July 20, 2006 - When Olivier Theyskens sent out his fall collection for Rochas, steam-colored tulle billowing through the evening pieces, little could he have known that four months later the label would be up in smoke. Following the announcement by owners Proctor and Gamble that Paris-based Rochas would be closed, the indefatigable editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, issued a statement: "Olivier is one of our brightest young talents on the international platform. He has taken enormous care to build that brand in a slow and methodical way so that the fashion customer totally understands what the Rochas signature looks are."

Two days later, WWD, which broke the story to begin with, printed the very telling headline, "Postmortem on Rochas: It Takes More Than Talent To Play the Corporate Game". The article went on to conclude that "designer and brand owners must prioritize commercial, salable products over media glory."

The powers that be at Rochas were unfortunately their own worst enemy.

In the fall of 2002, the then perfume-oriented Rochas, held a gala presentation on Place Vendôme in Paris, where behind the closed doors of a palace, the house unveiled it's spring 2003 collection at a champagne-soaked cocktail party.

Shortly thereafter, Rochas’ management made the decision to reinvigorate the house by hiring a talented young designer (Theyskens, who had not made the cut for Givenchy. Givenchy ultimately entered into its own annus horribulus with the appointment of the ill-famed Julien McDonald), and to begin staging even more exclusive runway shows.

All of those plans came to a crashing halt last Tuesday.

To the Rochas Press Officer, who for three years has been unable to turn on a fax machine, answer an email, or take a phone call, we would like to express a heartfelt adieu.

To the management of Rochas, who chose to ignore the red ink on the balance sheet in favor of the black ink of the editorial page, we wish Godspeed. The French call it a "Plan Social", or state-mandated career counseling, that is launched whenever a business declares bankruptcy. Let's hope the Rochas trial tested management team finds a new vocation - say, running the French army.

To the trio of high-powered editors, who have exalted Rochas, while living in their own surreal bubble, we suggest a reality check.

These same set of editors have been oh-là-là-ing over Balenciaga. Interestingly, the July Air France magazine contains a lengthy interview with Henri-François Pinault, the CEO of PPR, the holding company for the Gucci Group, which in turn owns Balenciaga. In a very telling entry in his diary, Pinault talks of an extensive afternoon meeting with Robert Polet (CEO of Gucci Group) and Nicolas Ghesquière (designer of Balenciaga) to discuss "strategic vision". One assumes that the strategy under discussion was aimed at finding a way to stem the outflow of cash. The balance sheet at Balenciaga is redder than the lacquered crimson walls of Yves Saint Laurent’s apartment on Rue de Babylon.

Fashion may be a fantasy world, but eventually it still shakes down to pictures that can't be airbrushed.

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