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Fashion Designers at Haute Couture Profiled; Interview with Donatella Versace; Interview with Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld; Christian Dior Unveils Work of New Designer Raf Simons; Interview with Lenny Kravitz on Home Design Aspirations

Aired July 14, 2012 - 14:30   ET


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody, and welcome to a very special edition of "Fashion Backstage Pass." I'm Alina Cho. We are coming to you from Paris. It is Couture week when top housing fashion houses slow off their luxurious custom made looks for this fall and winter.


CHO: Paris is the birthplace of fashion. On the streets and on the runway, being fashionable is a way of life, the height of elegance, with celebrity charm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just seeing how all of the clothes are made and seeing some of the most beautiful clothes, it's fascinating. I'm so excited to be here.

CHO: You think you might be a client?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope so. I think so.

CHO: Where Couture meets rock and roll.

You're taking this private design thing to a whole new level.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the plan is to make it a lifestyle brand.

CHO: And on the catwalk, fashion at its finest.


CHO: Couture literally means high sewing. The looks you see here on the Paris runways will never be in a store near you. They're made to order, hand-sewn, and can cost anywhere from $40,000 to hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars for a single garment. Fashion houses like Chanel and Dior show up at Couture because they say it elevates the brand.

Another fashion house showing here in Paris, Versace, but it's the platinum blonde behind the brand you may recognize most, Donatella Versace. She had a cameo in the movie "Zoolander," and is mentioned in "The Devil Wears Prada."


CHO: Donatella is so famous she is even parodied on Saturday night live.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're beautiful.

CHO: And while this may be funny, there is a very private side to Donatella she rarely reveals -- 15 years ago her brother Gianni, the brand's founder was murdered. For the first time on television, Donatella speaks openly about her brother's death and what it was like to finally return to the place she last saw him. Paris's Ritz Hotel.


CHO: It's nearly show time at Paris's Ritz Hotel. Why are they here?

PIERCE BROSNAN, ACTOR: I've never been to one of these events.

CHO: This is an event. Not unlike a movie premier.

How does it feel when you wear Versace?

JESSICA ALBA, ACTRESS: You feel very sexy and very glamorous.

CHO: They have come out for a fashion show, like no other. Versace's latest Couture collection, what will go down in history as Donatella's return to the Ritz.

You never came back.

VERSACE: It was too painful for me.

CHO: Painful because it was her at the Ritz in July 1997 that her brother, the man who started the Versace label, showed his last collection. Nine days later, he was gunned down on the steps of his Miami mansion by Andrew Cunanan, a serial killer who committed suicide on the top after houseboat after a dramatic standoff with police.

VERSACE: It was like a strange show, and after the show, two days after, I said, we are in the Ritz --

CHO: The two were as close as could be, she his muse, he, the creative force, the man who popularized the notion of dressing celebrities for the red carpet, the first to pay high salaries to models, creating the super model. When Gianni was killed, Donatella took over so the brand Versace would live on.

VERSACE: Everybody is looking at me and comparing me to Gianni. But don't even compare me. No one will ever be as good as him. So I need it find my own voice.

CHO: There were highs and lows. J-Lo in this Versace gown brought a lot of attention. But the company lost money. Donatella struggled with drug addiction. Versace lost its way. Then Lady Gaga came along. I'm on the edge of glory

Gaga opened Versace to a whole new generation, young buyers who don't remember Gianni Versace. That gave Donatella the courage to do a collection for h & m and ultimately gave her the strength to return to the Ritz.

VERSACE: I'm not afraid any more.

CHO: The runway built on top of the pool, just like her brother did, and the clothes, prints and pastels, reminiscent of her brother's designs, and yet all her own.

LEA MICHELE, ACTRESS, GLEE: No one knows a woman's body like Donatella Versace. She just -- it's like art. Her clothes are so beautiful.

STEFANO TONCHI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, W. MAGAZINE: I look like a Donatella as really like a hero in a certain way. She went through much in her personal life and her business life. And I think that she came out as a winner.

CHO: In 2011, Versace game profitable again. Backstage -

Emotionally, how do you feel?

VERSACE: You know, it is difficult but I'm very happy. I think Gianni will be very happy.

CHO: the Ritz will be closed for renovations but open in two years. Will the house of Versace come back?

VERSACE: Absolutely yes.


CHO: And knowing Donatella, she will be back.

Coming up, Christian Dior, a fashion house so revered, so beloved in France, that when the House of Dior unveiled its newest star designer, the fashion world's biggest names showed up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't care if I don't see anything else today. It was that beautiful. It was a new direction, yet so respectful of the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't often go to shows, in fact, very rarely.

CHO: How Dior drew a crowd when "Fashion Backstage Pass from Paris" returns.


CHO: What is the importance of Couture from your standpoint?

ANNA WINTOUR, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "VOGUE": Well, first of all, it's the highest level of creativity that we have in fashion. I mean, just looking around the racks this afternoon with the designers at Valentino, the amount of thought and brilliance that goes into these clothes, you simply can't execute that at the ready-to-wear level. It's like any form of art or culture, I mean, you need the best of something to inspire the rest. CHO: Welcome back. Couture is where fashion begins, where designers are able to experiment with ideas and work with an unlimited budget. That's exactly what we saw at the House of Dior. The 66-year-old fashion house unveiled its newest star designer during Couture. It took a year to find the one, so when the chosen one unveiled his first collection for Dior, the fashion world was watching.


CHO: Call it a designer convention -- Marc Jacobs.

I don't often see you at a show.

MARC JACOBS, FASHION DESIGNER: No, I don't often go to shows, in fact, very rarely.

CHO: But he came to this. So did Anna Wintour and celebrities like Sharon Stone.

CHO: Are you looking forward to wearing the clothes?

SHARON STONE, ACTRESS: I'm wearing the clothes now. He designs in way that I personally like very much.

CHO: So who is he?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is a rock star in his own right.

He is Belgian Raf Simons, Christian Dior's new artistic director, replacing John Galliano, who was abruptly fired last year following an infamous anti-Semitic rant. Simons hiring was a year in the making.

CHO: Why did it take so long?

SIDNEY TOLEDANO, CEO, CHRISTIAN DIOR: I don't know. Take the time to find the right fit. Dior is very special.

CHO: So special Dior staged a set like no other for Simons debut, 1 million flowers ling the walls and high wattage crowd, including countless top designers.

RAF SIMONS, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, CHRISTIAN DIOR: The amount of them made it very intimidating also at the same time, very scary.

CHO: If it was scary, Simons didn't show it and the clothes, just read the reviews, had the audience at hello, speechless, perfection. Even the toughest critics swooned.

WINTOUR: He brought a lightness and simplicity to it that I thought was incredibly refreshing. Nice clothes are fine. But can you find nice clothes everywhere. What Raf brings is a point of view.

CHO: Did Dior make the right choice?

WINTOUR: From what we saw, I think it was a brilliant choice. CHO: Designing the custom-made clothes, Simons was most interested in Dior's early years when Dior himself designed. But fashion interpreting the past is the name of the game.

SIMONS: Like getting out a ball gown which could be seven meters of sequence, top, pants, hands in pockets, it becomes more like livable.

CHO: One of fashion's top jobs, why even those rumored to be under consideration came to.

Every thought for a while this job was yours.

ALBER ELBAZ, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, LANVIN: No, but it's his. It's his and it's gorgeous.

CHO: Coming up, at home with Lenny Kravitz at Paris, a side of the superstar you may not be familiar with.

LENNY KRAVITZ, SINGER/SONGWRITER: When I was a little kid, it was important to me how my room looked, where things were, the flow, you know, the lighting.

CHO: And if Couture is so expensive and only a few hundred women in the world can afford it, how is it a viable business? It is at Chanel. Just ask Carl Lagerfeld.

In this economy when people say, why Couture?

KARL LAGERFELD, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, CHANEL: More than ever because it is more money than ever.

CHO: And who are the women buying these clothes? Meet 23-year-old Zarina Rasueva from Moscow. She came to Paris just to buy clothes from Couture, buying straight from the runway. We first caught up with Zarina on day one of the Couture, the Versace show, looking more like a celebrities than a client.

You know the clothes are so expensive.

ZARINA RASUEVA, HAUTE COUTURE CLIENT: Yes, I do. But it is like a masterpiece, a piece of art you wear.

CHO: Which is how clients justify spending so much money for one piece of clothing. Next up, Dior, where along with the world's top editors, she too sits front row.

What is your Couture budget?

RASUEVA: It depends. You know, I --

CHO: The range?

RASUEVA: The range, 100 I think.

CHO: $100,000?

RASUEVA: Yes, $100,000.

CHO: That will get her at most three Couture pieces. Problem is --

What did you think?

RASUEVA: Oh, it was so awesome. It is the first time really, when I was in the place with that and that.

CHO: Dresses she will add to the 10 Couture pieces she already owns.

You are already buying a top so what more is thereafter Couture?

RASUEVA: I don't know, maybe jewelry. Who knows?

CHO: More of Couture when "Fashion Backstage Pass" from Paris returns.


CHO: If a Couture dress can cost six figures, what does it take to make one?

LAGERFELD: The biggest difference is everything is made by hand. No sewing machine.

CHO: We are inside the Paris studio of Valentino.

LAGERFELD: All of the women have magic hands.

CHO: But she has the number one magic hands?

LAGERFELD: Of course.



CHO: Ellie (ph) Demoreli (ph) is known as the premier, the only Couture seamstress at Valentino who has the authority to take the designer's sketch and bring it to life. She leads the others.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They take our sketch and our idea and make it something real. That's exciting for us.

LAGERFELD: Our aesthetic comes through with their hands.

CHO: Taking something like this and turning it into this, which takes time.

LAGERFELD: We need 1,800 hours to embroidery. Then one week together.

CHO: It takes patience.

DEMORELI: Yes, very patient.

CHO: Does she ever get to see the clients wearing the dress? How does that feel? LAGERFELD: Very emotional. She is very proud of it.

CHO: Ordering a Couture dress can cost you mega bucks, so why do designers make clothes that are hard to sell? We sat down with Chanel's Carl Lagerfeld to get the answer, and to find out who even has the money to afford Couture.

As the only cameras allowed inside Chanel's Paris design studio, we get a glimpse of Carl Lagerfeld few see, the Chanel maestro at work.

CARL LAGERFELD, DESIGNER: Can you walk a little?

CHO: Just hours before he unveils his latest Couture collection to the international press. The clothes you see here will soon be on the runway, but never in a department store, because Couture dresses are custom made.

LAGERFELD: They are made by hand, fits like a glove.

CHO: With the most expensive fabrics and details, so intricate, a single dress can take hundreds of hours to make.

LAGERFELD: It is like ideas, art form. So Couture is the moment when it all starts. It is the place where you will hear and see it first.

CHO: Couture elevates a brand like Chanel, even though many fashion houses lose money or break even doing it. At Chanel, Lagerfeld says Couture makes money.

On average what is the cost of a cure tour dress?

LAGERFELD: It depends. It goes from $30,000 to $200,000.

CHO: For one piece of clothing.

A lot of people don't understand why Couture cost so much money.

GLENDA BAILEY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HARPER'S BAZAAR: Well, I have to tell you that craftsmanship that you see on the runways here in Paris is like no other. This is museum quality.

CHO: So who's buying Couture?

LAGERFELD: You see, and they all have models.

CHO: And younger these days, you said.

LAGERFELD: Yes, they do, very young.

CHO: And more international.

LAGERFELD: Completely different. You have Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Middle East, India, and Brazil.

CHO: And these clients are discriminating.

LAGERFELD: You put a dress on the actress on the red carpet, and she sees a photo with the dress, they won't buy the dress.

CHO: Yes, because with all that money the Couture client wants a dress nobody else has. Take this wedding dress made of feathers as pearls -- it weighs 15 pounds and took 500 hours to make.

LAGERFELD: Don't forget, a dress that expensive, it means 30, 40 people work on it. It creates a lot of employment.

CHO: So for Chanel and for, what does Couture represent.

LAGERFELD: It's the top.

CHO: Creme de la creme.

LAGERFELD: Creme de la creme.

CHO: Coming up, I visit rocker Lenny Kravitz at his home in Paris, and he opens up to me about his other passion, interior design.

KRAVITZ: I think it just goes hand in hand with everything that I do creatively.


CHO: You're watching "Fashion Backstage Pass." I'm Alina Cho in Paris Couture. That's when the biggest fashion houses show off their custom- made garments that you will never be able to find in a store.

We had an exclusive look in inside Chanel's Paris design studio, and a one-on-one with its Karl Lagerfeld. Plus Donatella Versace opened up about designing. And Couture week always brings out the biggest names in fashion, the clients with the biggest bank accounts and big name celebrities too, Leah Michelle, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Kardashian, Jessica Alba, and Sharon Stone.

But one stood out along the rest, Lenny Kravitz. The American rock star opened his Paris home to us, revealing his love for high-end fashion and especially home design.



CHO: Lenny Kravitz, rock star, actor --

KRAVITZ: I'm here to help you in any way that I can.

CHO: Interior designer? Why not?

KRAVITZ: I was always into my environment, you know, even when I was a little kid.

CHO: I sat down with Kravitz at his palatial Paris home, a place he called home for seven years. The four-story mansion is filled with all of his favorite things. Art by Warhol and Basquiat, a Lucite piano, his four Grammies, photos of his late mother, actress Roxy Roker, and the couch and chandelier he designed.

KRAVITZ: It always made me feel good. It made the music sound better. You know, the lighting was right. Everything was good. I think it goes hand in hand with everything that I do creatively.

CHO: Kravitz started to get serious about interior design just after he signed his first record deal.

KRAVITZ: I had my first loft in New York, didn't have any money, and wanted to have a place that felt like me. So I had to start making stuff.

CHO: Then as he got more successful, the budget got bigger. He bought more homes, in Miami, Brazil, and the Bahamas.

KRAVITZ: After a while, it got ridiculous because how many places can I have and how many times can I, you know, redecorate it, every year, wanting to change the whole theme? So I decided to start doing it for other people.

CHO: In 2003, he founded Kravitz Design, a residential commercial and product design company with a real office in New York, with real workers and real projects.

KRAVITZ: The same way I make my music, the same philosophy. I'm very detail oriented. If you put me in a room that's perfect except for one flaw, my eye goes right to the flaw. It's kind of a sickness, my attention to detail. But that's the way I am.

CHO: He's designed condos and hotel suites in Miami, wall tiles, wallpaper, and these chairs for Cartel, called Madame Moseilles. Something he called Couture meets rock 'n' roll.

Does one help the other?

KRAVITZ: Yes. When I'm doing music I need a break from music it doesn't mean I want to stop being creative.

CHO: How do you keep it all straight? Talking about tile designs between gigs?

KRAVITZ: Absolutely, if you have to.

CHO: And at this house, there are rules.

KRAVITZ: There is no-shoe rule at my house. We wear no shoes.

CHO: Why is that?

KRAVITZ: It is nice to lay on the floor and roll around on the floor and be comfortable. You know.

CHO: Function first with fashion at its core, and this is just the beginning.

KRAVITZ: Yes, well the plan is to make it a lifestyle brand. That's been my dream for this company. The same way you would see Ralph Lauren.

CHO: So we could see Lenny Kravitz furniture, Lenny Kravitz sheets, Lenny Kravitz clothes?

KRAVITZ: Oh, yes.

CHO: Are we close to seeing that?

KRAVITZ: It's coming. When people say they enjoy something or something gives them pleasure, the music, a couch, whatever it may be, it is just a great gift to be able to share something with other people.

I got to go, American women, yes.


CHO: And for that, Lenny Kravitz, we thank you. Being in Paris during Couture has been an amazing experience, and here is one important take-away.

BAILEY: You see on the runway, so many capes, so many pants. So you think, how is that relevant? Well, come the next season, there will be even more pants than ever before and even more caves. These are the ideas that give the designer the opportunity it create the ideas now that develop them for the ready-to-wear collection.

CHO: So plan your wardrobe accordingly.

We're so glad you were with us for this very special edition of "Fashion Backstage Pass from Paris." For more on my fashion special, follow me on Twitter at AlinaChoCNN, or visit my Facebook page.

I'm Alino Cho from the Champs Elysees in Paris. See you soon. Thanks for watching.