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Dior duels with YSL at Paris Fashion Week

© AFP - Hedi Slimane during his first Dior show in 2001.

Text by Priscille LAFITTE

Latest update : 2012-09-28

The launch of Paris Fashion Week saw the battle lines drawn between iconic houses Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior as the fashion world braced for the long-awaited collections of new creative directors Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons.

It might be raining and grey in Paris, but the launch of Fashion Week on Tuesday promised a whirlwind of excitement in the French capital as two of its biggest rival fashion houses are set to go head-to-head with their respective new creative directors.

The last time the world’s designers, models and fashionistas filed into Paris expecting to feast on the delights of Dior, the party turned sour before it even started following the emergence of video footage showing Dior’s then chief designer, John Galliano, praising Adolf Hitler.

This time, Dior is back under a more favourable spotlight with new director Raf Simons, and facing off against long-time rival Saint Laurent Paris (YSL), which enters the fray with its own new direction in the form of Hedi Slimane.

Slimane, who was born to an Italian mother and Tunisian father and brought up in a poor district of north-east Paris, started out at YSL nearly two decades ago. In March, he took on the pivotal post of creative director at Saint Laurent Paris – formerly known as Yves Saint Laurent - following the resignation of Stefano Pilati.

Slimane is best known for his 2002 line of Dior-commissioned men’s suits. Fashionistas still dazzled by this collection, speak of a “before and after” in the world of men’s prêt-a-porter. Pascal Mourier, FRANCE 24’s fashion correspondent, describes the line as “refined, black, almost stark ... the suits were so narrow that women swooned over them.”

Accompanied by the re-emergence of London’s punk-rock scene, the suits proved a revolution in menswear.

Out with pretentiousness, in with reason


Paris holds its first ever Black Fashion Week next Thursday. The three-day event (October 4 – 6) has been organised by French-Senegalese designer Adama Ndiaye, and will take place at the Pavillon Cambon Capucine in central Paris.

Meanwhile at Dior, Belgian Raf Simons – who spent the past seven years at Jil Sanders and is known for his youthful flair – is also expected to reveal a minimalist line and steer clear of frivolities. “It’s the new lux: reason over pretentiousness,” Pascal Mourier says. But the pair are also being counted on for an exciting change of tack. “We haven’t had a show-stopping Fashion Week since the arrivals of Galliano at Dior and Alexander McQueen at Givenchy in the mid-nineties,” head of the Couture Federation Didier Grumbauch said.

Aside from the battle of the titans at the very top of the French fashion world, the first day of Paris Fashion Week was devoted to a new generation of designers, with 30-somethings Anthony Vaccarello and Steffie Christiaens stealing the show. "These are the people to follow,” Mourier said. “My colleagues usually think that day one isn’t worth bothering about, but these collections cannot be ignored. These young designers work like dogs to get their ideas out. They think of themselves more as artists than as artisans.”

This year, France’s Prêt-a-Porter Federation has employed an apartment space available to young independents to showcase their work. “Designers struggle hugely in their efforts to break into a system where money only starts to come through six or ten months after showcasing a collection,” Mourioer explained.

Until October 3, they have their chance.

Date created : 2012-09-26


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