Preview Spring 2011 Couture Sketches from Armani, Valentino, Elie Saab; Plus, Luxury Executives Say Couture Is Thriving

Couture Isn't So Dead, After All, According to Givenchy, Dior, Armani, and Chanel Execs

An Armani sketch

>> How many articles have been written heralding the imminent death of couture? But after Alexander McQueen reported that its custom order business is profitable last week, executives across the board seem optimistic about the state of couture.

Dior, for instance, has doubled the guest list for its Spring 2011 couture show Monday to about 800 people — because the demand is there. “It’s been an excellent year for couture,” Dior CEO Sidney Toledano told WWD, citing a growth in Asian clientele and the fact that American clients who left during the economic crisis returned last year.

Jean Paul Gaultier also experienced a "spectacular" return of American clients last year, according to deputy managing director Caroline Le Borgne, who says: “For the moment, nothing tells us we won’t have a great year."

And Givenchy said its decision to do a presentation instead of runway show last July, creating more exclusivity, was a boon for business. It created a bump in editorial coverage, according to Givenchy CEO Fabrizio Malverdi, and: “The clients have increased because of our intimate presentation. They prefer not to be seen with a show context.” The house had a 10 percent gain in couture in 2010 and expects a similar increase in 2011, Malverdi says. "The Middle East is increasing, and China is starting to show interest."

Armani Prive logged a 45 percent increase in 2010, says Armani deputy chairman John Hooks, fueled by an influx of new clients: "We did an Armani Prive show in Dubai on the occasion of the opening of the new Armani Hotel Dubai, and this had a dramatic effect on sales of couture in the region." He added that new clients in Russia and other ex-Soviet bloc countries also contributed. “Couture is following the current pattern of all trade in the fashion business — emerging markets are growing faster than the established ones.”

That's why Chanel plans to bring Karl Lagerfeld's Spring 2011 couture collection, following its show in Paris on Tuesday, to New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and another Asian city — Hong Kong, Beijing, and Tokyo are being considered. “Because the customers are not always coming to Paris, we need to go to them for the fittings,” said Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel. And Valentino plans to bring its couture collection to Russia, possibly in 2012, said its CEO Stefano Sassi.

A preview of next week's couture collections in the gallery.