PARIS: TO TO BOTTOM
IT WAS ENGLAND'S DAY IN PARIS, FROM THE LOW BOTTOMS AT VIVIENNE WESTWOOD TO THE HIGH CAMP OF JOHN GALLIANO.

John Galliano: It was oh-so-queeny. And oh-so-wonderful. Now that most of Paris fashion is being shown in an underground mall, the city has been waiting for a happening. And John Galliano, the English wunderkind, provided it. The designer took over a shabby photo studio in the backwoods of Paris, brought in vintage automobiles, a few shirtless stud puppies and a few cases of champagne. He used that to soup up les supermodels to the point that Linda Evangelista (wearing a yellow Cinderella ballgown) was climbing into a bed with one of the male models; Kristen McMenamy was openly daring Kate Moss to give her a French kiss, and Naomi Campbell was freely flaunting her breasts. Of course, Madonna was there--at least for an hour and a half. But, impatient at Galliano's very late start, the Material Girl dematerialized in a sea of bodyguards and sycophants.
Too bad for her. What she missed was an exquisite couture collection, full of glamour with a capital G and retro with a capital R. There were only 27 outfits, but they were all high-impact, from the tight peplum suits to the new bias-cut evening dresses. In between, there were skirts that you could only wiggle in, peplums that could fly and corsets that make even the Wonder Bra look loose.
But above all, there were the jackets, which were the best in Paris. From cropped houndstooth to slinky satin, Galliano literally molded the jackets to his models' bodies, over long tight skirts. The whole mood suggested a vintage Irving Penn photograph. The accessories were equally inspired, from the narrow leopard belts to the spectator mules. And anyone without a purse next season is going to feel real poor.
Sure, there was a retro element to these clothes--there is all over Paris. But Galliano, even if he is being pursued by Donatella Girombelli for her Genny group, is aimed at a very specialized audience. They can afford to indulge him. As for the rest of the working-girl world, John has one thing to say: Let them eat cake.Claude Montana: Claude Montana stands his ground. Grunge comes, grunge goes. Deconstruction builds, deconstruction falls. But Montana keeps on that icicle-edge of tailoring, producing whiplash suits, razor-sharp leathers and seamed-to-the-skin dresses. It's not everyone's cup de thé, but Montana has his legion of fans, who rushed backstage after his show Tuesday night to congratulate the designer on what many are calling his best show in seasons. Montana himself, however, was unhappy: His wedding dress was lost in a cab and never arrived for the finale.
The first half of the show was the strongest. Montana showed his brilliant tailoring technique with a slew of terrific suits: carved, strong-shouldered jackets over swirling pleated skirts in bright candy colors. And while many designers may be snubbing pantsuits this season, Montana is still mad for them. He showed trousers of every width, and some of his impeccably cut jackets had quirky details like mesh pouch pockets.
Montana is also caught up in this season's dress rage. There were some sexy tight sheaths that Geena Davis could wiggle into, and who could resist those little black crepe fit-and-flare dresses with flirty tulle petticoats? But Montana really blazed the runway with a sequin blitz. There were glittering bras, T-shirts, cargo pants, jeans and skirts. And why not a sequinned jogging suit worn with wedged Tevas--the perfect way for Barbie to go off to Sunday brunch?

Vivienne Westwood: There are some people with death wishes, but Vivienne Westwood has something much more common in the British fashion industry: a failure wish. Not only was her show so badly organized that there were riots at the door and at least one woman was trampled, Westwood then made everyone wait an hour and a half for a show that lasted an hour. Worse still, that bulging bum from last season reared its ugly cheeks once again, and Westwood managed to hide some of Paris's most beautiful clothes under a burlesque joke.
Back in the showroom, stores are saying, the Westwood collection looks better than it ever has--and much more commercial. And you could get a hint of that on the runway. Vivienne cuts suits as good as those of anyone in Paris. Her jackets, ornate and big-sleeved, fit like a dream. Her knits were also spectacular: clean, colorful and completely charming.The ideas flowed like water: latex with lace, sweater dresses in granny-like crochet, vested pantsuits and the fan-pleated shirtdress, plastered to the torso. Even the evening section, which seemed to go on forever, had its spectacular moments--that is, if you've got a grand ball to make an entrance at. Just make sure Viv isn't in charge at the door.Christian Lacroix: Lacroix is another Paris designer who holds fast to his ideas, even if his audience seems to be getting smaller and smaller. One of the reasons may be is that the cheers, especially from the French fashion press, grow louder and louder. Hurrah, they say, for the bright prints and Provencal costumes! Three cheers for the disco-baby ball gowns and satin slipdresses! Long live the pagoda shoulder! The problem is that Lacroix, despite his obvious talent, can't get arrested commercially. There are great hopes for his new lower-priced Bazar line, but that's still an unproven commodity. Lacroix may have started the whole disco craze, but there are other designers, here and in Italy, not to mention New York, who will reap the rewards. This collection he showed Wednesday morning was better--and cleaner--than many he has shown recently, but it still doesn't look like something really right for 1995.

Sonia Rykiel: Glamour is back--and with a vengeance at Sonia Rykiel. In her Tuesday show, she doused her knits with enough glitter, sequins, embroidery and marabou to outfit the Folies Bergère. Underneath all that showgirl stuff were snug little sweaters paired with the hip-riding pants that are sweeping the runways of Paris, or cropped trousers cuffed in satin. Rykiel, it seems, is mad for satin this season. So when her sweater girls tossed off their knits, they slipped into anything satin--from HotPants and overalls to bias dresses fit for a sex goddess.

Helmut Lang: He is the god of the Paris fashion sect. The editors from French Glamour, The Face and ID worship at Helmut Lang's temple like so many vestal virgins. They pray to understand his every nuance, every stitch, every idea. And Helmut, the smart designer that he is, parcels them out very slowly, like a holy tease. Moreover, Lang doesn't believe in a revolution every season. He likes his change gradual and kept to a minimum--just like his clothes.
This season he threw away the black and beige and went wild with color--reds, blues, bright green. They were the kind of nerdy shades Forrest Gump would love--not to mention some of the world's greatest photographers, who flock to photograph Lang's eerily sexy clothes. Some, like Juergen Teller, Mark Borthwick and David Sims, even paid Lang the unusual homage of coming to his show. There are a lot of designers--on both sides of the Atlantic--who wish they could be there, as well.You can be sure, however, that they will pick up on Lang's newest obsession: perforated mesh, just like basketball players wear. He cut it into skirts, used it as both men's shirts and women's blouses, and lined his sexy plastic dresses with it. Lang also showed a deft hand at tailoring, particularly with jackets and his new skinny pants with the world's widest cuffs. And remember all those unfinished edges that everyone copied last season? Forget 'em. This season, Helmut likes his clothes fit and finished.Ann Demeulemeester: To some, she's the Armani of the avant-garde. Demeulemeester has abandoned her deconstructionist roots and now tempers her hard-edged tailoring with a hint of femininity. This collection isn't about fashion fireworks, but about clothes that sell--a formula that works equally well for her cult following and for stores like Neiman Marcus.
Demeulemeester shows a forceful attitude this season. There were no accessories and no gimmicks, just great tailored one-button suits; hip-riding pants with faggoted side seams, and cutaways over flaring satin or crepe skirts. Her finale was a parade of pants, both tailored and full, worn by 20 girls, all of whom--just to make a point--were topless.

Corinne Cobson: There's a new erogenous zone in Paris: the pelvis. And Corinne Cobson flaunted it like mad Tuesday night. She sent her rock-'n'-roll babes down the runway in hip-huggers slung so low they almost slipped right off. The skin show stretched all the way up to the skimpiest T-tops and Lurex twin sets. If that didn't heat things up enough, there were yards of racy high-tech fabrics that looked like plastic Baggies or spray-painted leather. Cobson's clothes are for the hippest of young Parisiennes, like Vanessa Paradis, who sat front-row with Lenny Kravitz, lapping it all up.

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