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Life & Style

Couture week comes to Paris amid riot fears

Published July 3, 2023
Pedestrians walk on Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on July 2, 2023, a day after protesters took to the street and clashed with police. Photo: AFP
Pedestrians walk on Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on July 2, 2023, a day after protesters took to the street and clashed with police. Photo: AFP

PARIS: The fashion world is on edge as haute couture week kicks off on Monday in Paris, which has seen nights of violent riots over the police killing of a teenager.

French label Celine cancelled its menswear show – scheduled outside the official calendar – on Sunday due to the riots, with designer Hedi Slimane saying it was “inconsiderate” to hold a fashion show when Paris was “bereaved and bruised”.

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Hundreds have been arrested across the country as mostly young protesters have torched cars and attacked infrastructure following the death of 17-year-old Nahel M., who was shot dead when he tried to flee a traffic stop on Tuesday.

Violence appeared to be ebbing somewhat in and around the French capital over the weekend, and the haute couture shows – celebrating the most expensive, tailor-made end of fashion – were due to go ahead as planned, the French fashion federation told AFP on Sunday.

First up is Schiaparelli, with fashionistas wondering if it can beat the social media meltdown caused by last season’s fake animal heads.

The heads, sported by the likes of Kylie Jenner, were another publicity coup for Schiaparelli artistic director Daniel Roseberry, who has overseen a revamp of the brand and attracted the likes of Lady Gaga and Beyonce as clients.

Animal activists seemed unsure what to think.

The US branch of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) called the heads “fabulously innovative”, while PETA’s French branch said a thought should be spared for the silkworms and sheep “who have really suffered”.

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Saudi money

A dominant feature of this season in Paris has been the lavish spending by Saudi Arabia as it tries to establish its own fashion industry.

That continues this week, with couturier Mohammad Ashi becoming the first Saudi designer to show as part of the official haute couture week roster with his eponymous label.

There have been multiple events across the menswear and couture weeks to introduce newcomers from the kingdom, including a cocktail soiree at the Ritz hotel on Monday.

Ashi has been a favourite of celebrities for a while, dressing the likes of Queen Rania of Jordan, Penelope Cruz and star of the new Indiana Jones movie, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who wore one of his creations to the London premiere last week.

Saudi Arabia has been pumping billions, not just into fashion but everything from film to football, as part of radical social changes overseen by de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Couture week will also see first-time appearances by the United States’ Thom Browne and France’s Charles de Vilmorin alongside regulars like Christian Dior.

De Vilmorin, just 26, will present for his own brand after a short-lived tenure as artistic director of Rochas.

“I’m super happy to have lived through all this and to do my first show,” he told AFP in his apartment-workshop last week while finalising the collection.

Fellow couturier Stephane Rolland is presenting his latest collection, dedicated to legendary singer Maria Callas, at the Opera Garnier.

It will be filmed by veteran French director Claude Lelouch for his next movie.

Rolland said it was vital to merge fashion and other art forms.

“It’s very important in our profession. I find that from time to time it lacks a bit of refinement. Money is not everything,” he told AFP.

He welcomed the increasing presence of Saudis in fashion, and Ashi in particular.

“I’m very happy for him,” he said.

“There is a pool of talent in Saudi Arabia that hasn’t been able to express itself the way it wanted for a long time.”

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