Monday, October 08, 2007

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As Valentino took one of his last bows, a series of new designers celebrated their debut on the Paris catwalks, including Indian designers Manish Arora and Anamika.

Japan's Limi Feu also showed in Paris for the first time, presenting sharply-tailored jackets as her father, established designer Yohji Yamamoto, watched on, saying he was very nervous.

Belgium's Olivier Theyskens, 30, presented his second collection for fashion label Chloe on Sunday and let autumn leaves from the Tuileries gardens waft over his catwalk for a nature-inspired collection of silky dresses.

Theyskens, who came from fashion house Rochas after the label stopped its fashion business last year, paraded out models wearing light, pastel-colored dresses and woolen cardigans.

Taking over at an established label is a tricky task for designers who need to prove their own style while respecting the history of a house.

Sweden's Paulo Melim Andersson faced a similar challenge as Theyskens, rolling out his second collection for Chloe, which featured dungaree-style dresses worn over transparent tops.

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At Vuitton, models wearing transparent black layers over beaming yellow skirts walked out into a tent set up in a courtyard of the Louvre museum, as rapper Kanye West and singer Courtney Love applauded from the front row.

"It's one of the designers that I grew up on ... coming from the hip hop world. It's a famous brand in hip hop," West told Reuters at the show, where models with nurses' caps presented vivid outfits inspired by artist Richard Prince.

The Vuitton show came at the end of a fashion marathon which has taken editors and buyers from New York to London, Milan and Paris in the past few weeks, and featured Valentino's last ready-to-wear show before retiring after 45 years in fashion

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His other obsession was the star, which burst over silvery satin dresses, necklaces and belts.

One could quibble and note that the collection was a tad autumnal, with oodles of jackets and warm, loose pants. However, the tulip hemmed, occasionally truncated, every so often bat-winged jackets were all so well cut and tailored, it would be a minor complaint.

In a word it was the classiest act of the Paris season, and a sardonic counterpoint to the fantasies currently gripping European runways.

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Stefano's other big plus is his ability to meld art and artifice, fashion and formalism. His staging, for example, was impeccable; as Belgium producer Etienne Russo turned the Grand Palais into a wonderful art installation, where the huge interior space was illuminated by eight 12-foot diameter helium balloons, with the audience perched on cleverly padded all gray bleachers. That said, we were so far from the clothes binoculars would have been useful.

His other obsession was the star, which burst over silvery satin dresses, necklaces and belts.

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The key colors were midnight blue and black, best exemplified by an absolute stunner of a black dress worn by Lily Donaldson, the best single lesson in draping anywhere this season. Pilati's time at YSL has also been marked by his growing sophistication as a technician – the manner in which he managed to pucker several dresses in an imitation again of the logo was uncanny.

Pilati's own term for his style, "post minimalism," at that moment seemed more than apt.

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"Let's be honest my job at Saint Laurent has been to respect the house and all it stands for while at the same time tearing it down," the lithe and ever dandy Pilati told FWD post show.

This highly tailored spring summer 2008 collection also stood way apart from the whole Milan and Paris seasons. In a moment of florid abandon and dreamy nature fabrics, Pilati did not show any prints. And in a month when designers dress women for picnics and fantasy balls, Pilati attired them for chic urban living.

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Emblazoned onto a cool gray cashmere sweatshirt, partially hidden as the pattern of a jet-black, dimpled trench or, most spectacularly, used in a racy metallic vest, the YSL signature was the leit motif of the show, even as Pilati subverted the logo.

The three letters were a metaphor for Stefano Pilati's reign as Saint Laurent's creative director, which has been a delicate balancing act between deference and subversion.