Spring-Summer Haute Couture 2010 Ends In Paris
Spring-summer 2010 haute couture displays ended Wednesday with a piercing mariachi cry at Jean Paul Gaultier's raucous south-of-the-border-themed show, a neon paradise of receding hemlines at Valentino and endless sweet and sexy silk gowns from red-carpet-favorite Elie Saab.
Haute couture collections _ made up of extravagant made-to-measure gowns and daywear with prices tags resembling those of motor vehicles _ are meant to showcase fashion house's unbridled creativity and technical savoir faire.
Both of those were on prominent, even triumphant display at Gaultier, as the one-time enfant terrible of French fashion fielded his strongest collection in several seasons.
His raucous romp through Mexico's history included hip hop vaquera pant suits, gowns of Conquistador armor and Aztec princess cocktail dresses made from woven palm fronds. It culminated in a live performance of mariachi standard "Cucurrucucu Paloma" by a famous French singer who strutted the catwalk in a cha-cha-cha dress in tomato red tulle.
Bond girl Olga Kurylenko called Gaultier's "the most fun show I've seen," and said she "just want(ed) to get onstage and dance."
The atmosphere was decidedly more subdued at Valentino, despite the new design team's continuing efforts to reach out to younger consumers.
Their ultra-abbreviated bustier dresses in saturated fluorescent chiffons were gorgeous and looked sure to please their target audience _ the international jet-set crowd of paper-thin party girls.
But Valentino's strategy begged the question: Are those girls really interested in couture?
Lebanon's Elie Saab played it safe with a pretty-but-uninspired collection of spaghetti-strapped gowns in dusty mauves, muted pinks and soft peach.
Turkish designer Dilek Hanif _ one of a host of smaller labels that show off the official haute couture calendar _ sent out a lovely collection of short cocktail dresses and cropped beaded vests in a similarly muted palette. With the show, Hanif proved she's someone to watch.
After Valentino, the fashion glitteratti celebrated the end of the Paris shows that began a week earlier with menswear, descending en masse on a soiree at the Ritz _ attended by Kate Moss and sponsored by Paris bagmaker Longchamp _ and the opening of an exhibit of rhinestone-encrusted dresses, which took place across town.
The opening, sponsored by Crystallized Swarovski Elements and held a sprawling town house once owned by Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, showcased 22 top designers' interpretation of that perennial staple of women's wardrobe, the little black dress.
Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci stayed true to his S&M aesthetic with a long-sleeved number covered in triangular black stones and with cut out panels along the bust, while Giorgio Armani turned out a classic draped bustier dress embellished with a beaded flower.
The dresses are to be auctioned in New York in September, with all profits going to charity.
On Thursday, some luxury labels and high-end jewelry makers including Chanel and Van Cleef and Arpels will throw open their doors to those fashion editors and stylists who manage to drag themselves out of bed after the big night. This is the first time such fine jewelry presentations have been included in the haute couture calendar.
The fashion world will return to Paris in just over a month for the start of the city of light's marathon ready-to-wear displays.
JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
A vaquera pant suit in gold-embroidered denim _ one of Gaultier's trademark fabrics _ opened the show, and each of the 42 looks that followed was more elaborate and striking than the previous.
The ankle length gown in woven bands of tropical turquoise and emerald silk, topped off with a woven cylinder headpiece sprouting real palm fronds, was to die for. And the asymmetrical dress in silk Georgette with steel mask and coat of armor leggings made you think you'd died and gone to heaven.
As mariachis belted their ulullating cries over the loudspeakers, models in oversized woven sombreros walked the catwalk in dresses made from fringed Spanish mantillas _ another of Gaultier's trademark materials _ a column dress embellished with beaded Spanish galleons and a halter dress in woven leather strips.
Gaultier said Mel Gibson's 2006 Mayan epic "Apocalypto" put him into a tropical state of mind _ despite the seemingly eternal gray Paris winter.
Asked when he'd last visited Mexico, Gaultier responded, "Oh, it was about 30 years ago. I have only a vague memory of it, but there are movies, there are books," he told a scrum of journalists after the show. "And of course the imagination that plays a part."
After a timid debut one year ago _ when they sent out rhinestone-covered satin overcoats and A-line dresses that looked like they'd just stepped out of the archive _ the Italian label's new designers, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, continued to forge their bold vision for the new Valentino woman: She's wild, she's daring, and most of all, she's young.
After all, how many woman past their teenage years can pull off translucent, bead-studded tulle leggings with an equally sheer ... dress? Or was it a shirt? And who besides an adolescent could wiggle into an ultra-mini bustier in fluorescent pink ruched chiffon bands?
"We think that to keep a future in couture, it's necessary to bring a new customer who wants something cooler," Chiuri said in a backstage interview with The Associated Press.
Piccioli added, "We tried to make new strategies for going forward. To do that we have to experiment with new silhouettes ... because we want to call the young girls. They can be new customers for couture because they want beauty, they want personalized things."
Because of couture garments' astronomical price tags and changes in consumer habits, there are only several hundred women in the world who still buy couture. The dwindling numbers of consumers is a major worry to the labels, like Valentino, who want to keep all of the handicrafts that go into couture garmants _ from the tailoring to the embroidery to the beadwork _ alive.
"It's a dream," Piccioli said. "Couture is a dream."
It was a slimmer silhouette than usual for Saab, whose full-skirted princess gowns have helped make him a perennial red carpet favorite. Dresses made up of delicate, transparent layers of lace and chiffon were cut close to the body and covered with elaborate beadwork.
At the end of the show, held in a theater in Paris' stately 16th district, the mirrored catwalk was littered with fallen beads, tubes and chiffon scraps.
Bias cut spaghetti strap gowns had long swishing skirts, while a series of dresses with draped bustiers had skirts with bold slits that nearly reached the model's prominent hip bones.
While pretty, the collection was a bit deja vu, with little to distinguish it from other catwalks in Paris and beyond. AP