- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

PARIS (AP) - Paris’ three-day-long fall-winter 2011-12 haute couture extravaganza wrapped up Wednesday with a mini revolution that challenged the established order of this elitist world by allowing the uninitiated masses into a show.

Normally only a reduced cadre of fashion editors, stylists and journalists, as well as the ever-dwindling numbers of fabulously wealthy women who regularly sink five-figure sums into a made-to-measure dress attend couture shows. But French couturier Frank Sorbier took the bold move of selling tickets to his show on the internet to anyone with an interest in fashion and 31 euros ($44) to spare.

“You can buy tickets to concerts, to plays, to standup comedy acts, and really a fashion show is a kind of spectacle, too, with drama, emotion and beauty,” said Sorbier. “So I figured, why not sell tickets to my show, too?”

Still, Sorbier’s revolutionary spirit didn’t spill over to the day’s other shows, which remained, in true couture style, invitation-only events attended by an extraordinarily well-heeled insider audience.

Valentino was held in a stately Paris mansion, and the feather-light chemisier dresses exuded a retro tres Parisien elegance that was very much in keeping with the surroundings. Elie Saab _ the Lebanese designer whose high-wattage va-va-voom gowns have conquered a thousand red carpets the world over _ also delivered a light, airy collection of sequin and tulle confections.

Feathers flew at Jean Paul Gaultier, where plumage plucked from just about avian species from the common chicken to the stately swan dressed up his gorgeously cut staples _ pinstriped suits, trench coats and bustiers. The show was raucous and ended with a tuxedoed Gaultier racing off the catwalk, out of the building and down the street to a launch party for his new perfume “Kokorico” _ which translates, appropriately enough, to cock-a-doodle-doo in French.

Other highlights of the week included debuts on the couture calendar by Giambattista Valli, whose retro Italian glamour has won him flocks of jet-setting fans, and inventive up-and-coming Dutch woman Iris Van Herpen, who sent out a ball gown made entirely out of twisted metal wire. Attention to detail was pushed to the outer limits of sanity at Givenchy, with ten astounding looks in tulle, pearls and tiny iridescent beads that each took upward of 2,000 hours of painstaking labor.

At Chanel, the set alone sufficed to take people’s breath away. The deep-pocketed house built a life-sized replica of Paris’ jewelry Mecca, Place Vendome, swapping Napoleon for founder Coco Chanel atop the square’s iconic towering column.

Spring-summer 2012 couture shows will take place in January.



Like a fox in the proverbial hen-house, Gaultier served up plumage from every bird he could get his hands on. Rooster, ostrich, swan, turkey and pheasant feathers peeked out from the hemlines of trench coats and fluttered out from beneath the necklines of bustiers and other Gaultier staples. And even when they weren’t visible from the outside, the feathers were there on the inside, stuffing the puffer jackets and A-line skirts made from down-filled duvets.

A cropped leather jacket was entirely embroidered with black rooster’s feathers that gleamed darkly, like an oil slick. A model appeared to be transforming, “Black Swan”-style, into a macaw, her bustier an explosion of feathers in saturated tropical shades.

In a nod to the blockbuster movie, Gaultier paired tutus with his signature pinstriped suits and sent out high heels that looked like satin pointe shoes with a metal platform to hike up the heel.

Gaultier has a prodigious imagination, and his creativity can sometimes get the upper hand and overshadow the clothes themselves, but Wednesday’s collection hit the sweet spot between fancy and rigor.

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