PARIS (AP) - Louis Vuitton capped a Paris fashion week dripping with jewels, sequins and glamorous jet-setters by going back in time to one of the most fashionable ages of travel: The era of the Orient Express.
In a big-budget production, the house that made its name and built its early fortune with leather luggage wheeled out a steam-spewing locomotive on tracks at the Louvre Museum for its fall-winter show Wednesday.
Models descended from the life-size replica Orient Express dressed as bourgeois dames in tall Edwardian hats. Each was trailed by a valet carrying _ naturellement _ Louis Vuitton hat boxes, vanity cases, and petite valises in crocodile and embroidered sequins.
It took a moment for the spectators to focus on the clothes on the platform catwalk.
"It's just sumptuous, and what a spectacle," said French cinema icon Catherine Deneuve stepping onto the carriage after the show.
The signature bold patterns of Louis Vuitton creative director Marc Jacobs traveled first-class alongside brocades and jacquards appliqued with laser-etched plastic stones. Adding to the time warp, big bejeweled buttons and curved lapels on three-quarter length coats harked to 1960s' fashion.
Long heavy fabrics in brown, black, siennas and purple plunged to bottom-heavy and layered silhouettes.
"We're imagining the romance of a better time," said Jacob speaking backstage. "Whatever you try, clothes never really live in the past. They are worn now so they are modern, with a modern take."
At which point Jacobs revealed he was wearing a knee-length black dress. "Oh, don't worry, I'm wearing boxer shorts underneath."
Among other shows Wednesday, glamor also filled the catwalk at Elie Saab's show of a collection brimming with both traffic-stopping, sequined dresses and clients to buy them.
A glitzy array of va-va-voom silhouette ended with statement evening dresses that are sure to turn up at the next big Hollywood party, but that's a theme from last season and the season before.
The slight variation this time was structure.
The peplum made a comeback in lean, more architectural daywear. A beautiful ash sheath with an armor-like, jutting waist perfectly balanced sex with the business look. It said: Admire, but don't touch.
Prints in gray and black also marked a change from the total-color shock of the last ready-to-wear collection, with body skimming panels and cut-outs adding a dash of provocation to Saab's slightly modified winning formula.
There's only so much you can do with wool, even if it's cashmere. But Allude nevertheless managed to produce a tasteful, if repetitive, fall-winter collection Friday with some highly wearable clothes.
Now a signature, the German company's heavy cashmeres gave cardigans and sweaters in burgundy, russet and blue a weighty sweep in the first runway show.
Other, thinner knits added a sexy touch, silkily contouring the bust. Flashes like trapeze inserts kept the mood contemporary with a retro wink, as with cool, bulls-eye-patterned knits in blue and red.
One beanie hat that looked like it could have been worn in the 1960s heyday of British model Twiggie was paired with a long cardigan that had the Bohemian feel of the decade after.
German design house Talbot Runhof visited the world of Charles Dickens' Miss Havisham on Wednesday, in a Paris ready-to-wear show that channeled green foliage _ a nice touch for fall.
A top in silk mousseline embellished with leaves opened the show, depicting the overgrown garden of the character from the 19th century Dickens novel who froze in time after she was left on her wedding day.
As expected from an English country garden, there were a lot of different textures ranging from an elegant looking dress in fluid lame tweed, to sheer tops in crystal embroidered silk tulle.
Stretchy skintight pants in leaf-printed satin worked a treat but somewhat jarred with the style of the show _ more like Poison Ivy from "Batman Forever" than anything else.
The best look of the shoulder-strong show was an iridescent gown capped with a flowing cape-like coat in emerald green. But there was a lack of cohesion in the overall look, making this feel more like an off-calendar show than one on the official Paris runway.
Paris fall-winter menswear shows run from June 27 to July 1, followed by haute coute collections from July 2 to July 5.
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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