Chanel undersea set awes; McQueen returns to S&M

By Jenny Barchfield

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 4 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Besides a couple of the long dresses in the shade of lipstick red that was so synonymous with the label under Garavani's tenure that it earned the title "Valentino red," the rest of the looks were in the kind of makeup shades Piccioli and Chiuri have favored in recent seasons — buff, ivory, seashell and salmon pinks, with a sprinkling of gold.

While these looks are not for everyone — actually, they're meant pretty much exclusively for very young women with sticks in the place of legs — they have a very distinct and delicate beauty all of their own.


The message going out over the Surrealist satellite dish hats at Paco Rabanne was loud and crystal clear: "Paging Lady Gaga," the headgear, with almond-shaped eye holes, seemed to insist. "We've got something for you."

If she's having trouble finding outfits that can top a meat dress — and frankly, who wouldn't? — the pop star need look no further than the newly revamped and relaunched Paco Rabanne, which shot the futuristic legacy of the legendary '60s house back into orbit.

There were second-skin sheath dresses with sharp shoulders and protruding hips that looked like the uniforms of a flight crew on a spaceship and a catsuit in gold lame that was hung with thick metal coils and tangled chains, like so much space debris.

Foil candy-wrapper dresses were kitted out with sculptural whorls of fabric — shaped like the rings of Saturn — that enveloped the models, turning them into prisoners of their own dresses. One model even had to fold her hands behind her in backward prayer to order not to muss the rings.

Variations on Rabanne's iconic chain mail dresses — made from plastic trapezoids linked together with metal rings — were served up in bustier dresses, pencil skirts and even a slinky hooded catsuit worthy of a Space Age Joan of Arc.

It was a super debut from Delhi-based madcap Manish Arora, who, as the new creative director, is charged with rebuilding the historic brand.

Founded by a Spanish designer of the same name, Paco Rabanne shot into the fashion stratosphere in the mid-1960s with futuristic designs that cleverly incorporated metal and plastic. The house's fortunes later dwindled, and its current owners, cosmetics and high-end clothing company the Puig Group, shuttered the ready-to-wear line several years ago to focus on its lucrative perfume operations.

Arora, whose demented styles for his signature line have garnered considerable critical praise, seemed on paper like just the man to revive the house, and Tuesday's show confirmed as much.

Sure, you could not sit down, walk, use your hands or even breathe in most of the looks on the revamped Rabanne runway. But walking, talking, gesticulating or breathing are simply besides the point as far as these kind of clothes-as-talking-pieces are concerned.

Just ask Gaga, or Katy Perry, or Beyonce or any of the other superstars whose name the collection was calling.


Jean-Charles de Castelbajac can normally be counted on to latch onto a juicy theme — the Muppets, say, or Africa — and beat it to a bloody pulp. But the theme escaped unscathed as France's reigning king of kitsch delivered an uncharacteristically subdued collection of ladylike daywear.

Called "Rustica Gallactica," the collection was supposed to be a sort of hybrid of a pastoral style and slick futuristic looks, or as the fascinating collection notes would have it, a "temporal space trip, (to where) the past sophistication and the future rusticity live together."

It was a hard concept to get your head around — a fact that made for an obtuse collection, lacking in the kind of over-the-top, tongue-and-cheek extravagance the house has elevated to an art. Heavy oatmeal-color tweed suits had silver lame touches, and silk cocktail dresses burst with oversized star paneling at the bustier.

Still, though it was dominated by proper bourgeois-looking pieces, there were still sudden bursts of Castelbajac's trademark irony, like the Mickey Mouse ears that peeked over the bustline of a bustier dress, and the measuring tape as a waistband on a serious suit — a touch guaranteed to keep the wearer counting calories.

As a kicker, the floor-length silver sequin gown that closed the show was paired with a pearl-covered choker made out of what appeared to be a neck brace — the accessory of choice for those women for whom whiplash is no excuse for not looking chic.

The collection marked the start of a new era for the house of Castelbajac, which was recently bought by a South Korean sportswear company after it initiated bankruptcy proceedings.

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