- Associated Press - Friday, January 13, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Forget fluorescent spandex: Rio’s catwalks were awash in the most exclusive of materials on Friday as Agatha fielded a winter 2012 collection in shaggy Mongolian lamb, patchworks of snakeskin and lustrous velvet.

Brazilian supermodel Isabeli Fontana, a regular on top catwalks in Paris, Milan and New York, opened the show _ the top-paid model setting the tone for a production that was rich in every sense of the word.

Flippy cocktail dresses in lustrous inky black velvet swung seductively as the models walked, some of them wearing funky snakeskin visors or cropped vests in Mongolian fur.

But the loveliest pieces in the strong show were the dresses in velvet covered with little square appliques, like scales.

It was all about dramatic slits at Filhas de Gaia, where second skin dresses in bold colorblock had skirts split up to the models’ hips. Standout pieces in the strong show included an ankle-length gown in black and white, with a cutout at the waist and a salmon patch on one shoulder.

In a saturated palette of teal and royal purple, with touches of zebra and polka dots, the clothes at Filhas de Gaia exuded a tropical vibrancy that has been in strangely short supply at Rio fashion week.

Geometric and graphic, the prints at the aptly named label Printing were lovely _ except if you stared at the mix and matched triangular designs too long, in which case you they might make you dizzy. In an unusual palette of Klein blue and tangerine, salmon and wine, the cropped trousers, short skirts and wide jackets were utterly fetching.

Sao Paulo-based designer Walter Rodrigues said he was inspired by Austrian director Michael Haneke’s 2009 film “The White Ribbon” about nascent fascism in a German village ahead of World War I, and the first half of his eponymous collection had an unmistakable Germanic rigidity about it.

Models wore sweeping black skirts and cropped jackets with crisp white shirts, their heads covered by what appeared to be a piece of curved construction paper.

Only the combat boots on their feet gave the slightly stiff, dated looks a punkish edge. The Amish punk vibe of the first half mutated into a Gypsy punk look as the models emerged in eye-popping prints, cropped wide-legged pants in vertical stripes with a long jacket in bright flower prints, their hair tied up in bright scarves.

R. Groove, the sole all-menswear display in the first four days of Rio fashion week, delivered the kind of pared-down utilitarian chic that a trustafarian would wear while backpacking around the world. In a muted palette of khaki, gray, Bordeaux and white, the low-crotched pants and plain-fronted jackets and wind-breakers felt both rugged and pricey at the same time.

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