BY JENNY BARCHFIELD, ASSOCIATED PRESS
PARIS � Spring-summer 2010 haute couture displays shot out of the gates on Monday with a whinnying equestrian themed collection at Dior, while Armani gave stars the moon, with lustrous lunar looks made for the red carpet.
Still, the three-day-long made-to-measure extravaganza was tinged with melancholy, as this was the first season in decades without iconic French couturier Christian Lacroix, whose label fell into bankruptcy and was largely dismantled late last year.
In the first heavyweight show of the season, Christian Dior designer John Galliano looked to the skilled horsewomen of the 19th century for his collection of nip-waisted jackets and flowing skirts.
Armani stuck to his winning formula, sending out luminous lunar variations on the kinds of skinny, peak-shouldered pant suits and clean-lined gowns that have long made him a Hollywood favorite.
Lebanon's Georges Chakra also had his eye on the red carpet, with a collection of pretty princess gowns that were heavy with rhinestones and tulle.
Emerging French designer Anne Valerie Hash culled from the wardrobes of fashion heavy-hitters like Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz and one-time enfant terrible Jean Paul Gaultier, transforming their garments into pant suits and jumpers that gleamed with sequins.
Sequins are the daily bread of Paris' exclusive haute couture displays – high profile showcases that brands use to flaunt their savoir faire. The hand-constructed couture gowns take uncounted hours of painstaking labor and can cost as much as a car (or two.)
The displays move into day two on Tuesday with shows by French luxury giant Chanel and edgy Givenchy.
Forget the "it" bag. Dior called on the chic women of the world to ditch their handbags for a truly useful accessory: the riding crop. The models, in skirt suits of fine red and gray wool, wearing veiled top hats and lace-up boots with towering heels, were all carrying whips.
Kylie Minogue, one of a gaggle of A-list guests at the show, was sure the accessory could come in handy.
"I'm sure I could make a few moves with a riding crop," the pint-sized pop star – dressed in a black-and-white check Dior dress – told The Associated Press.
Besides the equestrian garb – built on a variation of Dior's iconic Bar jacket, with heavily draped peplums – the collection also included short cocktail dresses covered in outrageous embroidery and jewel-toned ball gowns that evoked the long, stately silhouette of a John Singer Sargent painting.
Knockouts in the ravishing collection included a shell pink halter gown with a cascading train in tobacco-colored silk and an olive green halter jacket and draped pencil skirt, worn with above-the-elbow fuchsia gloves and bracelets hung with dangling, egg-sized chunks of amber.
Galliano, who always appears in costume to take a final bow, strutted the catwalk in white jodhpurs, a velvet jacket with tails, boots with a considerable heel and the summer's next big accessory – a swishing whip.
GIORGIO ARMANI PRIVE
Did anyone say Oscars?
Front-row guest Anne Hathaway said she wasn't sure she'd be attending this year's Academy Awards, but added that she had her eye on "about seven" looks from Armani's lunar-themed collection.
"I'm have a few events in mind, and if Mr. Armani would be generous enough, I'd love to wear them," Hathaway told journalists after the show – without specifying what events she was referring to.
Certainly, whatever the occasion, "The Devil Wears Prada" star couldn't go wrong with the princess bustier dress in gleaming white silk shot through with shiny lurex and bedazzled with sequins or the peak-shouldered blazer and skinny pants in opalescent pink.
In keeping with the collection's moon theme, Armani replaced the suits' buttons with oversized crescent closures and added full moon shaped flaps to the dresses' necklines. One long and lean evening gown in midnight blue had a crescent shape cutout on the back, and some of the models carried rhinestone-encrusted new moon clutches.
Still, the collection broke little new ground for Armani, whose clean lined suits and classic dresses have attracted a small army of fans among top players in Hollywood and beyond.
Tina Turner, who was a seat down from Hathaway, said she trusted Armani to keep her looking her best.
"I can always depend on going to the closet, getting something at the last minute and not worrying about 'does it work? Does it go?' You can depend on his clothes to make the affair work for you," said Turner, who was rocking a low-cut Armani top in blinding black sequins.
ANNE VALERIE HASH
A sailor's sweater that once belonged to Jean Paul Gaultier; Alber Elbaz's striped pajama top. Hash used these and other secondhand garments, culled from the closets of VIPs from the world of culture and fashion, as the foundation of her collection of sequin-covered pantsuits and little cocktail dresses.
"The idea came to me in a flash, because I had been wanting to work with other people – people who inspire me," Hash told The AP in a backstage interview.
She said she first contacted Lanvin designer Elbaz, "and he said yes. And I said to myself, 'Well, it looks like this project is really going to take off.'"
Highlights included a jumpsuit in iridescent sequins that gleamed like an oil spill, with a bow made from designer Gaultier's trademark striped sweater across the bust. Rocker Pete Doherty's military jacket was transformed into a fancy frock coat, and Elbaz's stripy blue pajama top was worn with a sequined tuxedo.
Chakra mixed geometric grid patterns with fluffy tufts of tulle to create what he called a "chaotic garden" – his sartorial take on English gardens that are a riot of leaves and flowers poking through wrought iron fencing.
The cocktail dresses were short – Balmain rock-princess short – with Swarovski crystal cage bodices layered over dusty rose lace. Chakra's evening gowns were red carpet-ready, glinting with sequins and stiff with tulle ruffles.
Some of the dresses combined the two looks – and were abbreviated in the front, with long trains behind. On these, Chakra used an unusual, crinkly metallic fabric he said he'd helped develop. The idea came to him at a lunch with one of his fabric suppliers.
"We were sitting there in the garden and the dishes were covered with tin foil and we thought 'hey, that's pretty,'" Chakra told The AP.
And pretty it was.
Performance art met fashion at Paris couturiere Adeline Andre.
A model wearing the entire collection at once – all nine of the ankle-length silk caftans in a rainbow of colors, one on top of another – circled round and round the catwalk. Each time she came around, the carrot-topped designer and an assistant, both in white nurses' garb, peeled off a layer and put it onto another model, right in the middle of the catwalk.
The models wore a white chiffon over their heads to protect the beautiful bias-cut dresses in ruby, tangerine, citrus, mint and buff silk from lipstick stains. At the end of the show, the chiffon was covered in crimson kisses.
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