A few months ago, I attended a lecture by Glady Perint Palmer where she spoke of the spring couture shows in Paris.  Although she discussed many designers, she was especially fond of the Gaultier show and shared some lovely photos and illustrations.  Admittedly, Gaultier has not been on my radar for some time and I was surprised by the genuinely pretty gowns from the designer known for cone bras and S&M apparel.  Maybe I should take another look…

And then, today, an announcement in WWD that Hermès is looking to sell its substantial stake (45%) in the Gaultier house, likely due to poor financial performance.  But there could have been artistic and management differences as well –  Hermès and Gaultier started a design collaboration in 2004 which Hermès ended prematurely last year.  When the Galliano scandal erupted a few weeks ago, Gaultier’s name was thrown in the mix of potential replacements at Dior.  But it seemed to me that he would not be the kind of designer to thrive under strong corporate management.  If he had challenges at Hermès, working at LVMH is a non-starter.

But the bigger issue for me is the viability of haute couture clothing. And by clothing, I mean CLOTHING – not the accompanying purses, shoes, perfumes, etc. that are the real money-makers for luxury brands.  It was mentioned several times in the WWD article that the Gaultier brand is losing money and sales and that the only profitable line of business for his brand is perfume. As I learn more and more about the fashion industry, it strikes me that fashion shows (and, now, fashion weeks) get a lot of attention by the fashion media but the clothes themselves are nothing more than a large-scale advertisement to sell accessories.  I’m still researching this issue, so I don’t have a definitive conclusion, but my theory is that it is no longer possible to create a sustainable business by making and selling haute couture quality clothing.  What do you think?  Any examples where it is working?