Where Were the Celebrities at Paris Couture Week?

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From left: Chiara Mastroianni, Kirsten Dunst, CEO Dior Sidney Toledano, his wife Katia Toledano, Diane Kruger and Charlotte Le Bon attend the Christian Dior Haute Couture Spring Summer 2017 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on Jan. 23 in Paris.

With an abbreviated week, some celebs made appearances at Dior and Armani, but Americans were largely absent. Was it the Kardashian effect?

The spring/summer 2017 haute couture shows have come to a close, following a triumphant debut from Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior and her former partner Pierpaolo Piccioli’s first solo show at Valentino. There were gorgeous gowns at Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad and Chanel, some sure to make star turns on the awards season red carpet. But where was the familiar star power in the gilded front row seats? Namely, where were the Americans?

Usually packed with A-listers such as Kate Hudson, Jennifer Garner, Robin Wright Penn, Uma Thurman and Iggy Azalea — even Bradley Cooper stopped by last year — the couture front row was strangely dim. Power stylists Jessica Paster and Cristina Ehrlich, who typically come to scout styles for upcoming red carpets didn't make the trip, either. And while Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid walked, there were few supermodel sightings aside from Natalia Vodianova and Doutzen Kroes at the Ulyana Sergeenko show.

It didn’t help that Versace abandoned its traditional opening-night berth, which always draws a Hollywood crowd, and the Couture Federation, French fashion's governing body, moved up the headliners, creating a crammed calendar at the start and essentially abandoning Thursday to lesser-known young designers.

Dior drew the strongest crowd to its show and evening gala, including Kirsten Dunst and Diane Kruger, as well as the brand's men’s faces ASAP Rocky and Rami Malek and Chinese star Tian Jing. Of course the house wouldn’t let Chiuri's big debut go unnoticed, but Kruger lives in Paris, as does Melissa George, who sat with Thandie Newton and Kylie Minogue (who are both settled just across the Channel in London) at the Schiaparelli show.

Honorary American Nicole Kidman, fresh off her Oscar nomination, was the biggest boldfaced name of the week at the Armani show.

“It’s down in general because of everyone’s fears, and there have been way less [Americans] coming even other seasons,” said one New York-based editor. Still, chatter among journalists was that even during the abbreviated week, things felt, to put it simply, “weird.”

Olivia Palermo is one of the few front-row faces who loyally make the trek every season. “I can only speak for myself, but it’s really important for me to come and see the collections up close and see the designers I have supported through the years,” she told Pret-a-Reporter. “But this time of year is really busy for a lot of people and it is a short week. And couture is something so aspirational it’s not for everyone.”

“January is always a very tricky month for fashion and celebrity, because both the menswear and couture shows conflict with award season,” said Los Angeles- and London-based stylist Zadrian Smith, who dresses starlets including Ella Purnell, Kathryn Newton and Naomi Scott. “The expense of time and travel for many just isn’t worth it.”

But the front row seemed to agree it signaled a bigger shift than simply calendar congestion.

Brands are reassessing what is important to their couture clients, as well as reassessing their budgets and the ultimate reach of front-row faces to the average consumer. It’s a two-way street: Does the lipstick and handbag consumer care about that $20,000 dress, and does the client who can afford that dress want to travel to Paris? After the dual jewel heists of Kim Kardashian of $10 million and two Qatari women of $5 million last fall, that's debatable.

“A Qatari princess can just have clothes sent to her,” quipped one London-based editor. (Indeed, some Middle Eastern clients have whole couture collections — and even the designers themselves — flown in to show them at home.)

Brands are also becoming more selective with their invitations to those who speak to the masses. Instagram has been a game changer for fashion. But the social media ground is shifting so quickly, even bloggers who were big three years ago are being left behind.

There's also the issue of freebies and perks — in fashion's down market, they aren't what they used to be.

“Brands just aren’t paying people,” said one London-based blogger, without divulging if she has been a firsthand victim of the trend.

“People used to get $6,000 to go to shows,” said one L.A.-based agent who handles social media stars. “There are too many [bloggers] and it’s all become boring. The market got flooded with people who will do it for less.

“The money’s coming from doing Instagram posts,” the agent added. “But it’s rarely just about being paid to sit anymore. There is almost always a media component — they must post pics of the show, getting ready for the show, going to the show, images from the show and tag.”

Added Smith: “Another factor is how accessible luxury fashion has become. Once-exclusive collections are now being streamed across multiple digital platforms. The shows have lost their sense of mystery and intrigue since the days of Alexander McQueen and Galliano’s Dior.” 

Still, Chanel’s official backstage video posted early Thursday, showing Jenner and Lily-Rose Depp backstage, has already received over 500,000 views, quickly catching up to one posted Wednesday night that has nearly 700,000. That's the kind of engagement a sea of celebrities' faces in the front row can't top.

And if anyone’s worried about having a full front row, remember there’s another nine days of runway collections in a month's time: the spring/summer 2017 Paris ready-to-wear shows. Kicking off two days after the Oscars should give stars plenty of time to recover before the fashion march starts all over again.

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