Saint Laurent Opts Out of Live Couture Telecast

PARIS -- Yves Saint Laurent has pulled out of "Haute Couture Worldview," a live satellite TV show broadcast simultaneously to New York, Los Angeles and Chicago of 18 couture shows in Paris, raising doubts about the eventual success of the...

PARIS — Yves Saint Laurent has pulled out of “Haute Couture Worldview,” a live satellite TV show broadcast simultaneously to New York, Los Angeles and Chicago of 18 couture shows in Paris, raising doubts about the eventual success of the project.

Guy Laroche might also be a defector.

Event Media International of New York — the parent of Paris Fashion Showcase Limited — which is staging the event, agreed to pay $1 million to broadcast the shows in high definition television, according to Jacques Mouclier, president of the Chambre Syndicale.

The couture houses participating in the program are supposed to be paid a fee of close to $50,000 each, whether or not they present their collections in the controversial new underground fashion center, the Carrousel du Louvre, Mouclier added.

The original agreement between Event Media and the Chambre Syndicale included Balmain, Carven, Christian Dior, Louis Feraud, Givenchy, Lecoanet Hemant, Christian Lacroix, Ted Lapidus, Guy Laroche, Hanae Mori, Paco Rabanne, Nina Ricci, Saint Laurent, Jean-Louis Scherrer, Per Spook, Torrente, Emanuel Ungaro and Philippe Venet.

According to sources here, the Saint Laurent pullout, only a week before the shows are scheduled to hit the runways, is only the latest snag to plague the event.

Chanel and Pierre Cardin both refused to participate in the unprecedented event. And, according to the terms of the agreement, the one-third of the million-dollar payment that was to be given to the Chambre Syndicale up front — before the shows — has yet to change hands, said Mouclier.

The telecast sponsors were not available for comment on that point.

“This deal was done by Mouclier, and he told me that everyone had agreed to take part,” said Pierre Berge, president of Yves Saint Laurent Couture. “But then I discovered that Mr. Cardin and Chanel had refused. Well, if Chanel is not doing it, I don’t see why Saint Laurent should.”

Asked about losing out on the Event Media fee, Berge replied: “I don’t give a damn about $50,000. Mouclier might need the money, but I don’t. You can’t just show these images to anyone.”

Berge also complained that the high ticket price — accessibility to all the closed-circuit shows costs $1,600, including lunch — prevents young, creative people in America from seeing the couture collections.

In New York, Martin L. Chaisson, chairman and co-chief executive director of “Haute Couture Worldview,” countered that there hasn’t been any negative reaction to ticket prices. He did, however, acknowledge that there hasn’t been a mad dash to the box office either.

“Typically, at this time in this economy, tickets are not going as fast as we thought they would,” said Chaisson. “In the Eighties, people bought things immediately; in the Nineties, people buy at the last minute.”

Chaisson declined to make initial sales projections or reveal the number of tickets sold so far, but he did say things were beginning to pick up as the event draws near.

“There has been an enormous response, but I don’t want to quantify it with a number,” he said. As for Saint Laurent’s defection, Chaisson said, “That’s news to me.”

A spokesman for Guy Laroche said the house has also decided not to broadcast its show, although designer Michel Klein seemed unaware of the decision.

Klein, whose first collection for Laroche debuts on Tuesday, Jan. 18, said, “I must say I find it bizarre, to show couture like this [on TV], given the risk of copying, but this decision was made before I joined Laroche.”

Mouclier could not be reached for comment on these latest developments.

Other, perhaps more experienced voices in these matters, waved off concerns about the broadcasts.

“I’m not worried at all,” said Oscar de la Renta, whose collection for Balmain is part of the scheduled broadcasts. “Look, Victor Costa can have a photo of any outfit within five minutes and anybody can make a copy of any dress. But what they can’t reproduce is the quality of the fabric, the workmanship, the finish, which is what people really pay for.”

“Thanks to the Americans, we are going to stage this season’s show for free,” said Gilbert Personeni, Paco Rabanne’s managing director of fashion. He pointed out that the Carrousel’s 1,200-seat Salle Delorme, where Rabanne, Dior, Nina Ricci, Chanel and Louis Feraud will show, costs $47,370 (270,000 francs at current exchange rates) for a show.

At Christian Lacroix, Jean-Jacques Picart said: “We signed up two months ago and are going through. But we are well aware of the risk we are running. We could be cutting off the branch we’re sitting on. That’s our gut feeling.”

When told that tickets to the U.S. broadcasts were reportedly not selling well, Personeni of Paco Rabanne replied: “That would be a disappointment. But they have a contract and will have to respect it.”

Original plans for the telecast included a live broadcast of the complete fashion show and a recap in the evening. However, Chaisson said that if support doesn’t warrant two viewings per day they, will cut back to one.