- Associated Press - Saturday, January 14, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - An It Girl and an orange spandex blob of writhing humanity capped Rio de Janeiro’s five-day-long fashion week Saturday, lending a gimmicky end to the city’s otherwise strong winter 2012 collections.

In a bid to create the kind of buzz its clothes themselves can’t, streetwear label Auslander regularly invites celebrities to walk in its shows. But this season’s special guest, British It Girl Daisy Lowe, left the crowd cold.

Though Lowe gave it the old college try, throwing her hips dramatically as she sauntered down the catwalk in what amounted to a one-piece swimsuit, the audience didn’t seem to know or care who she was. (By contrast, the arrival of a Brazilian actress caused a near riot earlier.)

Without the kind of collective euphoria a good celebrity sighting can generate, the show fell flat. Many of the men’s and women’s pieces were the kind of casual urban fares you see on practically every sidewalk, and the ponchos, shawls, skirts and dresses made from mohair blankets looked nothing short of infernal, considering the 100 degree weather outside.

If you want people to concentrate on the clothes, the ideal fashion show backdrop is probably not a giant parachute in orange spandex with a dozen people squirming, thrashing and wiggling underneath it. But for experimental Rio-based label Oestudio, the clothes are clearly beside the point. It’s all about putting on a unique show _ and the writhing blob was ideally suited for the task.

The clothes included sweatshirts like cocoons, without any sleeves, cropped pants with one extra-wide palazzo leg and the other a narrow cigarette, and button-down shirts cinched at the waist with an extra pair of sleeves. (Perhaps those shorn from the sweatshirts?) The models _ a refreshingly ethnically mixed cast that appeared to include nonprofessionals _ swerved as they took to the catwalk to avoid being hit by the random fist, shoulder, knee or face that would sporadically poke out of the spandex.

In comparison with the Oestudio show, everything else seemed a bit anticlimactic. But at Andrea Marques, it was definitely the good kind of anticlimactic.

The designer looked to the bourgeois styles of the 1970s, serving up the pleated A-line skirts and tie-front blouses in the lightest chiffon. Maxi-dresses with long sleeves and high collars didn’t show an inch of skin, but the snake skin printed silk was suggestively see-through. Transparency is not an easy look for most women, but slap a lining onto Marques’ dresses and feather-light shirts and you’d have yourself a fetching and wearable collection.

Giulia Borges’ short, layered looks in black and white lace, tulle and chiffon were at once edgy and whisper-light. Despite looking like they’d weigh in at mere ounces, the short lace cocktail dresses _ some worn with satin tuxedo jackets fitted with peplums and trailing tails _ had a street-savvy toughness about them. Like gangster molls who just might be concealing a razor blade in their elegant French twist hairdo, Borges’ lovely ladies were not to be messed with.

The narrative at Nica Kessler was less clear-cut. With maxi-dresses that had a vaguely ‘70s vibe mixed in with sweaterdresses that felt like ‘80s power dressing, Kessler’s collection was all over the place.

Even the models looked a bit lost. They struggled to negotiate three mirrored podiums set awkwardly in the middle of the catwalk, and there were a few near-collisions. But then again it might have been the models’ hair that was to blame: long strands were combed down over their faces, giving them a vaguely Cousin It-ish look.

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