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Retaining Paris as fashion’s unrivalled capital

As haute couture week begins, the French fashion trade group selects a new leader.

In the fashion industry, the Paris couture shows, which begin on Sunday, still reign supreme.


And no single person may wield more power over those shows than the president of the French trade group that determines which designers’ collections are shown, and when.

That is why a changing of the guard announced this week has created a stir not only in Paris but also throughout the fashion world.

After 16 years, Didier Grumbach has stepped down as president of that influential trade group, the Federation Francaise de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, and of its couture division, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.

Grumbach, 77, will preside over next week’s Paris shows, and then Ralph Toledano will succeed him as federation president.

Toledano is president of the fashion division at Puig, a fashion and beauty house based in Barcelona, whose brands include Jean Paul Gaultier, Nina Ricci, Paco Rabanne and Carolina Herrera.


Toledano will retain his position while taking on the new responsibilities at the federation. Assisting him will be Stephane Wargnier, who was named to the new role of executive president of the federation.

Wargnier, a fashion consultant and former executive at Hermes, will be responsible for the federation’s day-to-day operations, while Toledano will focus on strategy and vision.

Grumbach will hold the honorary title of president of the federation. When asked if he had any advice for his successor, he replied, “It is very important not to be weak.”

Although most consumers probably would not know Grumbach’s name, he was a major behind-the-scenes power player for almost two decades. The Federation Francaise controls the designer choices and schedules for the Paris shows, which are twice-a-year events for both ready-to-wear and couture.

The federation also acts as an industry lobby and runs a professional training school for designers and artisans, the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.


Toledano expressed his ambitions for the federation in an email exchange.

“We aim to keep Paris as the unrivalled capital of fashion, to contributing to the emergence of all the talented young designers based in France and to making of the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale — already a unique school in the world as it produces both designers and couture technicians — the No. 1 fashion school,” Toledano said.
“Paris has historically been the place where the biggest international talents gather spontaneously,” he wrote, “and we intend to continue welcoming them.”

During his tenure, Grumbach oversaw the internationalisation of French fashion. There are now 25 nationalities represented on the Paris fashion show calendar.

He helped to revitalise couture at a time when brands such as Balmain and Christian Lacroix chose to discontinue their couture operations and focus on ready-to-wear. He also worked with the French government to create a so-called fashion bank to guarantee loans to new designers.

Working in harmony

In 2012, he created the federation’s executive board, composed of representatives from what were then the five largest French fashion powers — Hermes, Chanel, Puig, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and PPR, which is now called Kering. The board helped the brands work together in harmony during the Paris shows.

That harmony, though, has not always extended to other cities’ fashion weeks during the women’s ready-to-wear seasons in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Those seasons are the longer, more modern sibling of the couture weeks.

The schedules for the ready-to-wear shows have grown crowded and unwieldy in the last few years, with feuds breaking out among the various cities over dates and durations.

Such squabbling might seem irrelevant to the outside world. But where on the calendar the designer shows take place has a direct bearing on when stores order clothes. That, in turn, affects the brand’s production time and deliveries, which determine when consumers can buy the end result.

In other words, it matters.

Heated tussle

In 2011, the tussling over dates for the following year’s spring shows became particularly heated. Fashion houses that show in New York and London were pushing for a later start to the season so that they would not have to produce their runway samples in August, when most factories are closed.

Paris, the last and the longest of the ready-to-wear conclaves — about nine days, compared with New York’s seven — announced it would not push back its shows, arguing that the effect on deliveries would be punitive.

At the time, Diane von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, was quoted in Women’s Wear Daily as saying: “I don’t understand why Paris completely and totally just ignored what all of us have worked so hard on. I am speechless.”

But the news of the transfer of power in the governing body of French fashion has been welcomed in other fashion capitals, whose leaders were quick to acknowledge Grumbach’s contributions while looking toward the next stage.

Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, said: “It will be interesting to see what the new regime brings. Any opportunity to work more closely together is welcome.”

Reactions to change

Steven Kolb, chief executive of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, who said he had no issues with Grumbach, also noted that “whenever new people come in, they bring new ideas and it creates new opportunities.”

“We have seen it in Milan, with the new president of the Camera della Moda, Jane Reeve, whom I have been talking with quite a lot,” Kolb said, referring to Italy’s fashion industry association.

As it happens, Kolb said he had emailed a colleague at the Federation Francaise a few weeks ago to suggest a friendly meeting of representatives from all four fashion-week cities, though he was quick to note there was “no agenda” behind the idea.

Toledano will take up his new post on September 1. New York Fashion Week, which begins the women’s ready-to-wear spring 2015 collections, starts three days later.

Austin Reed – Women’s Suits

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Atterley Road – Coats

Discover Atterley Road’s selection of your favourite brands and boutique labels from around the world.

Atterley Road’s discerning selection of hand-picked pieces pushes fashion’s boundaries and endures trends.

Autumn is here, so it’s time to look around and shop for the chilly days. Atterley Road has a lot to offer this autumn, check out some of our favourite coats from the new collection, just landed!

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Viyella – Petite Jackets

Formed in 1784, Viyella is one of the UK’s oldest clothing manufacturers. It is a name underpinned by ideals of function and form, as well as a deeply ingrained appreciation for classic tailoring and exquisitely crafted fabrics designed to last.

Classic, understated and elegant without exception, every collection is designed to satisfy the needs and tastes of the Viyella woman – whatever the occasion.

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Dolce & Gabbana Sentenced To 18 Months In Jail

After years battling Italy’s Tax Commission for evading taxes, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana of Dolce & Gabbana, as well as their accountant, Luciano Patellito, have been found guilty by an Italian appeals court.

The three have been sentenced to 18 months in jail.

According to the Wall Street Journal, their lawyer Massimo Dinoia didn’t see it coming: “I am speechless. We are all shocked. The judgment is inexplicable and we will appeal.”


It was reported last year that the trio were fighting a lawsuit accusing them of withholding $540 million in taxes after the 2004 sale of Dolce & Gabbana to Luxembourg holding company Gado Srol. At the time, they were facing up to 20 months in jail, not to mention a fine of $454 million plus interest.

Despite holding public stunts like closing their Milan stores in protest and appealing to the city’s current mayor, Giuliano Pisapia, the defendants were unable to change their favor.

Two months were knocked off the maximum time, but it’s still a damning sentence that’ll undoubtedly impact the business.

However, the duo will most likely not have to serve any time since their sentence is under the two-year benchmark requiring actual jail time be served under Italian law.

But, whether they’ll work behind bars, under house arrest, or hire an interim designer to take the reins (we’d love to see what Olivier Theyskens could do with the brand), expect to see a swift downgrade in opulence with spring ’15.

But, hey, if that means a pause on that whole “colonial chic” trend they were on, this all might not be a bad thing.