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Future of haute couture uncertain


PARIS -- Caught between the glories of its past and the uncertainties of its future, the haute couture industry has been presenting a fragmented image in the showings of its spring and summer collections this week.

Forgetting that fashion is based on change, some couturiers are reliving their past successes and others are marching in place, while a few are showing eccentric clothes.

Discussions are going on at every level as to whether the rules for acceptance to the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne should be changed, as if that will solve everything.

Twenty-one designers are members of the government-supported group that organizes the haute couture industry and schedules its twice-yearly showings.

A cause for sadness among the admirers of Claude Montana's modernistic clothes for Lanvin was the announcement that his well-received collection, shown yesterday, would be his last for the house.

The reason given by Michel Pietrini, the president of Lanvin, was that Mr. Montana, who made his reputation with ready-to-wear shown under his own name, refused to be involved with the Lanvin ready-to-wear collection. He will be replaced at Lanvin by Dominique Morlotti, who has designed men's wear for Christian Dior.

Probably the best argument in favor of the status quo is the work of Yves Saint Laurent, who celebrates his 30th anniversary as the head of his own couture house next week. Now 56, he began as an assistant to Christian Dior in the 1950s.

His collection, which opened up no new directions, stressed clothes that were wearable, pretty and superbly constructed. The technical prowess of his workrooms was demonstrated by the perfect cut of suit jackets, princess dresses and long, slender evening styles that could be dazzling without any scarfs, jewels or other extraneous decoration. Often they were shown that way.

He didn't even fool around with hem lengths, the conundrum of the season.

The hemlines of both his narrow and his full skirts stop a reasonable few inches above the knees.

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