- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 6, 2010

PARIS (AP) - When, a few weeks ago, Givenchy abruptly announced it was replacing its fall-winter 2011 haute couture show with a presentation, all sorts of theories sprung up to explain why.

Was it a cost-cutting measure? Was it aimed at protecting the clients _ the handful of women wealthy enough to afford the garments that run into the tens of thousands of dollar range _ from unwanted publicity that could even compromise their security?

The answer, top staffers at the Paris-based label insisted, was much simpler: It was to allow potential clients and the media to appreciate the astounding intricacy of the hand-sewn, hand-embroidered pieces, some of which had taken nearly 1,000 hours to construct.

It’s true the collection’s 10 looks are impressively elaborate. Loosely inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations, they’re feather-light confections of Chantilly lace and tulle, wispy ostrich feathers and duchess silks, given a hard edge by zippers, blinding gold crystals, alabaster beads and little chains that wind through the fabric.

A translucent bodysuit in buff tulle was embellished with cutout lace appliques mapping out the bones of the human body _ the most expensive Halloween skeleton costume of all time.

A jacket in bone white leather was covered in beaded corazones sagrados, the bloody heart icons from Mexico’s Roman Catholic iconography.

An evening gown with a built-in corset glinted with golden crystals. It took 30 people working together two weeks to complete _ the kind of embroidery work that demands much closer inspection than is possible as the looks go whizzing by in a runway show.

Following Tuesday’s media presentation, clients will get to give the collection a close inspection during one-on-one appointments with the label’s couture coordinator Wednesday. Get out your magnifying glasses, folks.

The looks were presented on mannequins dangling from a metal structure, like at an art exhibition _ which was appropriate enough. A good, close look was all it took to confirm that looks, born of the creative genius of designer Riccardo Tisci and the skill of his seamstresses and embroiderers, were wearable art.

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