Great changes are afoot in French fashion. In revolutionary moves that are sending the industry into a spin, even the most venerated of houses are realising that the sun is setting on establishment Parisian couture. Now the bastion that has long been a part of French culture and society has begun to assume a new dimension: image-consciousness, glitz and youth - Hollywood-style accoutrements of which French fashion has traditionally and steadfastly steered clear. The wave of change sweeping through the industry began last year when it was announced that renegade designer John Galliano would become the head of Givenchy. Similar appointments followed as the super-hip Ocimar Versolato was brought in to revamp the Lanvin label. It was also revealed recently that Gianfranco Ferre, a purveyor of classic French chic, will be stepping down from his creative head position at Christian Dior at the end of the year. Privately owned design houses now continue to be absorbed into huge corporations. Emanuel Ungaro was acquired by the Florence-based fashion and accessories empire, Salvatore Ferragamo. Expansion is also the name of the game. Louis Vuitton is reportedly about to launch a collection by Paul Smith, while several other French houses, including Celine, continue to add strings like resorts and cruise lines to their bows. This means the French fashion industry - whether by design or default - can no longer afford to be merely a stronghold of prestige and exclusivity. With the rapid globalisation of the fashion market, with people acquiring wealth earlier in life and the latest fashions appearing on the Internet, accessibility is what French fashion should now be all about. But not without a fight. Many designers, including Ferre and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, continue to exhibit diehard tendencies, proclaiming there remains a bright future for haute couture - truly the domain of the wealthy. In all fairness to the historical value and design content of French fashion, there does remain a certain flamboyance to it that is sometimes lost on Continental labels. 'I don't think French fashion is what you would call European fashion,' David Yang, director of the French Textile Office in Hong Kong, said. 'French fashion is still French fashion.' While the lines that have distinguished pricey French labels from their European counterparts have blurred over the past few years, Mr Yang said French fashion 'still has a certain image'. 'The houses still have a distinct flair and flavour. And during the time of shows, the publicity generated at the Paris collections is invaluable,' he said. The followers of French fashion believe there is a mystery and elegance inherent in its designs that is missing in those from Milan, London or New York. 'Mention anything about France, and we are selling the image of fashion. There may be talented designers coming out of other parts of Europe, but purely in terms of style, I still think that France ranks at the top,' Mr Yang said. That certainly appears to be the case in this part of the world. Hong Kong imports an average of $1 billion worth of fashion and accessories from France every year. With the changes now being made - changes bound to lift French fashion into a fresh, youthful arena - demand should continue to grow.