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Luxury Is A La Mode At Celine, Galliano, Givenchy & Akris (PHOTOS)

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Text By JENNY BARCHFIELD, Associated Press

PARIS - After redefining the way women dress, Phoebe Philo -- Celine designer and purveyor of the new minimalism that has taken catwalks and Main Street by storm -- is aiming to redefine the values of the luxury industry.

Many of the supple silks and cotton fabrics that made up her clean-lined spring-summer 2011 ready-to-wear collection Sunday were sourced from small mills in Japan and elsewhere that craft material by hand the old way. She acknowledged that working with such small providers can prove more complicated than going through the large-scale European mills that luxury labels like Celine would normally use, but said "if you want it, anything is possible."

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John Galliano, AKRIS, Celine Spring/Summer 2011
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"It's slower because of the distance, but I just thought it was really important we stepped out of the European industrialized universe ... (to get) back to basics," Philo told The Associated Press in a backstage interview.

Her third collection for Celine since returning to fashion after a yearslong hiatus continued in the minimalist vein that has become her trademark, but softened it with some ethnic touches.
And as if Celine didn't have enough to offer the working women of the world, Akris gave professional ladies even more to choose from with a collection of boardroom-ready looks that were just chic enough.

Givenchy delved into the dark side with a dramatic, S&M-soaked collection, while John Galliano continued to churn out the magpie looks that are unmistakably his. Galliano's show was staged in a gilded Paris theater, and being in the audience there was like watching a lush and elaborate pantomime with the world' biggest costume budget.

Emerging young French talent Alexis Mabille sent out a collection of pretty tan and gray sundresses with full skirted shapes that seemed to be surfing on the "Mad Men" craze. Mabille's signature touch, pretty bows, lent the dresses and extra dose of polished sixties-era femininity.

Still, perhaps because it stuck so close to the white and neutral palette favored by Paris designers this season, the collection blended with dozens of others that fashion insiders have sat through over the past five days. A solid, if perhaps a tad unremarkable, effort from Mabille.

After long day's worth of shows, much of the fashion crowd hit Italian label Fendi's party, where legedary eighties band Duran Duran was scheduled to play a set.

On Monday, the City of Light's nine-day-long ready-to-wear marathon moves into day seven with one of the week's big question marks, British designer Giles Deacon's debut collection storied-but-floundering house Emanuel Ungaro. Deacon is the latest in a long series of designers to try to reverse Ungaro's fortunes, and his arrival came on the heels of the house's disastrous collaboration with Lindsay Lohan -- all of which has, of couse, piqued the fashion world's interest.

CELINE

Celine designer Philo won a cult following during her time at the label's crosstown rival, Chloe, and her return to fashion touched off the new minimalist movement that's swept catwalks worldwide and spawned countless imitations. With Sunday's collection, the British-born designer continued to refine her pared-down aesthetic, sending out square-shaped blouses in leather and low-slung, wide-legged trousers.

A kaftan that appeared to have been made from a starched white menswear shirt and a nubby, pointy-hooded robe-dress had a rugged Berber feel, while a quilted vest seemed to look to the Mongolian highlands for inspiration.

Philo said the collection was her way of stepping back from the industrialized, urban fray.
"There was an idea of travel, nothing specific about a country or a place, but a feeling of getting away from urban and getting back to a kind of artisan's way of working," she told The Associated Press in a backstage interview, adding that many of the fabrics were sourced from small producers in Japan and elsewhere.

While white -- the shade of choice across Paris' catwalks -- and other neutrals dominated Philo's palette, there were also touches of bold color, like a sapphire blouse paired with a leather wrap skirt in rich Bordeaux or shirts in fluttering silk that Philo said drew its inspiration from scarves.

It was another strong collection from a designer who has established herself as a fashion force to be reckoned with. No doubt we'll be seeing more variations on the theme on other catwalks and on the high street.

GIVENCHY

Riccardo Tisci is back in touch with his Id.

After taking a foray into exoticism -- with collections influenced by the traditional garb of the Arab world -- the king of S&M has reconnected with his darker side, sending out a leather-strap-bound collection for next summer.

Backless vests in leopard-embossed jacquard fastened around the neck and across the back with stud-encrusted straps in black leather. The vests, and boxy shaped sleeveless jackets with tails, were paired with abbreviated skirts layered under long, featherlight skirts in translucent silk. Zippers with sharp metal teeth often replaced seems, adorning the hem and sleeve-lines or forming shiny crosses across the backs of the jackets.

"It was like spiritual desolation with a chance of redemption," said David Mignon, a Paris-based photographer and painter. "Just a sliver of a chance of redemption."

That seemed an accurate assessment: Tisci, an Italian whose Catholic roots run deep, has often acknowledged the role religion plays in his work, and there was something about the contrast between the looks' hardcore leather and the gauzy cocoon of silk that suggested a soul in spiritual torment.

Tisci's dark but beautiful aesthetic has won him a cult following not only among the legions of hip young women who covet his collections, but also among his peers. Designers Alexander Wang and Pucci's Peter Dundas were on hand for Sunday's show -- as was rocker Courtney Love.

Asked whether the collection's S&M vibe appealed to her, Love said "I didn't see it like that at all. To me it was just really beautiful. Maybe I've been in rock 'n' roll too long."

JOHN GALLIANO

The inspiration behind the collection might have been a complicated one -- according to the notes, it was something about a real-life con artist from the 1920s who scammed scores of legendary painters -- but the clothes looked more or less the same as usual. Which, when your name is John Galliano, is not a bad thing.

The British designer sent out fetching variations on his hallmark baroque, layered silhouette: Cropped trench coats cinched tight at the waist were worn over billowy harem pants in Japanese prints or multitiered chiffon skirts.

The models were all styled differently -- in an apparent nod to the chameleonic appearance of the show's inspiration, con artist Maria Lani, who, again according to the collection notes, "convinced over 50 leading artists of the day (including Matisse, Chagall and de Chirico) to paint her portrait" before fleeing Europe with the paintings. Some wore bird's nest wigs in what looked like cotton candy, while others had tight pigtails or slick gold-glitter dusted up 'dos.

Held in Paris' gilded Opera Comique, the show had even more theatrical flair than usual, with models striking exaggerated poses as they slowly meandered the mirrored catwalk.
Like other Paris shows that have cast novelty models to walk with the with the usual pack of size zero teens, Galliano had one older woman, a blond with a beautiful, finely lined face.

AKRIS

Reliable as a fine Swiss watch, the St. Gallen, Switzerland-based house can always be counted on to deliver the kind of workaday staples professional women crave, and Sunday's clean-lined collection was no exception.

Between the no-frills shirtdresses in starched white poplin and the sharp pantsuits that were just fashion forward enough, there was plenty for the corporate woman to choose from. The A-line dresses and billowing skirts with jagged, asymmetrical hemlines in a greenhouse of saturated flower prints added a touch of drama to the otherwise serene collection.

The only flaw was the shoes, towering wedges with a footbed that curved downward, like a black diamond ski slope. Both bizarre and torturous-looking, they stand little chance of making it into the corporate boardrooms that are the natural habitat of the rest of the collection.

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