* Dior CEO says U.S. saw strong rebound in 2012
* CEO says orders exceed workshop capacity
By Astrid Wendlandt and Pascale Denis
PARIS, Jan 21 (Reuters) - The U.S. market for high-end luxury goods rebounded in 2012 as consumer sentiment improved, the head of Christian Dior, one of France’s biggest fashion brands, said on Monday.
The United States, which vies with China for the top spot in the luxury sector by market size, is regarded by many in the industry as one of the least-penetrated markets compared with the size of its economy, with solid growth prospects.
“America is doing better, in 2012 we have seen a strong rebound in spending on high-end luxury,” Christian Dior Chief Executive Sidney Toledano said after the fashion house’s haute couture show in Paris.
“American women came back strongly last year,” Toledano said, referring to buyers of the brand’s haute couture dresses.
Christian Dior, part of luxury goods group LVMH, was echoing positive comments made earlier on Monday by sector peer Richemont, which reported improving sales trends in the United States, though it also said sales growth had ground to a halt in Asia-Pacific.
LVMH reports full-year results on Jan. 31.
Toledano said Dior’s couture division was receiving more orders than its workshops could take.
“We need to develop our (production) capacity to handle the demand,” Toledano said, adding that Dior had 100 permanent staff and its workshop was so busy that it remained in operation between Christmas and New Year.
Toledano said the staffing issue explained partly why Dior had acquired small Parisian embroidery firm Vermont last year.
In December, Christian Dior Couture reported sales for the half-year to Oct. 31 up 18 percent at 632 million euros ($840 million) and said margins had improved.
Monday’s Dior haute couture show was the second presented by new creative director Raf Simons, poached from Jil Sander last year to replace disgraced John Galliano, who has since made a comeback at Oscar de la Renta.
Simons presented an ethereal and modern spring/summer collection with flowing, puffed-out dresses enamelled with fluorescent sparkling touches.
The garden-inspired show included multi-layered tulle cocktail bustier dresses that made daring mixes of colours such as light pink and blue, with touches of bright orange and Bordeaux red.
Accessories included fluorescent pink, orange and green tights and transparent gloves embroidered with flowers.
The front row was attended by the usual crowd of celebrities, which this time counted actresses Sigourney Weaver, Jessica Alba, Laetitia Casta and Isabelle Huppert.
LVMH Chief Executive Bernard Arnault was sitting next to French President Francois Hollande’s girlfriend, Valerie Trierweiler, who has become a regular fashion show fixture since his election last year.