Thursday, October 04, 2007

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Kempner's signature style, finely tailored menswear-inspired pieces, was also a hallmark of Yves Saint Laurent

and her closet was flooded with garments from the fashion house. An Yves Saint Laurent camel cashmere and sable trim coat went for $3,000.

Cathy Elkies, Christie's director of iconic collections, said that when she first went to inventory the wardrobe, she was amazed at the sheer quantity of clothes — with some garments even hanging from the shower rod in the bathroom.

Among other garments in Kempner's collection were a lilac cashmere sweater dress and coordinating caramel suede jacket with purple mink lining by Michael Kors from 2004.

But Kempner also had a playful side. She loved Levi jeans which Christie's paired with a short jacket covered in chartreuse rabbit-fur applique.

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum had the first selection of pieces after Kempner's death, followed by Christie's and then Sloane-Kettering for its own sale and the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

The auction ended Tuesday. All prices include the auction house's commission

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The more than 60 pieces of wardrobe, featuring Kempner's style and chic over the past 40 years, were auctioned to benefit The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The majority of items sold for between $200 and $800.

Kempner, who died in 2005 from emphysema, worked for both Harper's Bazaar and French Vogue, and was an international representative for Christie's.

A Louise de la Falaise short fur jacket with black satin lining fetched $11,250, the highest price at the auction, while two black leather, two-piece ensembles including a Calvin Klein sweater and Skin jeans, brought the lowest price of the sale at $125.

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His space goddess finale, heroic silk dresses in gold, marble gray and jade, climaxed a great show, staged with the usual verve and wit. Once again, Balenciaga had Europe's best casting, marked by the catwalk return of the ever lovely, and now mum of three, Natalia Vodianova, freed of her Calvin Klein exclusive contract. Also intriguingly, the usual maize catwalk was set on a new wall-to-wall flower carpet with unsettling black background. And the soundtrack was scintillating, in a canny remix that ranged from Vivaldi's Four Seasons to the Chemical Brothers, courtesy of mix maestro Michel Gaubert.

They only let 200 people into any Balenciaga show, 2,000 more would kill for tickets. Everyone there went back stage to applaud Ghesquiere, whose one show was a rebuttal to the entire Milan season. A trumpet call that said the Italians might make great merchandise but this is where the heavy stuff goes down.

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The sheer audacity, technical dexterity and extremity of vision are always impressive at Balenciaga. Take a foursome of taught mini dresses razimir, but treated and puckered to a fabric somewhere between a Jackson Pollock swirl and Francis Bacon's palette.

One of the reasons that fashion insiders really love Ghesquiere is the odd dichotomy that even though his ideas are highly influential they are not easily copied, meaning his cool looks won't be immediately turning up in H&M or Zara. It also sets Nicolas that bit apart from his most influential peers, Miuccia Prada, Consuelo Castiglioni, John Galliano or, looking back, Helmut Lang, whose ideas were more easily flinched by mass chains. In a word, Balenciaga won't be on the hoi polloi soon.

"I wanted the color of flowers but not their niceness, where the look was gentle yet tough," the designer told FWD.

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The entire first half of the collection was composed of courtly attire, tunic dresses with pronounced mansard shoulders, nipped waists and flared hips. But Balenciaga's iconoclastic designer Nicolas Ghesquiere completely subverted the image, reinventing it by creating all in outlandish fabrics. Prints drawn from nature, but with leaves, flowers and petals all blotched, stretched, darkened and maimed made the result tough and dramatic, never saccharine and really new.

Paired with to the knee leggings that were a blend of Roman centurion protective shin guards and Comanche knee socks, though with spike heels, they gave the ensembles great punch and originality.

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"We were a bit disappointed. We thought he might carry on a bit longer," said Ken Downing, fashion director at upmarket U.S. store Neiman Marcus.

Lagerfeld said he also regretted his competitor's departure.

"I'm not very happy," he said after his own show. "He's on top form, he should continue."

Lagerfeld, whose name is now owned by a private equity company Apax Partners, presented a youthful collection for his own label, which took inspiration from the 1980s. Models paraded on a rainbow-striped runway in short ruffled skirts or trousers of black see-through tulle.

Lagerfeld, who also designs for Chanel, edits books and who is approaching 70, said he had no intention of slowing down.

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Models in bright cocktail dresses and long gowns in his signature red, or with polka dots and ruffles, glided down a mirrored catwalk before twirling in front of the cameras.

Party music accompanied the show, with the models dancing at the end and guests rising for the obligatory standing ovation.

One of the undisputed kings of fashion, Valentino will retire in January after a final haute couture show and hand the reins to relatively unknown designer Alessandra Facchinetti.

"This is the one before the last and I want to do my best, and why not?" the 75-year-old Valentino asked.

"I am full of joy and a little emotional of course, and I am very strong because as I told you ... I leave the room, but the room is still full."

His departure follows the sale of his Valentino Fashion Group to the European private equity group Permira, which industry insiders have said want a younger, more innovative designer to help it expand to new markets.

Anna Piaggi of Italian Vogue thought it was time for a change, saying Valentino needed some new ideas.

"It's boring," she said after the show. "It's not good, it's not modern. Why do we constantly say it's beautiful? Why?"


Valentino's signature scarlet evening gowns have long made him a hit for red carpet events, where he has dressed famous names like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Audrey Hepburn and Julia Roberts. His conservative style still attracts many fans.

"It's very definitely the end of an era. Valentino is irreplaceable," said Hilary Alexander, fashion director at Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"He understands his customers, he has a respect for women and a lifelong appreciation of beauty."

Valentino is widely ranked alongside Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld as the last of the great designers from an era before fashion became a global, highly commercial industry run as much by accountants and marketing executives as the couturiers.