By  on July 2, 2010

PARIS — Some of couture’s smaller names have recently racked up an impressive array of red-carpet credits, yielding a big windfall in publicity.

Still, dressing a high-profile client can have even a bigger impact on the bottom line, according to some couturiers.

Stéphane Rolland, for example, who counts Rihanna, Cheryl Cole and Beyoncé among famous fans, said dressing Jordan’s Queen Rania can have a bigger impact on sales, especially for Middle Eastern clients.

The designer, who employs around 30 people and in 2009 generated sales of around 5 million euros, or $3.6 million at average exchange rates, plans to add a couture bag line and ready-to-wear to grow the business.

According to red-carpet veteran Elie Saab, it’s only for rare, “big bang” events — such as Halle Berry’s historic Oscar win in 2002 wearing Elie Saab — that a direct sales impact can be felt.

Widening his brand’s horizons, Saab, who dressed 45 celebrities in the first half and generated more than 450 press pages, plans to beef up his product offerings, such as perfume, eyewear and accessories, and this fall will launch an advertising campaign for his rtw line, geared mainly toward France.

“Advertising communicates a strong vision of the house. It’s important for asserting one’s DNA, whereas when a star wears a piece it becomes their interpretation,” said Alexandre Vauthier who, since joining the high-fashion fray two years ago, has dressed Roisin Murphy, Melanie Laurent and “Millennium’s” Noomi Rapace; designed costumes for Rihanna’s current tour (including a black gown with blood-drop LED red lights), and contributed to a book about the pop star, due out this fall. But while such starry commissions have helped multiply contacts, sales remain “calm,” Vauthier conceded.

By contrast, Georges Chakra, who this year has dressed Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry and Mariah Carey, said he still receives requests for a short white crystal-embellished frock worn by Carrie Underwood in 2007 to the American Music Awards. Rising demand from American clients led to the launch of Chakra’s rtw collection two years ago, which he presents in New York.

Alexis Mabille, who has dressed the likes of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Zoe Kravitz and Dita Von Teese, argued that many couture clients disregard what celebrities are wearing and instead seek out never-before-seen looks and small labels.Keen to cultivate an intimate relationship with such clients, the designer this season will present his first couture-focused collection, with fewer more elaborate pieces.

“These are women who constantly travel, attending functions and galas and when they see a label they’ve not heard of, they immediately want to go and check it out for themselves,” said Mabille, who is developing aperfume with Six Scents Parfums for October. “All they care about is having a unique piece that’s made just for them.” 

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