Paris ready-to-wear week does a black flip

7th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 7 (AFP) - The world's top designers glanced at the bottom line before Paris ready-to-wear week, which ended Monday, offering a safe return to basic black with their commercially sound, elegant collections for next winter.

PARIS, March 7 (AFP) - The world's top designers glanced at the bottom line before Paris ready-to-wear week, which ended Monday, offering a safe return to basic black with their commercially sound, elegant collections for next winter.

"Black is going to be dominant," explained Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director for upmarket US department store Neiman Marcus. "I love the little black dress. It's an important statement of the season."

The so-called LBD, in fashion lingo, surfaced just about everywhere on the Paris catwalks for autumn-winter 2005-06, from the pearl-edged cocktail dresses of Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel to the Parisian chic of Sonia Rykiel.

Satin jeans at Valentino, flowing jersey gowns at Guy Laroche, Art Deco style at Louis Vuitton, Stella McCartney's urban chic - everyone jumped on the black bandwagon for next winter, making it once again the must-have shade.

The underlying reason for the return to basic black is perhaps the need to boost sales - from Christian Dior to Jean-Paul Gaultier, the catwalk shows had a decidedly commercial edge, offering less theatrics and more wearable clothes.

Nowhere was this trend more apparent than at Dior, where British designer John Galliano dispensed with the raised catwalk, stage make-up and flashing lights to unveil a sensual, simple, accessible collection.

"It's no longer a question of striking the right balance, but one of radical change," said Kappauf, founder and director of fashion magazine Citizen K.

"That was the most obvious at Dior. Before, we never saw anything from the catwalk in the boutiques. Now we do!"

But Kaner, Kappauf and Pascale Camart, chief womenswear buyer for French department store Galeries Lafayette, all agreed that creativity had not been sacrificed on the altar of improved financial results.

"It's up to the designer to manage both the overall effect of the catwalk show and the accounting books," Kappauf said.

"The fact that the collections are in general very wearable does not rule out creativity. Thinking only of the bottom line, seeing only commercial collections on the catwalk is not interesting," he added.

Camart added: "We carry so many lines that we have to look for the designers' most spectacular ensembles. Those are the pieces that are sold first."

Among those collections hailed by industry experts as the best of the week were Rochas, where Olivier Theyskens sketched out a lean Edwardian silhouette, Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere, Chloe, Chanel and Lanvin by Alber Elbaz.

"I love the cleanness of it, the spareness, the sophistication, the kind of quiet elegance in both of the collections," Kaner said of Rochas and Balenciaga, which she called the week's "most directional" shows.

Kaner put forth "elegance" as the key word of the week, explaining: "We've been dressing girls for too long and now it's time to dress women."

Alexander McQueen, Galliano and Gaultier for Hermes paid tribute to screen sirens with their collections. A few real film stars popped up in Paris during fashion week, like Julianne Moore at Dior and Uma Thurman at Louis Vuitton.

Some houses resisted the "black is back" motto like Kenzo, where Italian designer Antonio Marras delivered a colourful tour-de-force collection, mixing traditions, cultures and styles with brio.

As in Milan, fur popped up everywhere in Paris - purple shrugs at Celine, mink-edged handbags at Vuitton, belted red crocodile coats with mink trim at Dior and fur-lined black parkas at Christian Lacroix.

The week saw a few debuts, with US designer Patrick Robinson replacing Paco Rabanne's 1960s metal dresses with sensible clothes in velvet and lace and Vincent Darre sketching a 1960s silhouette in bold colours at Emanuel Ungaro.

On Monday, the question of succession in the fashion industry surfaced anew with a report in the International Herald Tribune that Italian label Valentino is seeking to replace the house's legendary founder.

A Valentino spokeswoman told AFP only that "discussions are taking place within the house," adding: "As long as Mr Valentino is well, he will continue."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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