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March 9, 2012

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Paris fashion week


A YEAR ago it was panthers. Now horses have captured the imagination of Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci, whose fall-winter show in Paris presented a highly charged and at times fetish-ized take on equestrian riding gear.

Jodphurs in black and sable brown shaped the silhouette of the collection's first half, with oversized earrings like horse-blinders complementing high riding boots.

As ever with Tisci, there was a sense of danger at all times with chokingly tight neck scarves, loud, troubling music, and even one skintight leather piece that looked like bondage gear.

Maturing past his obsession with black, most of the looks incorporated reds, blues, and even pink pulling off a street-style effect. There was a tangible 1970s edge as the collection developed. Intentionally crude stitching in one leather dress was followed by a series of intense dresses.

Alexander McQueen

The wonderment was tangible at Sarah Burton's accomplished and vibrantly colored ready-to-wear show for Alexander McQueen. Feather explosions that ballooned in three dimensions spelled awe for spectators.

The inspiration for fall-winter was said to be the "rippling underbellies of mushrooms," but like the house's spring collection it looked more like a coral reef.

The teeming feel to the fibers blown by the movement of walking models painted a scene of anemones and medusas in a sea-palette of ice white, soft blue and crimson. The peplum of one blush pink dress, with a metal pincer belt, recalled the layers of a jellyfish, and the tooth of an octopus. At several points the audience gasped.

"It was exhilarating," said Hal Rubenstein, InStyle magazine fashion director. "With talent like Sarah's you just sit back and relish the sense of fantasy. No one else has it."

Horse hooves - feathered platforms without heels - and visors reminiscent of horse blinders added danger to the visual repertoire.

A voluminous black trapeze coat in Mongolian hair had the heavy, almost muscular feel of a cantering horse, with a large equine bussle that moved from side to side.

With silhouettes changing shape from every angle and bold ideas, it was by far the best example this season of a designer at the top of her game. It also was a show carried out in the spirit of McQueen, who committed suicide two years ago.


To slightly underwhelming applause it was, again, "interim" designer Bill Gaytten who closed Dior's ready-to-wear show in a playing-it-safe balletic display of lowered 1950s hemlines that missed the exuberance of January's couture offering.

With reports his contract would end in May, the fall-winter collection was meant to be the designer's last. But the talk of the front row was whether Dior might keep him on for another year.

Swan song or no, "Swan Lake" could have characterized the show: Balletic-high waistlines topped a new, longer-length skirt with knife-edged pleats and a more structured silhouette.

The sex appeal was also turned up in the odd play of sheer paneling on the house's signature 1950s gowns, in blushed nudes and inky jewel tones, that are shaping this fall's look.


Karl Lagerfeld turned Paris' Grand Palais into a cold, crystal fortress for a wrapped-up, layered fall-winter collection that channeled the space-age sheen of the 1980s.

The ready-to-wear show invoked an otherworldliness reminiscent of the 1980 movie "Superman II," in which Christopher Reeve flew to an Arctic palace.

Lagerfeld certainly displayed his superhuman eye for detail.

Tectonic shiny appliques gave gray woolen coats a textural friction, while geometric A-line coat dresses had the feel of gems quarried from deep within the Earth. One long, flowing dress in purple even drew gasps as the model disappeared into a matching backdrop.

The collection, one of the most layer-heavy this season, was a play on volume, with skirts on top of trousers, and thick coiled scarves, reminiscent of the 1980s New Romantics.


In his third collection for Hermes, Christophe Lemaire used Argentina's iconic Gaucho look in an accomplished fall-winter display.

The first piece introduced gentle, hanging silhouettes: a long fringed cape in navy blue was worn like a South American poncho.

While wide low-slung pleated gaucho pants mixed with sumptuous nude leathers - the house's signature material - that were so soft, they moved as if they were living and breathing.

As the models walked past there was a distinct aroma of polished hide.

There were nods to the season's must-have, the boxy-jacket, with one charcoal number reworked on a high white collar, in the style of Spanish equestrian garb.

But Hermes was all about comfort.

The relaxed look was perfected with subtle contrasting pieces: a coat was so cool it hung from one shoulder, yet also had the fierceness of a matador cape. The show featured models in their 40s walking down the runway.


"Dreams, history and the past," Alber Elbaz said of his extravaganza fall-winter ready-to-wear show that celebrated and retraced his 10-year journey as creative director of Lanvin.

Every inch of the couture, ruffles and shimmer that revitalized the house over the last few years was on display, including reinterpretations of 1960s vintage pieces from the iconic archives.

Spotlighting dappled the colors of neoprene dresses with peplums and inflated arms in canary yellow, emerald green and royal blue.

Reading like a Lanvin fashion encyclopedia, the theme switched to a leather-infused take on sportswear jackets with a dazzling array of reworked parkas, perfectos and bombers.

The next chapter revisited archive pieces such as a duchesse satin insert - replicated from the 1960s - on a black and gold brocade gown with matching knee-high boots.


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