PARIS — Aided by fast growth in women’s footwear and its men’s business, Christian Dior Couture saw operating profits grow 27 percent in the six months ended June 30.

Profit figures for the fashion house are pinpointed annually, but the percentage was disclosed in tandem with first-half results for Christian Dior SA, parent of the Dior fashion house and luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

Net income at the group rose 33.6 percent to $179.4 million from $134.3 million. Operating profits rose 4.3 percent to $993.1 million from $952.5 million a year ago.

Dollar figures are converted from euros at current exchange. In local currency, the firm reported profits of 159 million euros in the first half of 2003 versus 119 million euros a year ago.

Sales dropped 10.3 percent to $6.16 billion, or 5.46 billion euros, from $6.8 billion, or 6.03 billion euros, in line with LVMH’s first-half sales, which were reported earlier.

In an interview, Dior Couture president Sidney Toledano said sales rebounded in July and August after a second quarter hit hard by the Iraq war and SARS.

“The trend continues to be positive,” he said. “September is starting well worldwide.…Asia is recovering.”

Second-quarter sales inched up 0.4 percent at Christian Dior Couture, which comprises the couture, ready-to-wear, accessories and retail businesses. In the six months, sales advanced 10 percent, to $264.6 million, and were ahead 20 percent at constant exchange, as reported.

Toledano was slated to arrive in New York this morning to attend opening festivities for the revamped Dior store on 57th Street. In the interview, he stressed that Dior would continue to expand its global retail network, with a flurry of openings in the U.S. this fall and winter.

Openings are scheduled for Palm Beach in October, the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas in November and Waikiki, Hawaii, in December. A Dior Homme unit on 57th Street, at the base of the LVMH tower, is also slated for a December opening. Encouraged by more than 35 percent growth in Dior men’s wear, designed by Hedi Slimane, Toledano said he plans to open more locations in the U.S., including a Rodeo Drive location in Los Angeles.

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