Jacques Brinon, Associated Press
PARIS — The ninth and final day of Paris' grueling ready-to-wear marathon was reminiscent of Sergio Leone's classic 1966 spaghetti western, with good, bad and downright ugly displays.
With an average of 11 shows on the calendar daily, every day is, of course, a mixed bag. But because many top fashion editors tend to cut out early, there are fewer top-tier labels on the last day and more emerging designers who don't have the deep pockets of the majors, which makes for an uneven experience.
Two shows Wednesday made it into the good category: Louis Vuitton — which won a pre-emptive round of pre-show applause for its set, a life-size spinning merry-go-round — and Elie Saab, the unstoppable red carpet steamroller who continued to churn out his signature ravishing, high-wattage gowns, this time in saturated jewel tones.
Most of the rest was bad, as designers of little means tried to imitate the slick, hyper-produced style of the luxury supernovas' shows, with sometimes snicker-producing results.
Amid all the cash-strapped pretentiousness, Agnes B.'s earnest and unself-conscious display came as a breath of fresh air. The French high street retailer has been churning out the workaday basics for decades, and she sees fashion shows not as make-or-break trials by fire but rather as an opportunity to have fun and promote young and up-and-coming artists.
Sure, the clothes that came down her catwalk weren't particularly noteworthy — just the kinds of cute printed summer dresses or tie-front cardigans that you might throw on to go buy milk or walk the dog. But there's something touching about a show where a puppet-maker and his clever dinosaur marionette take a bow, or the designer herself gets on the P.A. system mid-show to instruct guests on where they can buy the music.
The ugly was Miu Miu. The clothes were so frumpy and the styling so actively unattractive there was no way it was an accident, a collection that somehow went pear-shaped despite the designer's best efforts.
Miuccia Prada, the critical darling who's also behind Milan-based supernova Prada, is too smart for that. It actually felt like she was thumbing her nose at the fashion establishment, daring them not to like clothes that were trying their best to make themselves as undesirable as possible.
Paris is known as the most creative of the fashion capitals, and there are usually scads of brilliant shows here. This season was a bit of disappointment, with just a handful of collections that had people buzzing. Dries Van Noten was a winner with his sheath dresses in colorblocked silk printed with photo and etchings. Givenchy got top marks for its tuned skirt suits, as did the frothy dresses with a dark side at Alexander McQueen.
The saga of former Dior designer John Galliano's fall from grace continued to captivate fashion insiders. The extravagant designer was dismissed from Dior last March after a video showing him praising Hitler went viral on the internet. His successor has yet be named, and speculation over who it might be continued to dominate the small talk benchmates make as they wait — sometimes interminably — for shows to start.
Trade publication Women's Wear Daily reported in August that Marc Jacobs had been tapped for the plum Dior post, but weeks have dragged on with no announcement, prompting some to think the negotiations have stalled.
Asked about the report in a backstage scrum at Vuitton, where he's been creative director since 1997, Jacobs demurred and reminded journalists that it was a Vuitton show and he was there to talk about Vuitton.
Much of the fashion crowd flew the coop after that show, with many heading straight from the venue to the airport.
They'll be back in January, for the fall-winter 2012-13 menswear displays, followed immediately by the spring-summer 2012 haute couture shows, where a handful of wildly wealthy women are presented made-to-measure garments with prices approximating those of a luxury car.
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