GUY LAROCHE NO LONGER DOING COUTURE

Byline: Katherine Weisman and William Middleton

PARIS--The house of Guy Laroche is suspending its couture activities and will not present a spring collection in January.
Laroche director Jean-Jacques Schmoll and house couturier Michel Klein explained the decision Wednesday, noting that Laroche will put its resources behind its luxury ready-to-wear collection Guy Laroche Couture (GLC), also designed by Michel Klein.
"If haute couture can only give life to licenses and image, then it doesn't have any raison d'etre," said Klein, adding that couture no longer corresponds to what women are looking for in luxury apparel.
"Women do want luxury, and they are willing to spend $3,000 to $4,000 on a dress, but they are not willing to spend $16,000," Schmoll said.
Schmoll said that an expanded GLC line will be shown during Paris's twice-yearly rtw collections, starting with fall-winter 1996 shows in March. "This way, we'll be in touch with real clients--not ghosts," he said.
Klein stressed that in taking this new direction, Laroche plans to avoid becoming an ex-couture house dependent only on perfume accessory revenues.
The decision comes at a time when the Guy Laroche group is working to overcome its financial difficulties. For the first half of this year, Laroche had operating losses of $6.6 million on sales of $32.2 million.
Klein said it cost roughly $5 million to make each couture collection. While the couture studio will close, and some 20 atelier workers will lose their jobs, most of the former couture investment will be plowed into strengthening the GLC collection. The fall GLC collection will be the line's fifth season. Klein is planning to expand the line from 25 models to around 80.
In addition, Klein hopes that 15 pieces will be available on a custom-order basis "to give the flexibility of haute couture but without so many fittings and with shorter turnaround time."
At the same time, Laroche is working to have its diffusion rtw, designed by Patrizia Roversi, have a stronger styling connection with the GLC line.

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