Runway fashion here is presented as an art form, a grand fantasy of color and shape that often predicts the future’s reality.
So it did not matter this weekend that Romeo Gigli’s models hobbled and minced because their gold-lace leggings were tethered to their sandals in a most inhibiting way.
His show Saturday still was a howling success because it carried the promise of an alternative way for women to dress this fall: sloping shoulders; luminous and gauzy fabrics, lightly wrapped and tied around the body; and earthy shades such as moss and maroon enlivened with what looked like gold stenciling or filigree.
It was the Italian designer’s first show in Paris after he burst on to the Milan scene just a few seasons back and led a new movement away from traditional tailoring. It is partly because of Gigli that broad shoulder pads are now passe and a softer tone has been set for women’s clothes.
His silhouettes are organic, roughly translating into the outline of an egg, gently narrowed at the shoulders and hem. In between, jackets and coats mark the waistline gently, if at all; suits have soft but not floppy pants. Velvet, silk and shimmery organza swathe the body as if the models had made up their outfits themselves from magical bolts of cloth.
There was speculation here that Gigli may be starting yet another trend by defecting from Milan to Paris for his show, and that the rest of the young Italian designers may soon follow.
Christian Lacroix showed his more expensive, luxe collection Sunday. He provokes feelings of love or hate in everyone who sees his clothes on the runway. The high fashion crowd glowed over: the designer’s extraordinary, lush, Kilim carpet-patterns on skirts and jackets; his unusual use of bright colors; and his monumental grasp of that 1950s feeling, along with his sculpted shapes, especially on trim little suits with slim, above the knee skirts and curvy jackets.
The naysayers proclaimed that he piles too much of everything on a single outfit.
Jean Paul Gaultier, Claude Montana, Karl Lagerfeld and Issey Miyake were other heavy hitters who showed this weekend to roars of approval.
Gaultier dispensed with evening dresses in favor of shiny outfits with cutouts and zippers placed where even Frederick’s of Hollywood might fear to tread. But that was just theatrical frosting on his basic fashion cake.
This Svengali manages to lure about 2,000 people to a suburban sports arena each season, where the crowd waits patiently for an hour until the festivities begin. This time the audience saw men’s tail coats and cutaway jackets transposed into elegant women’s wool sweaters giving new meaning to the word cardigan. Slim jumpsuits had tops shaped like vests, and iridescent taffeta evening jackets had long sleeves of lush velvet.
It was a top-oriented show. Much of the time the models wore combinations of miniskirts over skinny pants below their long jackets. It also was a leggy show, and the leggiest looks of all were Gaultier’s rompers. These minuscule, puffy, plaid items are doubtless the designer’s answer to the shorts now worn by Parisian women on the streets.
Lagerfeld’s show was much applauded but privately panned by many retailers who couldn’t understand why he too seems to have abandoned the bottom half of women’s fall fashion. The hotshot designer (whose clothes for Chanel will be shown today) actually offered lots of easygoing, ankle-length skirts and dresses.
His long, slim skirts of pale ottoman rib-knit skimmed the models’ figures below long, unstructured and unlined matching jackets. Ankle-length, side-buttoned jersey skirts were shown with unfitted knit coats.
All that was drowned in a sea of leg-revealing tights, shown with jackets long enough to be dresses and dresses short enough to be jackets. In fact, jackets were the backbone of his collection--in black-and-white tweed tent shapes, long, equestrian styles with velvet pocket flaps and collars or body-sculpted with scooped-out necklines.
Claude Montana didn’t follow the rest of the French fashion tack when picking his fall colors. Except for a beautiful sky blue, he offered mostly deep, offbeat shades of gray, prune, purple and taupe. He showed lots of trousers, some slim and cuffed, others with just enough width to look fluid. Above these, a variety of beautiful smocked sweater sets, draped long jackets, sporty panchoes, capes and coats that were slightly oversized but not droopy.
The new shape here for jackets and coats is called the “peanut” because it is indented on the side, at the bosom and arcs out from there to the hipline. It is a sculptural marvel and one of many indications this week that designers have lost their fascination with the natural waistline and are focusing the viewer’s eye almost anywhere but there. His signature is a wide collar with a long point, and it shows up on almost every outfit.
Issey Miyake’s show received a standing ovation, and many in the audience rushed backstage to find out how he achieved his evening dresses with shoulders sculpted to the outlines of fans, and skirts in equally exotic configurations. The answer: He puts permanent, horizontal folds into permanent vertically pleated polyester fabric.
His other fall innovations include monotone knit shorts with matching tunic tops decorated with puckers; short parkas with fake fur lining; an elegant tuxedo suit fashioned out of black stretch knit, and all manner of tail coats and short dresses that can be worn back-in-the-front or vice versa.