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Paris fashion week gets respite from Galliano saga

By Jenny Barchfield

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 5 2011 3:20 p.m. MST

Still, just because the collection had embraced middle age — and covered up — doesn't mean it resigned itself to dowdiness. Models peeled off layer after layer as they walked, removing their gloves, tossing their scarves into the crowd and shrugging off trompe l'oeil trenchcoats that mimicked men's pinstriped suits and even a tuxedo to reveal '70s-inspired jumpsuits in eyepopping prints shot with glinting Lurex.

The action was lost on many in the audience, though, because the house didn't install the raised runway that usually affords the whole crowd a good head-to-toe view. This season, the models walked on floor-level, reducing the show to a parade of the oversized gray beehive wigs for all but those in the front row.

VIKTOR & ROLF

Marauding medieval barbarians had nothing on these girls.

The drawbridge installed at the top of the catwalk clanked as it lowered to reveal models in silver lame cocktail dresses that had the menacing shine of battle-ready suits of armor, blouses with sleeves bristling with stiff pleated ruffles, like serrated knives, and outerwear emblazoned with oversized disks evoked razor-edged throwing stars.

A dress in black knit bisected by a red cross, with two red roses, looked like the flag of some warring kingdom. Pleated pencil skirts in hefty black leather looked sturdy enough to resist a battle ax.

It was like what Joan of Arc would wear to a cocktail party.

And with that war paint, she'd be sure to make a big entrance: The model's faces were entirely slathered in red body paint.

The Dutch duo had been obsessed with volume of late, sending out models that looked like ambulant pup tents for the last couple of seasons, but Saturday's collection brought that unfortunate episode to an end, with sharp-lines that hugged the body. A literal-minded pantsuit — made out of an elongated pair of trousers that cinched over the bust — was long and sexily lean.

AZZARO

Azzaro's Argentine-born, British-raised designer Vanessa Seward is the consummate Parisienne.

Season after season, Seward delivers wardrobes for the chic young things of Paris' beaux quartiers, the tony, moneyed districts where the ladies' appetite for demure-but-sexy cocktail dresses is insatiable. The striking, dark-haired designer is that kind of woman herself, and she's her own best ambassador, wearing her sultry-yet-proper concoctions with aplomb.

For Saturday's show, Seward sported a red wrap dress in fluid silk jersey, sitting demurely as two models — both of whose resemblance to her was striking — pranced in her abbreviated chemisier dresses and pantsuits.

At Azzaro, the hemlines are always sky-high, and Saturday's collection was no exception. Little was the operative word for the little black dresses that had flippy hemlines or flirty pleated skirts. Everything twinkled with rhinestones, which glinted out from beneath the collar of a black wool cocoon coat and dressed up the necklines of the sexy pantsuits.

It all had a vaguely retro feel, and looked like what a bored Parisian housewife circa 1972 would wear to a secret rendezvous with her lover.

Even the label's presentations are old school: Instead of a proper runway show, with thousands of people crammed, sardine-style, into a tent, Azzaro holds intimate little "mini-shows" in the house's mirror-covered showroom on Paris' chic shopping street, the rue du Faubourg Saint Honore. Two models change in the dressing rooms as the gathered fashion editors, journalists and stylists sip cups of tea and nibble on macaroons.

SONIA RYKIEL

The house founded by fashion's queen of knitwear focused on outwear, with a fall collection of utilitarian-chic loden parkas and princess coats made from tartan blankets.

There was still a hefty dose of knits, like the trompe l'oeil coveralls and cableknit sweaters emblazoned with oversized bows. A beige and toffee colorblocked sweater with a bold emerald green stripe in guise of a belt was pure, old-school Rykiel.

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