- Associated Press - Friday, March 2, 2012

PARIS (AP) - The buzz at Paris’ ready-to-wear shows on Friday wasn’t just about the clothes.

Bill Gaytten, former designer John Galliano’s temporary replacement, was again at the helm of Christian Dior’s fashion collection, directing a demure, play-it-safe show that channeled the powerhouse’s bread-and-butter New Look-inspired gowns with cinched 1950s waists.

But the collection was almost overshadowed by chatter that Gaytten, who was supposed to continue for only a few seasons, may be kept on longer.

Will he become the longest-serving interim designer in fashion history?

Day four of the frantic nine days of the Paris fashion calendar was also colored by the celebrity-filled, energetic spectacle offered by Lanvin.

Israeli creative director Alber Elbaz was toasting 10 successful years at the company, with a strong and creative array of dresses that revisited several eras of the house’s clothes rail all the way back to the Art Deco days of Jeanne Lanvin.

There is reason for the company to celebrate with an impressive 24 percent increase in sales last year alone. A second celebration is planned for April in Beijing.

In other shows, Sonia Rykiel presented a comfy but high-collared journey through different looks and eras of the Parisienne gamine.

On Saturday shows include Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf and Paris’ enfant terrible Jean Paul Gaultier.


“Dreams, history and the past,” Alber Elbaz said of his extravaganza show that celebrated and retraced his 10-year journey as creative director of Lanvin.

Every inch of the couture, ruffles and shimmer that revitalized the house over the last few years was on display Friday, including reinterpretations of 1960s vintage pieces from the iconic archives.

Celebrities, like singer Mika and actress Tilda Swinton sat in the front row, behind whom some 2,000 revelers applauded exquisite cocktail gowns that included patches of the Art Deco fur of Jeanne Lanvin’s 1920s heyday.

Spotlighting dappled the colors of scuba-like neoprene dresses with peplums and inflated arms in canary yellow, emerald green and royal blue.

Reading like a Lanvin fashion encyclopedia, the theme switched to a leather-infused take on sportswear jackets with a dazzling array of reworked parkas, perfectos and bombers.

The next chapter revisited archive pieces such as a duchesse satin insert _ replicated from the 1960s _ on a black and gold brocade gown with matching knee-high boots.

Another vault piece, a black bustier dress with calico ruffles, got whoops from the crowd, perhaps still giddy from the flowing pre-show champagne.

The collection closed with a celebratory, postmodern twist: sheaths printed with Elbaz’s own hand-drawn sketches of dresses over the years, including two-dimensional ruffles and slashes.

Instead of bowing, a joyful Elbaz took a microphone to the stage and, admitting he couldn’t sing, attempted a rendition of “Que sera sera.”

The future is not ours to see: But with this, one of the strongest shows of the season so far, it looks shiny bright.


To slightly underwhelming applause it was, again, “interim” designer Bill Gaytten who closed Dior’s ready-to-wear show in a balletic display of lowered 1950s hemlines that missed the exuberance of January’s couture offering.

With reports his contract would end in May, the fall-winter collection was meant to be the designer’s last. But the talk of the front row was whether Dior might keep him on for another year.

Swan song or no, “Swan Lake” could have characterized the show: Balletic-high waistlines topped a new, longer-length skirt with knife-edged pleats and a more structured silhouette.

Some of the looks got it just right, like a skintight eggplant silk sweater that resembled a dancer’s leotard, on an embroidered silk skirt in violet that fluttered past like tulip petals.

The sex appeal was also turned up in the odd play of sheer paneling on the house’s signature 1950s gowns, in blushed nudes and inky jewel tones, that are shaping this fall’s look.

That Gaytten chose Karlie Kloss _ the 6-foot (1.8-meter) ballet-dancer-turned-supermodel _ to close the show was a playful touch.

However, given this is ready-to-wear, the ground-bound hemlines _ mid-calf or floor-length on the catwalks _ would likely drown out the a normal woman’s body.


Wearable is the name of the game at Belgian designer Glenn Martens’ gothic-tinged off-calendar debut in Paris.

“I like to break up, dissect beauty,” mused Martens, a 28-year-old who graduated from Antwerp’s famed fashion institute in 2008.

It was clear he aimed to break up styles, mixing clean, ecclesiastical forms with sneakers and in-vogue sporty zippers.

Next to a projection of Belgian masterpiece “The Passion of Saint John” by Hans Memling, clerical column dresses and coats slinked by hanging like cassocks in speckled gray knit. An oversized coat in ethical recycled wool looked papal with a vertical slit tapering out from the round collar.

Another knitwear piece revealed an intricate crisscross on the back that the designer said were “shards of church stained-glass.”

Martens certainly ticks the on-trend box for the gothic.

But overall it was a simple collection by a designer prioritizing comfortable clothes, kind to women — in keeping with the minimalist vibe peppering some fall-winter ready-to-wear shows.

Like many up-and-coming designers, Martens is not on Paris fashion week’s official calendar but is showing his collection at the same time to garner the attention of the fashion world.


Octogenarian Sonia Rykiel looked on from the front row Friday at her show that the program notes said went back to the “effervescent seventies.”

But the collection, designed by the new creative director April Crichton, seemed more timeless than anything else.

A black-and-white skirt suit opened the show, followed by trompe l’oeil shirtdresses with revamped 1950s headbands and a showcasing of tight Edwardian-era collars — a new feature in the house’s normally more casual style.

Stricter than previous shows it may have been, but the sageness of higher necklines and lower hems was shot down in many pieces with cheeky flesh-baring cutouts — a wink from a house that prides itself on nonchalance.

One thick knit oyster skirt and jumper in mohair and alpaca looked sumptuous. But maybe a little hard to wear?

“Oh no, don’t worry,” said Nathalie Rykiel, 81-year-old Sonia’s daughter and company president. “It’s thin wool, we would never make something too hot. Fashion is about awareness, complicity among women.”

It’s a philosophy that clearly instructed the models, who, laughing and skipping, took the final curtain call holding hands.

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