Fashion shows are a Parisian ritual. Twice annually, in late January and late July, the French maisons de couture raise the curtain on their new haute couture collections, revealing the shoulder shapes and hem lengths that will adorn fashionable women for the coming season.
Thousands of fashion buyers and writers, those who set--and report on--standards of style around the world, flock to Paris for the shows. Word about trends spreads quickly; styles soon grace the pages of fashion magazines and are available to customers through the world's finest stores and boutiques.
For anyone who loves clothes and is inclined to be a la mode, attending a Paris fashion show is fascinating. Stunning models, clothed in the latest styles, swirl down the runway before you.
The salon atmosphere is elegant. Haute couture clothing is expensive. Outfits cost thousands of dollars, but the shows are free and there is no pressure to buy. Whether you buy or not, each display is a source of ideas.
Concierge Can Help
Most of the maisons de couture are in the luxurious 8th arrondissement, primarily on Avenue Montaigne, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore and other top fashion streets. They are close enough for you to arrange to see several shows in an afternoon. Reservations are essential.
A good concierge can often help with reservations, but you can also make them directly with the fashion houses.
Following the gala premieres for buyers and the press, which end Thursday, the fashion houses open their doors to the public for regularly scheduled haute couture shows.
Legislation put into effect during World War II required haute couture salons to present at least 45 live fashion shows during the three months following the premieres.
Recently, however, regulations have been less strict. After the premieres, fashion houses do show their collections on a regular schedule or upon special request, usually during the next week, and again from the beginning of September through November.
Many of the maisons de couture still present elaborate runway shows for the public like those attended by buyers and the press. But recently some of the fashion houses have begun videotape showings of their collections.
Videotaped shows are less spectacular but showings are more versatile, and at many houses they may be scheduled at your convenience.
The official roster of Paris fashion houses lists two dozen maisons de couture. They present shows as follows:
Balmain, 44 Rue Francois Premier, has live shows scheduled September through November. Reservations may be made, at least a week in advance, by phone to Eva Mallez at 47-20-35-34. The salon seats 50.
Pierre Cardin, 27 Avenue de Marigny, presents a taped show. You can make same-day appointments through Maryse Gaspard, 42-66-92-25.
Carven, 6 Rond-point des Champs-Elysees, has live shows on Tuesdays and Thursdays, September through November. Make reservations a few days in advance through Joy de Caumette, 42-25-66-50. The salon seats about 40.
Chanel's Live Shows
Chanel, 31 Rue Cambon, will present live shows at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 4, 24, 28, 29 and 30; Oct. 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 15, 27 and 29, Nov. 3 and 5. Patricia de Casteja at 42-61-54-55 takes reservations about a week in advance. The salon seats 120.
Christian Dior, 30 Avenue Montaigne, shows its collection on videotape daily at 3 p.m. from late July through November (no shows Aug. 15, Nov. 1 and 11). Make reservations a day in advance with Lysiane Biaudet, 47-23-54-44. The salon seats 50.
Emanuel Ungaro, 2 Avenue Montaigne, shows its collection on video on request. Make arrangements through Catherine de Limur, 47-23-61-94.
Givenchy, 3 Avenue Georges V, has live shows at 3 p.m. daily, Friday through Aug. 6, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, September through mid-October. Make reservations several days in advance through Jacqueline Aubry, 47-23-81-36. The salon seats 50.
Gres, 1 Rue de la Paix (2nd arrondissement ), presents live shows at 3 p.m. on most Tuesdays and Thursdays from September through mid-October. Christine Ferat takes reservations at 42-61-58-15. The salon seats 40.
Guy Laroche, 29 Avenue Montaigne, has live shows at 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Sept. 3 through mid-October. Make reservations several days in advance at 47-23-78-72. The salon seats 60.
Ten Days Only
Hanae Mori, 17-19 Avenue Montaigne, shows its collection for 10 days following the premiere today. Then most of the clothes are sent out of Paris and a videotape is shown by arrangement with Carole Sacchetti, 47-23-52-03. The salon seats 30.
Jean Patou, 7 Rue Saint-Florentin, is not presenting a new collection this summer.
Jean-Louis Scherrer, 51 Avenue Montaigne, has live shows at 3 p.m. this week only. No shows are scheduled for September and November, but sample clothing is displayed.
Christian Lacroix, 73 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, shows videotapes of its collection by appointment. Call Gladys Lezieto at 42-65-79-08 to make arrangements.