Friday, January 25, 2008

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The acquisition marked the third change of owners for Valentino since he and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti sold the label back in 1998. Probably no one in fashion lived as well as Valentino, who spent $12 million last July on a celebratory weekend in Rome.

"His style was not at all like mine. But I have always greatly respected him, for his taste and elegance, for being who he is" said Miuccia Prada, one of a half dozen designers at the show, including Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, Patrick Cox, Christian Louboutin, Philip Treacy and Emanuel Ungaro.

"Valentino? In a word? Well, that must be unique. They won't make another one like him," mused Ungaro, accompanied to the finale by his Italian wife Laura.

Also sitting front row were Claudia Schiffer, in odd white pancake makeup, Yves Saint Laurent muse Betty Catroux, a slew of business potentates' wives, including a trio of relatives of Russian billionaire and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, and Valentino's successor, Alessandro Facchinetti, who will present the first post Val ready-to-wear collection in Paris in five weeks time.

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Intermingled through the collection were some exquisite black and white ladies who lunch dresses that cried out for a Michelin Three Star restaurant.

For evening, Val varied his pitch from plum line screen goddess columns in pinks, lilacs and yellows, a couple of beautifully over the top Southern Belle flowery gowns with hundreds of ruffles and a stunning final look, a white silk charmeuse column that everyone will want to own, worn by Vodianova.

In a classy gesture, Valentino is giving the Russian supe his last creation so she can auction it for her charity to build playgrounds for kids in provincial Russian cities.

"I'm not sad at all really. I know people expect me to be. One knew this moment would come, but since it was announced I have been touched, and comforted, by the expressions of generosity, kindness, consideration and love from so many people I know," Valentino told FWD, in a tiny, screened off area backstage as several score of TV crews fought for footage.

His retirement comes seven months after private equity Permira won a fraught takeover battle for control of the Valentino Fashion Group (VFG), that includes Valentino and Hugo Boss, in a deal that valued the house of Valentino at $380 million.

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Valentino managed not to cry as he took his final walk down the runway of a custom made white tent in the garden of the Rodin Museum. Not so his audience, which gave him a five-minute, tear-stained standing ovation after presenting his spring 2008 collection, bringing to a close a 45-year career.

With Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu sitting either side of Valentino's longtime partner Giancarlo Giammetti, the couturier reminded us why one of his nicknames was Le Chic, by sending out 74 looks that captured his unique sense of opulent elegance.

Made largely in black and white, the collection starred Sir Val's beautifully crisp suits, with collars and pockets edged in crystal, ravishingly elegant cocktails in silk twill with flowers embroidered Art Nouveaux style and a fantastic black va va vroom chiffon dress with organza fringes worn by Russian uber model Natalia Vodianova.

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The 17 piece Spring/Summer 2008 collection, which launches in February on, is a 100 percent eco-friendly collection made from recycled materials, down to the biodegradable dust bags each bag comes with. They feature oversized hardware, or "shoulder jewelry" as McCartney terms it," extensive pockets both inside and out, signature McCartney parachute pulls and quilted fabrics in two color palettes ? "Pop," which features eye-catching oranges and blues, and "Posh," a more subdued, sophisticated palette of soft mauves and dusty pinks. And for kids, there's even a bunny backpack to keep them happy.

The partnership marks the first time LeSportsac has worked with a well-known designer such as Stella McCartney, and while this collection is a limited edition, future collections from the designer are a possibility.

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The show, although out of this world, included many wearable looks for all ages. The suits and coatdresses will appeal to the classic couture customer, while the very revealing mini dresses will speak to the younger generation. Members of both gangs clearly loved the clothes, filling the couturier's Third Arrondissement headquarters with noisy bravos. Always a spectacle, the Gaultier show did not disappoint in the performance arena. Midway through, a model decked in a sexy, jangling copper body suit with plunging neck line, sea sponge in hand, proceeded to drench herself with water while holding the sponge high above her head. For the finale, Coco hobbled out on pearl, shell and coral covered crutches in full mermaid regalia, cone "shell" bra, scales and fins included, only to drop the crutches halfway down the runway to unzip the skirt up to her thigh, to the sexiest, gold vamp, conical bra wedding dress ever seen. As the rest of the models took their final walk down the runway, Coco reinstalled herself onto her rock, where Mr. Gaultier came out and kissed her before taking his bow

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Ranging from broad shouldered power suits in grays and blues to beaded and crocheted mini dresses and gowns covered in Chinoiserie embroidery, referencing the far-off destinations of sailors, the collection ran the gamut, while clearly remaining sexily sea bound. Shells and ropes were continuous themes, whether through the metal or leather paillettes on gowns and coats, origami folded pockets on suit jackets or the crocheted details on just about everything. The collection was rich with texture, in both the construction of the fabric as well as the embellishments including fringe, embroidery or beading all referencing various abstract sea creatures.

With the sailor theme, Gaultier was easily able to fit in his signature blue and white stripes. Although on a much grander scale, the look was seen on a delicate lace tunic dress with stripes of blue beading. Whether painted directly onto their skin, on printed tights up their legs or above the elbow leather or silk gloves, tattoos were everywhere. There was not a model on the runway that did not sport some reference to the classic sailor's hobby of body art.

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The curtains opened to reveal Coco Rocha as the little mermaid herself, seated on a rock engulfed in a mist of bubbles in a sparkling ensemble of leather trench coat and skirt of copper paillettes, on stage to the left of the runway. Ever the actress, Rocha looked onto the spectacle with fascination and naiveté before deftly removing herself from her seaside perch, shaking her character and marching down the runway as the fifth look of the show. With Edith Piaf, French sea shanties and siren's songs playing on the soundtrack, the models, in various states of wet, dressed either as sailors with sea captains cap and cig or pale, sparkling, leggy sea nymphs, sauntered down the runway.

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"Broadway truly prepared me. It made me really go for it," Combs said. "I was like, I came here to get with it and tell a story. I have a long way to go ... but I'm swimming, baby."

"Raisin" director Kenny Leon said Combs brings authenticity, discipline and a strong work ethic to the part of Walter Lee Younger, first made famous by Sidney Poitier in 1961.

"He's not going to be defeated," said Leon. "If you work hard, you'll find truth, and his search for truth pays off."

Walter Lee is a chauffeur living with his wife, young son, mother and sister in a Chicago tenement. "Raisin" takes place over a brief period of time as the mother (Rashad) receives a $10,000 insurance check following the death of her husband.

The money will change all their lives, but not before they face several wrenching dilemmas centering on Walter Lee's hopes for winning financial freedom and his mother's and wife's dream of living in their own home.