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Paris: C’est Fini: the Great Seducer, Forever Yves

<STRONG>The Great Seducer:</STRONG> If seduction's your game, then Valentino is your couturier. He presented the most feminine, sexy collection Paris has seen all week. He sent it out to a soundtrack with a lot of music by k.d. lang; if ever there was...

The Great Seducer: If seduction’s your game, then Valentino is your couturier. He presented the most feminine, sexy collection Paris has seen all week. He sent it out to a soundtrack with a lot of music by k.d. lang; if ever there was an ironic choice of tunes, this was it. Val’s women are sensuous pussycats, and have no time – or taste – for drab, androgynous drag. Delicate is another word that comes to mind when describing Valentino’s collection. His colors are soft and muted; his fabrics smooth and flowing; his prints and appliques tasteful in the extreme.

“I’m a little worried because it’s so simple,” Valentino said before the show. And, indeed, there were hardly any accessories, except for big Phillip Treacy garden hats and dainty earrings. Val’s suits – with short bouncy skirts – were topped with jackets so soft they looked like tunics, flaring easily from high Empire waists. They were often cut from double layers of chiffon and worn with matching, strategically slit skirts. There were virtually no pants, only loads and loads of fluid printed dresses – maybe a few too many.

But it was at night that Val really took off. He loves lace and lingerie looks, which he’s done before, but never with such restraint. Sure, there was a bosom visible here, a bosom visible there, but by and large the dresses were perfectly street legal. The best evening segment was a group of long, simple columns in shades of champagne, tan and beige. Some were topped by sheer embroidered tulle jackets, a few of which were covered in birds and bees. How apt.

Forever Yves: Roots. That’s what Yves Saint Laurent said his collection was all about. And that’s exactly what it was. His presentation Wednesday morning was vintage Saint Laurent: impeccable pantsuits, luscious blouses, beautiful crepe dresses, superb mixes of colors and the kind of evening dresses that make people ooh and ah. There wasn’t a lot for the copiers this season, but there was plenty for the customers. This was one of the shortest Saint Laurent collections on record, only 61 numbers. But despite his recent bout with double pneumonia, which landed him in the American Hospital for a week, Yves made his customary walk down the runway with Lucie de la Falaise, and was mobbed as usual backstage.

This season, Yves likes his skirts short, but not too short: just an inch above the knee, or “normal,” as Loulou Klossowski calls it. But the strongest statement of all was for pants, which has been couture’s loudest cry this season. Saint Laurent’s most spectacular came in gray Donegal tweed with a black bow tie and fabulous printed crepe blouse – the only way a chic woman should wear a man’s suit. Though white was his favorite theme, Saint Laurent’s color genius showed up in a group of crepe dresses, exquisitely wrapped around the body in fuchsia and a blue shade he calls myosotis (Greek for forget-me-nots). Loulou’s accessories were pure Saint Laurent: lots of gold, touches of silver and sometimes a mixture of both, flashing from big bracelets, earrings and brooches, often with opulent colored stones.

The evening segment was the least inspired part of the collection. There were three or four beautiful long white columns in raw silk, a black satin wrap dress and a transparent leopard print number that would make any man growl. But they were overshadowed by a finale of Marie-Antoinette damask corset gowns that were strictly over the top.

Yves had the customary heavy-hitting front row, including Catherine Deneuve, who was mobbed as usual by dozens of hungry paparazzi, while the other ladies looked on in icy dismay. “What do you think they do with all those pictures of her?” wondered Princess Firyal of Jordan.