motif that adorns his collections. designs are unabashedly Japanese — fragile, For Ohya, the future is a rosy, germ-free world Kaori Shoji simple lines offset by amazing details, like a skirt where hovercrafts fly noiselessly in the sky and button in the shape of a honeycomb with a carved people come home to ultra-functional, high-rise Ohya’s tongue-in-cheek wearable ‘‘computer’’ and wearable ‘‘encyclopedia’’ shirts. bee on top. Critics say it’s not so much the design apartments. Consequently, his clothes are fun, dyas the feel of the clothing that young women buy into. namic and dramatic, like the wearable computer (a shirt in to accommodate my threads,’’ he says. For the past four years, Masahiro Tobita has nurtured The operative word in the designer Yasuko Furuta’s apthe shape of a computer) and the wearable encyclopedia on fashion (a shirt with layers of detachable cloth pages, each in- proach to design is ‘‘effortless.’’ Furuta had been studying at Spoken Words Project, which was actually the name of a rock scribed with a year and a fashion illustration representing Esmode Japan for a year (‘‘I was one of those people who event reflecting Tobita’s years in a rock band. Tobita has a dewent to school to socialize’’) before she transferred to Es- gree from Tama Arts University’s dye department and his that year) in his spring/summer 2002 collection. Ohya says he has no interest in beautifying the human mode Paris. ‘‘I couldn’t speak French. I couldn’t communic- clothes are not so much designed as colored. Each item is hand-dyed, helping to give the brand its own individuality. form: ‘‘Fashion should be more about stories and fantasies ate with anyone,’’ she recalls. This summer, Tobita’s theme is blue and his works include Suddenly, the school socialite was without friends. Rather that transport us from the daily grind.’’ Accordingly, he says that future projects will lean more toward designing for than waste her time taking language lessons, Furuta chose to retro dress designs reminiscent of the French Riviera in the stage and motion picture, instead of runways and boutiques. let her work speak for itself. In Esmode’s ready-to-wear early ’60s with romantic patterns like boats, waves and ‘‘They say that clothes should be about how good you look on classes, she studied design and patterning. After graduation, clouds in various shades of blue. the street. Well, I want it to be the other way around. I want she remained in Paris for two and a half years. ‘‘I concenmy clothes to look so outrageous it’s the street that will have trated on making clothes like I never concentrated on anyKaori Shoji is a free-lance writer based in Tokyo. PARIS ot that long ago, one of the thrills of traveling abroad was to shop for something distinctly different from what one could find at home. But no longer. Today the only difference between a pair of jeans bought in New York, Sydney or London is the price. Blame this standardization on globalization. But less visible culprits, although just as influential, are the trend-spotters, whose business it is to detect and distribute fashion trends on a worldwide basis. The fashion trend business started in Paris in the late ’50s as a tool to help the local textile industry modernize and adjust to the new demands of a postwar market. The first Parisian trend-spotters were well-traveled cultivated amateurs, usually fashion journalists or society women, seeking to improve the look and the quality of standardized products. At first, they merely made recommendations based essentially on seasonal color charts and a few fashion sketches. Progressively, their prescriptions became more elaborate. Department stores and fibers and fabrics companies, meanwhile, were also opening their own fashion trend offices. Today the basic methods of predicting trends are much the same. They combine intuition, extensive traveling and shopping abroad, as well as a consensus at stylists’ level. And the final products are still seasonal color cards — color charts of about 20 shades that are sent out each season to clients — and textures and styles books. While these services were first aimed at the textile and ready-to-wear industries, the trend services now reach many other sectors such as cosmetics, home decoration and automobile companies. ‘‘At first, our only method was to be in sync with what was in the air. We used our intuition to predict tomorrow’s needs in term of colors, textures and products. The industry was in bad need of reassurance and we had to offer them some sort of a logical mapping,’’ says Francoise Vincent, a pioneer of the trend business and founder of Promostyl, a consulting agency. To make their interpretations easier for clients, the first generation of consultants started putting together trend books, which were illustrated with color and textile samples, fashion sketches and press cuttings. ‘‘For us, the books were just a way to illustrate our point. I never thought they would become Holy Bibles.’’ adds Vincent. She admits that by the mid-1980s she thought the trend books were obsolete and that the profession had to find new tools. ‘‘I was wrong!’’ she adds. Although most trend offices have diversified their activities, the trend books are still the bread and butter of the business. Published 18 months ahead of the season — to adjust to the rhythms of the spinning, fabrics and ready-to-wear industries — the books encompass the philosophy of a given season. To add credibility to their recommendations, some companies seek the collaboration of sociologists, psychologists and ph ilosophers. ‘‘We invented — and registered — the marketing-style concept,’’ says Pierre-François Le Louet, general manager of Nelly Rodi, a Parisian trend-spotter and publisher of ‘‘TrendSetters Guide.’’ He employs 25 consultants and 11 agents in various countries, generating a turnover of ¤3.96 million ($3.44 million) in 2001. Le Louet adds: ‘‘We were the first to call on sociologists and psychologists to define our trends.’’ Dominique Peclers, founder in 1970 of Peclers Paris, a company that is now a subsidiary of the British-American Fitch Worldwide Group, is considered a leader of her profession. Her office employs 65 people in Paris, with a worldwide network of 22 agents. It also publishes the ‘‘Future’’ style book. Peclers favors an intuitive approach. ‘‘The starting point of our recommendations always springs from the feelings and anticipations of our creative team,’’ she says. Peclers’s creative team predicts that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 will have a deep impact on fashion trends. ‘‘The trashy porno mood — for long prevalent in fashion — should be replaced by a gentler, more reflective spirit, based on simplicity and sophistication,’’ says Françoise Perralta, in charge of communication at Peclers. With a ¤11 million turnover in 2001, Peclers’s activity is growing, divided among trend books, product consultations, promotion and communications. The paradoxical position of the profession may seem hard to sustain. While intending to promote creativity, it ends up contributing to a leveling of taste on a worldwide level. Despite superficial differences of approach, most trend services come up with strikingly similar propositions. When asked if they feel at least partly responsible for the standardization of the world, the majority of them prefer to stress their function as catalysts. ‘‘We don’t invent these trends. We merely spot them ahead of time,’’ says a stylist. However, a counterreaction may be in the works with the emergence of the so-called ‘‘post-BoBos’’ (read Post-Bohemian Bourgeois) who would rather invent their own customized look than wear trendy threads. ‘‘Globally, tomorrow’s market should be divided in two groups of customers and manufacturers: mass and niche,’’ says a trend-spotter, adding that her profession will have to reinvent itself, with perhaps less fashion pronouncements and more specific product applications. Michele Loyer is a free-lance journalist based in Paris.