It's glamour and comfort on day 3 of Paris shows

By Thomas Adamson

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 1 2012 3:00 p.m. MST

Models prepare for the start of the show by designer Manish Arora as part of the Fall-Winter, ready-to-wear 2013 fashion collection, during Paris Fashion week, Thursday, March 1, 2012.

Christophe Ena, Associated Press

PARIS — The mysterious story of the Faberge egg that has fascinated artists and writers for more than a century was the central theme of Balmain's spectacular ready-to-wear fashion show Thursday.

Designer Olivier Rousteing became captivated by the gilded ornament on display in Christie's while visiting New York and traced its history back to Imperial Russia. From this, sprung an exquisite fall-winter ready-to-wear collection of bejeweled velvets, Cossack tailoring with pearl and diamond embroidery, and rich high-collar clothes that conjured up Orthodox churchwear — a touch being seen more and more on the runway.

From the salons of Moscow to the streets of Brooklyn swept the fashion crowd on entering the street-wise universe of Manish Arora.

The Delhi-based designer channeled graffiti art in a colorful show with live spray painting that had the front row gasping.

Later in the day, both Barbara Bui and Nina Ricci treated spectators to solid, feminine collections that will translate easily onto the street. With robust business figures, maybe it pays to be commercially minded?

Friday, day four of Paris' nine days of shows, will feature powerhouses Christian Dior and Lanvin.

BALMAIN

Olivier Rousteing, on his tremendous sophomore outing at Balmain's show took the label back to its couture roots with a dash of Russian imperial glamour.

The collection's muse, the blue and gold Faberge egg that Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth Taylor, set the tone of the highly structured clothes that dripped with jewels.

Gems and pearls adorned hourglass silhouettes, harking back to a time of imperial wealth. Long orthodox vestments in black and sumptuous velvets consolidated a fall trend for the covered-up and ecclesiastical.

Le Grand Hotel Paris venue further transported spectators back in time to the glittering days of 18th century salons.

But 26-year-old Rousteing was not just about gemstones, and looked forward not back.

Since he was catapulted to the label's head a year ago, he's been trying to turn the page on what some have described as the house's "trash factor." Thursday's show managed to achieve this, without losing any of the red-carpet glamour that re-popularized the house under Christophe Decarnin.

Rousteing revisited the house's signature jacket, making it oversized and sharpening it into an ornament.

Pants were relaxed to give the silhouette a more fluid look, and boyish cropped pants were paired with a perfecto jacket and vest.

The lion's share of the bejeweled pieces might not have been made in spirit of ready to wear, but they provide a strong direction for the iconic house's future.

MANISH ARORA

Manish Arora hit the nozzle on the graffiti can on Thursday, combining the neon yellows, fuchsias and deep purples of street art with 1950s silhouettes.

The Indian designer explored a Brooklyn cityscape in which tiny floral brocades teeming with color peeped through cracks in brick-colored pencil skirts.

Short coats and stiff A-line skirts gleamed with a metallic finish, reminding us of the railroad tracks of Paris' Austerlitz train station, a stone's throw away from the show.

Models in loose, flared graffiti dresses with sporty straps amused the crowd as they stopped — mid-catwalk — to camouflage with the painted backdrop, like urban chameleons.

A rich mix of materials was on display, including dyed Scandinavian Saga fur, crepe and silk satin. But it was a shame that in many of the pieces the fabrics were colored and embroidered to near-death, diminishing their visual quality.