The socialist government has curbed the giveaway of designer clothes to political wives as a method of boosting French fashion. "It was an order that we accept no presents," explained Edmonde Charles-Roux, wife of Interior Minister Gaston Defferre. Charles-Roux, once the editor of French Vogue approves the new regimen: "One doesn't need free clothes to do the work we do. The tradition of free clothes is not normal, and it is good to put the whole thing straight from the beginning," she said at breakfast at the ministry, where she has an office and answers letters each day.
There are exceptions. "If they offer you half price because you are going to be seen, that is alright, that is quite normal. They do that for people on stage. And if by chance you really can't pay for them at all, which happens, too, you don't own the dresses but you must give them back in five months so they are put in the expensive "soldes" (sales)," says Charles-Roux.
"In the boutique, though, one pays like any customer."
Danielle Mitterrand, wife of the French president, has started adding some couture and high fashion ready-to-wear to her wardrobe coming mostly from the boutique Torrente and the Louis Fe'raud shop till now. "I helped her once but now she has a vendeuse (saleswoman) who she works with," says Yves Saint Laurent, who finds her very "attractive and strong."
Paris will finally get a national museum of fashion, according to Jacques Mouclier, secretary general of the Chambre Syndicale, the organizing force of French haute couture and ready-to-wear. It will be placed appropriately in the Pavillon de Marsan, the museum of decorative arts in the Louvre. A budget of $3 million already has been voted, according to Mouclier.
"I'm afraid that even before it begins it already is too small," Charles-Roux says. "But it is better than nothing." It will happen now, and did not happen before, she says, "because the intelligentsia are in power."
"For women to give clothes to a museum is a solution but it is not sure that the museum needs everything given to them," said Charles-Roux about clothing acquisitions for this museum. "Sometimes museums may be given things they do not need badly but when it comes from (someone important) they cannot refuse it." Charles-Roux suggests that museums be invited to select things offered from private collections. "But to offer one thing and to say take this or nothing . . . it is not a good system."
Mouclier has been asked by Pierre Dreyfus, the minister of industry, to find a location for a fashion school to be modeled after the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. The same building would house such documents as textile samples and patterns plus fashion books, and hopefully would have enough space to hold fashion shows.
Aniko Gaal, Garfinckel's new fashion director, could hardly keep her eyes off the celebrity row at the Kenzo show. "Can you imagine, Claude Montana is sitting just a few rows in front of me. And Sonia Rykiel, Issey Miyake and Kansai (Yamamoto) as well."
People-watching was an important activity on Gaal's first trip to the collections. "You learn as much from what people are wearing here on the streets as well as on the runway," she said.
If you want to buy one item to change the shape of your wardrobe next fall, a straight black skirt will do the job nicely. One that stops above the knee would put you in the camp with Yves Saint Laurent, Emanuel Ungaro, Valentino and a host of other Paris designers and that is not bad company. A long version would put Karl Lagerfeld for Chloe' on your side. All the designers like the skirt in leather (YSL did it first at least a year ago) and Valentino showed some beauties in reptile. The skirt for evening is Valentino's skirt with the singular hem in two bright colors. (He pairs them with some of the prettiest sexy blouses and blouson sweaters around.)
The socialists are apparently being very social these days. At least they are inspiring more evening clothes, and better ones, than have hit the runway in several seasons. There are some very sexy short, black, fitted cocktail dresses from Chanel and others, but the bigger surprise is the wealth of floor length (or more honestly instep length) dresses done better at Valentino and YSL than any place else.
The evening alternative is the tuxedo in all its variations. Dior's version, for example, seems straight from "Victor, Victoria" and Saint Laurent has incorporated his Spencer jacket (which is shaped like a bellboy's jacket) into a smoking jacket with tuxedo pants or long skirt.
Don't put your shawls in the attic trunk. You will want them again next fall. Ungaro's are the most beautiful, sometimes unexpectedly in big block plaids as well as his rich florals. YSL and Gustav Zumsteg from Abraham, the prestigious fabric mill in Switzerland, are still collaborating on shawls with a thread of gold running through them. Kenzo likes his big flowered shawls worn babushka style while most others use the shawl as a bold accent of color or contrast pattern and a layer of warmth.