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Last day of Paris shows is good, bad and ugly

By Jenny Barchfield

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 5 2011 2:15 p.m. MDT

LOUIS VUITTON

The set — a gleaming white merry-go-round with a cast of fresh-faced models astride its horses — was somehow the perfect metaphor for fashion itself: an industry in constant motion where everything eventually comes back around.

The collection saw the return of the polite, ladylike dressing of the early 1960s, with demure skirt suits in a pretty palette of pastels. Although it was a radical departure from Vuitton's fetishist wares of last season, spring-summer's polite wardrobe was nothing terribly new: The label served up similarly retro ladylike styles just a couple of seasons ago, though this time around they felt lighter and more youthful than those heavy tweeds.

Feather-light organza wrapping enveloped dresses and skirts in lace laser cut with oversized daisies, sometimes embellished with sparkling rhinestone centers. Round lace collars gave a schoolgirlish touch to the crewneck sweaters and proper button-down shirts.

Jacobs played with the volumes, sending out skirts with stiff pleats in front that made them pouf out. The sole faux pas was an abbreviated babydoll dress with such a pronounced pouf that it looked like a serious baby bump.

Most of the girls carried handbags, the historic luggage-maker's bread and butter, and sparkling little tiaras — which were surely destined to be next season's most coveted accessory — topped off the looks.

It's not often that a show scores a round of enthusiastic applause before it's even begun, but that's what happened when the giant round scrim that shrouded the catwalk lifted to reveal the life-sized merry-go-round, models on all its 48 white horses.

One by one, they hopped down from their equine perches and traced a circle round the spinning carousel, like demoiselles out for stroll in a Paris park, before disappearing backstage.

MIU MIU

In an industry built on beauty, it takes guts to field anything as boldly ugly as the Miu Miu collection.

Make no mistake, this was not ugliness by accident, as sometimes happens when collections go awry. This was ugliness on purpose — haughty, defiant ugliness that almost felt as if it were spoiling for fight.

This was a collection that looked you straight in the eye, raised its chin and asked, "Taxi Driver"-style, "Are you looking at me?"

The high-waisted skirts, with a pouffy, sculptural shape that was spot on-trend were fine. But patchwork coats were the size and shape of pup tents, and cropped shirts with jutting panels at the bust were downright dowdy.

Strange little shrugs that fit low over the models' shoulders like lumpy velvet curtains felt as if they'd been dreamed up for the express purpose of concealing any appealing curves.

The cast of normally sparkling top models were practically unrecognizable: Wet on top, their hair was plastered to the scalp and forehead but hung in dry tangles in the back, as it the two parts of their heads were living in distinct weather patterns. Flesh-colored lipstick hid their lips, and the rest of their faces were bare, save for angry strips of fuchsia on their lids.

It's hard to imagine anyone but Miuccia Prada, the Italian designer whose challenging, intellectual collections consistently win critical adulation, daring any such styling — or any such clothes, for that matter.

You had to admire her gumption. In a sector where anything goes in the quest for desirability, her collection refused to make even the slightest effort.

And there was something admirable about clothes that cared so little about what people thought of them.

ELIE SAAB

What would the red carpet be without him?

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