- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 3, 2012

PARIS (AP) - The start of haute couture week in Paris is a must on any self-respecting fashionista’s calendar.

But day one of the French capital’s fall-winter 2012 shows was different: It’s what’s called a fashion event.

Monday was the debut of Christian Dior’s new designer Raf Simons _ the first chance to see into the future of a storied powerhouse.

He is only their fifth designer since Christian Dior founded the company in 1946.

The anticipation was evident in the front row turnout: a who’s who of influence, from Marc Jacobs to Donatella Versace, Pierre Cardin, Riccardo Tisci and Diane von Furstenberg.

Ever since last year’s dismissal of John Galliano, the house has been looking for a new, stronger direction.

In Simons‘ triumphant offering _ which modernized the cinched waisted New Look _ it would seem they’ve found it.

Haute couture is an artisan-based method of making clothes that dates back over 150 years.

The highly expensive garments, shown in collections in Paris twice a year, are bought by a core group of no more than 100 rich women around the world.

Other shows on a busy day included Giambattista Valli, who also channeled 1950s silhouettes in tulip and A-line silhouettes.

Meanwhile, Moroccan-born designer Bouchra Jarrar went back to haute couture’s artisanal roots to produce an accomplished show of femininity.

Tuesday’s shows include Chanel and Armani Prive.

CHRISTIAN DIOR

Say it with flowers.

That was the clear message from new designer Raf Simons in his 1950s-tinged haute couture debut for Christian Dior.

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