French designer cancels Paris fashion show, derailed by strike chaos

PARIS (Reuters) - French designer Christophe Josse decided on Monday to cancel his catwalk show in Paris next week, blaming weeks of strikes against pension reforms for wrecking his preparations, just as the city gears up for two weeks of fashion events.

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The cancellation is an early sign of the disruption that the strikes, which have hit transport services in and around Paris hardest, could cause to Paris Fashion Week, and hotels, retailers and restaurants are already counting the costs.

Men’s Fashion Week kicks off on Jan. 14 with presentations by top brands including LVMH’s Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, followed from Jan. 20 by Haute Couture Week, a showcase of one-of-a-kind, handmade designs.

Josse, who was due to take part in Haute Couture Week, said partners working with the label “have been unable to ensure their collaboration”.

A spokeswoman for the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, which organizes the Paris fashion weeks, said the organization was not aware of further cancellations. It will double the number of shuttles ferrying guests from one show to the other and is laying on extra buses to the airport.

Fashion brands often work on their designs up until the last minute and rely on speedy delivery of special fabrics. Rail and metro strikes have reduced staffing at many small businesses and caused delays in deliveries, including of materials in other sectors such as construction.

It was unclear on Monday whether strikes over President Emmmanuel Macron’s pension overhaul would ease in coming weeks, following some government concessions to unions.

“(The strike) has a terrible impact on the entire logistics chain. Transport companies are reticent even to bring chairs to the shows, ,” said a spokeswoman for fashion house Franck Sorbier, which maintains its Jan 22 show.

The transport chaos could also complicate attendance during the period of the shows if the protests drag on.

Department store buyers and fashion bloggers usually descend on Paris and need to whizz from one catwalk show to the next. This will be more complicated if metro services are still infrequent and unreliable.

The Paris haute couture shows, which run twice a year, draw visitors from around the world and generate a host of side events including glitzy parties. The French fashion federation estimates they generate 1.2 billion euros in income every year.

Reporting by Sarah White and Elizabeth Pineau; editing by Geert de Clercq and Gareth Jones