23-Nov, 06:41

07:08, January 17 205 0

2017-01-17 07:08:10
On the Runway: Versace Says No to Couture Shows

The Great Show Shake-Up has reached couture.

Versace will not hold its usual fashion show this coming Sunday, the opening night of the couture spring 2017 shows in Paris, opting instead for a number of “major client events” during the year in cities around the world, including Hong Kong and New York, according to its chief executive, Jonathan Akeroyd.

After men’s wear events in Milan this week for both the main Versace line and the secondary Versus Versace line; after outfitting celebrities such as Blake Lively and Naomi Campbell at the Golden Globes, and presumably readying for the upcoming British Academy of Film and Television Arts (known as Bafta) and Oscar nights; and before the women’s show in February, the house has decided that, well, six is enough.

“At the moment, we do six shows a year, and my feeling is: That’s a lot of shows,” Mr. Akeroyd said. “Eight, if you count couture, seems excessive. And we all know the model is changing quite a lot, so why not take the opportunity to try something new?”

The change is Mr. Akeroyd’s first big move since joining the Italian brand last spring after more than a decade at Alexander McQueen. And though the cancellation could be interpreted as a cost-saving choice, especially for a company rumored to be preparing an initial public offering, Mr. Akeroyd said that budget was not the issue. Stress was. Also relevancy.

“It’s the time and intensity of producing a show,” he said. “The investment has not changed; the atelier is the same size.”

He also noted how effective the coverage has been of the brand’s red-carpet dressing, which is effectively a platform for its couture as each celebrity’s gown is made to order. More so, possibly, than an invite-only catwalk in Paris, even one where clients make up 40 percent of the audience.

And of course, between “Brexit” and the Trump inauguration plans, everyone is a little distracted these days, even the 1 percent. They aren’t exactly focused on the shows.

This is the second time Versace has left the official couture schedule: In 2004, it likewise suspended its shows, returning in 2012.

This time, however, the brand is stepping off the hamster wheel at a moment in which more designers are questioning the point and relevancy of the traditional fashion show, whether it’s for ready-to-wear or couture, and experimenting with different formats, from see now/buy now (Ralph Lauren, Burberry) to combining men’s and women’s fashions (Gucci, Calvin Klein), doing a show as a film (Vera Wang) or ballet (Opening Ceremony), or moving to Los Angeles from a standard fashion-week city just in time for awards season (Tommy Hilfiger, Rachel Comey).

So while Mr. Akeroyd is leaving the door open for a possible return (though not for July’s couture shows; Versace is sitting those out, too), I wouldn’t hold my breath. Can the red carpet replace the runway? We’re about to find out.