- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 5, 2010

PARIS (AP) - You know you’re at a show by France’s king of kitsch Jean-Charles de Castelbajac when top accessories include an inflatable life vest, a satin neck pillow and necklaces made from counterfeit watches.

Castelbajac’s spring-summer 2011 ready-to-wear collection Tuesday focused on travel _ on “Uber Tropikal Airlines,” an imaginary airline serving Africa _ and amounted to fertile ground for a designer who’s made a career out of pounding his themes to a pulp.

The skirtsuits were like retro stewardess uniforms, complete with jaunty toques, and the label’s trademark zany sweater dresses came in a veritable safari of big game, knit with zebras, elephants and leopards in clever camouflage-leopard print hybrid. A model in a West African boubou in primary-colored faux wax print fabric carried an old school boombox entirely covered in glinting crystals. A cap-sleeve top was made out of Ray Ban sunglasses.

Castelbajac also looked to one of France’s most legendary aviators, “Little Prince” author Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who disappeared while conducting a WWII reconnaissance mission. Caftans and long loose tunic shirts in white linen were printed with “le petit prince” or the classic cover of another book by Saint-Exupery, “Night Flight.”

The show, held in an overheated tent next to Paris’ art nouveau Alexandre III bridge, began with a cabin crew-style announcement that takeoff was imminent. Perpetually among the most colorful and zany of the Paris shows _ with a kitsch factor that’s off the chart _ Castelbajac is always a trip, and what a flight Tuesday’s show was.

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