Chanel and McQueen entice fantasy in Paris shows

By Thomas Adamson

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 6 2012 5:50 p.m. MST

Horse hooves — feathered platforms without heels — and visors reminiscent of horse blinders added danger to the visual repertoire. A voluminous black trapeze coat in Mongolian hair had the heavy, almost muscular feel of a cantering horse, with a large equine bustle that moved from side to side.

With silhouettes changing shape from every angle and bold ideas, it was by far the best example this season of a designer at the top of her game. It also was a show carried out in the spirit of McQueen, who committed suicide two years ago.

VALENTINO

In a house as classic as Valentino, there is little room for the revolutionary, a point made clear in a sober ready-to-wear.

Designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli described an "imaginative journey" that "explored different iconographies" but the program notes better captured the mood: They cited the show's "dominating sense of control."

Structured silhouettes in deep red, black and midnight blue had tight, sophisticated smocking and the painstaking embroidery seen in January's highly artisanal couture.

High and scooped collars on long coats and knee-length dresses were expressed in thick black leather. Frog fastenings closing straight, slim coats, tone-on-tone trim running along precisely cut bodices and tapered menswear trousers emphasized the constructed look.

It was finely executed, but at times had flashes of the stern headmistress, albeit at an extremely glamorous school.

To be sure, there were traces of the designers' worldly travels: tunics with fabrics that smacked of a Balkan patterning that playfully moved to white touches of Jackie Kennedy — who was famously dressed by founder Valentino Garavani.

PACO RABANNE

Paco Rabanne put a spin on the house archives in his fall-winter ready-to-wear collection that included variations on the 1960s Do-It-Yourself Rhodoid dress.

Manish Arora, in his second effort as the creative director, succeeded in capturing an essence of the founder, who first cut his teeth in jewelry design, in a sparkling array of signature waistless cocktail dresses.

Sometimes the designer hit the right button, invoking Brigitte Bardot's mini-metallic dress made in 1969. Its squareness and the play between the mail and contradictory lightness made it feel very now. But other references looked slightly off-balance.

One jumpsuit in metal pieces revamped an outfit for singer Francoise Hardy 40 years ago, and was — so said the program notes — "reborn." However, the low-slung and heavy baggy pants produced a formless silhouette that even made the 6-foot (1.8-meter) blond siren wearing it look clunky.

On Wednesday, the ninth and last day of Paris' biannual ready-to-wear calendar, collections include Louis Vuitton and Elie Saab.