- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PARIS (AP) - A new modesty swept the catwalks on Wednesday’s Day Two of the marathon Paris spring-summer 2011 ready-to-wear displays, with designers shunning sizzling sex appeal in favor of oversized, grandma-friendly looks that left nearly everything to the imagination.

Swedish rigor ruled the catwalk at Rochas, as the label’s half-Italian, half Swedish creative director looked to his roots for a wholesome Scandinavian collection that took a step back from today’s frenetic fray.

Belgium’s Dries Van Noten was at the top of his game with a collection that combined menswear staples like wide-legged boyfriend jeans and white button-down shirts with sophisticated pieces with a sumptuous Asian touch.

France’s Anne Valerie Hash pumped up the sex factor _ without uncovering too much skin _ with delicately draped shirtdresses and wrap trousers that were shorn of their fussy closures for easier access.

Pierre Cardin, the veteran Paris designer who fields a collection not once a season but only every few years, was having none of this new modesty. The father of the Space Age look, whose futuristic cat suits and zany sheath dresses shot him into fame more than half a century ago, stayed true to his intergalactic style, sending out an endless parade of spandex and sequin-covered gear that was ready for take off.

“What was young and fresh 40 years ago is still young and fresh today,” he told The Associated Press in a backstage interview. “I’m like a painter, a writer, a musician, I have my own style. I don’t copy anyone, and really it’s more the others who copy me.”

Point taken. Even if fashion insiders were often hard-pressed to suppress their laughter during Cardin’s heartfelt display, it’s hard to deny the vastness of his influence.

There was more than a hint of it on display at Felipe Oliveira Baptista, a young Portuguese designer who was recently tapped by French sportswear giant Lacoste. Baptista’s retro-futuristic silhouettes _ second-skin leotards with lozenge-shaped cutouts and sheath dresses with scythe-shaped appliques _ looked like cool, self-aware takes on Cardin’s staples.

Paris’ ready-to-wear shows move into day three out of nine on Thursday with displays by zany Indian designer Manish Arora _ another of Cardin’s disciples _ sizzling Paris label Balmain and California native Rick Owens, whose somber post-apocalyptic aesthetic is anything but sunny. One-time wunderkind Zac Posen will also make his Paris debut after years of showing in New York.

But first, the fashion glitterati were celebrating Roberto Cavalli’s 40th anniversary in the industry with a star-studded gala at Paris’ Ecole de Beaux Arts. The Italian designer, whose name has become shorthand for his trademark trust-fund hippy look, showed his first collection in the City of Light four decades ago.

DRIES VAN NOTEN

The show might have been held on the docks of the Seine River, but the scent of the South China Sea enveloped the collection.

Kimono shirts in flower-printed silk were paired with wide-legged trousers, and the classic men’s button-down shirt _ ever a cool-girl staple _ morphed into skirts. It was what a cool young Parisienne might wear if a weekend visit to her boyfriend in Hong Kong turned into a weeklong stay and she had to raid his closet.

The collection managed a perfect melange of ladylike sensuousness and relaxed chill, and the fabrics reflected that _ with a magpie’s mix of sequins and high-sheen Lurex-shot knits and workaday cotton canvas in white and khaki.

Noten, whose gift for color has made him a critical darling and won him legions of devoted fans, said the collection was born out of his search for “a beautiful fabric.”

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