By  on March 4, 1994

PARIS -- Drowning in a spare sea of shapeless, drapeless clothes and heavy metallics? Help is on its way from Paris, which this fall promises to celebrate fantasy, glamour and simple sex appeal. With all the man-tailored pantsuits and high heels, military jackets, micro-shorts and itty-bitty skirts, mounds of mohair and brocade, velvets, ethnic mixes, Greek chic and tons of fake fur, it looks as if fashion is back in fashion.

This city is also buzzing with an energy that it hasn't had in years. Robert Altman's equipe is on the loose -- dispersed in various front-row seats -- as collections start in the grand Carrousel du Louvre today.

And nightlife may actually be making a comeback at last. Just the party list alone is refreshing: photographer William Klein opens his exhibit "In and Out of Fashion" this weekend; New York DJ Frankie Knuckles -- stepping in for Suzanne Bartsch this season -- will be at Le Palace Tuesday, and Chrome Hearts is throwing a big fete at L'Arc on Wednesday, which Johnny Depp and Cher are expected to attend. Vivienne Westwood promises to hold her usual batty post-show bash and Gianfranco Ferre his small dinner.

And no ready-to-wear week would be complete without a number of events hosted by Monsieur Le Director, whose "Pret-a-Porter" cameras start to roll this weekend. Last night was the first official cast dinner at L'Arc, and next week Bulgari and Altman will film and fete the launch of Bulgari's new collection at a dinner at the Pavillon Ledoyen.

The Altman invasion has left the Paris fashion flock more than a little star-struck. Sonia Rykiel has just recorded her first song, "Who the Hell is Sonia Rykiel," on Malcolm McLaren's new album "Paris." NBC is following Diane Von Furstenberg around all week, and Calvin Klein swept into town for a three-day visit, fresh from his London "Escape" launch, to check out possible locations for a boutique in Europe.

As for the runway rundown, John Galliano will show a capsule collection of 20 pieces at Sao Schlumberger's old Saint Germain house Saturday. No one is really talking about who will actually manufacture his clothes -- Faycal Amor may do so again if orders are good -- but the British designer doesn't seem too worried. He was spotted earlier this week at Harry Winston on the Avenue Montaigne looking for a few runway accessories. John may not have much money, but he certainly has a lot of friends and, at the very least, his girls will look like a million sparkling bucks.Rifat Ozbek has also jumped on the French magic carpet, abandoning Milan after only a few seasons. The designer presents his "Minimalist Orientalist" collection at the great fashion mall today, followed by a private dinner for friends chez Natacha. Azzedine Alaia has worked his no-season, by-appointment-only presentations onto the Chambre Syndicale list, while Martin Margiela, Thierry Mugler and Jean-Louis Scherrer are not even scheduled.

All in all, however, it promises to be one of the busiest seasons yet, with about 86 full collections, not to mention the fashion salons, Premiere Classe, Atmosphere, Groupe des Halles, Paris Sur Mode, Tranoi and the latest to open, Workshop. So if you're thinking of checking out the hot new Cafe Marly, situated right above the Carrousel, it may have to be for a quick cappuccino when it opens at 8 a.m.

As for the clothes: Get ready for Eskimo Chic. Jean Paul Gaultier is leading the furry flock on another one of his mad ethnic adventures this season. One look at his trend board with photos of hip Icelandic singer Bjork, ancient Chinese ceremonial garb, Mongolian women and Eskimo faces explains why he's calling this collection "Le Grand Voyage."

"It's a trans-Siberian journey," he says. The collection is full of inverted, reworked sheepskins, jumbo hoods, silk skirt-pants, fountains of fake fur and a slew of "pajama pants that go outside." For JPG, that means layers of heavy socks, nightgowns, kimono robes, knit gloves and furry pocketbooks that look like mittens.

"Mongolie imaginaire" is what Karl Lagerfeld calls his colorful fake Mongolian lamb blousons at Chloe, where sweet farm lasses in girlish skating skirts meet sexy, sophisticated sirens. "There's a bit of Greece at Chloe," adds Karl, who still likes ribbons of lace and sensuous togas, this time painted with forest scenes dreamy enough for any modern-day Puck.

Fake fur is even turning up at Chanel, where Lagerfeld, like Vivienne Westwood this season, will trim his little tweed suits with fake monkey hair.

But the real news at Chanel is "the French body," says Karl -- a velvet one-piece bustier top and shorts that will serve as the base of many looks. "It's evening sportswear," he says, hailing a new simplicity. "I don't feel for too many accessories this season, even if it causes a scandal."Karl, whose own flagship Paris boutique is currently being renovated by Boris Sipek, is determined to make that KL skindress work. It's the foundation of the collection once again this season, and it comes in many different weights, worn over skinny pants, used as a jacket or mixed with a cotton chemise to make a sexy little dress. It'll be mixed and matched with military-style jackets, a new "rubber tweed," tons of black cocktail dresses and white cotton shirts that look as if they were put on backwards.

But KL won't be strictly a feminine affair. Karl's big surprise this season is a group of about 30 men's wear looks which will come out on 10 beefy guys.

Christian Lacroix is opening his show Sunday morning with a selection from his new, lower-priced Bazar collection. The main line, says Christian, "was greatly inspired by the photographer Francoise Huguier." It will combine influences from Russia, China, Scandinavia, Eskimos, athletes, Provence and the military. "It's a world folklore in the same way one talks about world music," he says, adding that the collection will include big Russian peasant coats, parachute jumpsuits and fake fur cuffs, collars and hats.

At Dior, it's all about knitwear, according to Gianfranco Ferre. Keeping up the jacket-that's-light-as-a-shirt trend, the designer will show a series of long knit jackets and short skirts, "light for winter -- not lined, no pads and finished with piping." Constructed, man-tailored pieces will also play a role. After all, says Ferre, "They don't come to Dior to buy a sleeve coming off."

"Glamour is back," proclaims Valentino, who also likes knit suits this season. "It's the end of monastic, childish, punk looks."

Naturally Oscar de la Renta agrees. "All the sort of tennis-shoe ideas and clothes that don't leave the stores has prompted designers to come back to their senses," he says. Pantsuits and cocktail dresses at Balmain will be closer to the body this season. And some suits have supershort skirts with flowing chiffon pants underneath, Oscar notes, "so a woman can just drop her pants and have a short cocktail suit when she feels like it."Meanwhile, Emanuel Ungaro says he's going mysterious this season. "In fact, it's really perverse," he claims. In the collection he'll show next week, the designer will do his fluid, exotic printed layers in somber colors. There will be rich fabrics; long, deep-hued velvet skirts with long tunics, vests and soft jackets; gypsy head wraps, and plenty of panne velvet with an Oriental twist.

Ungaro is also off to Scotland with a group of tight tartan jackets and black velvet pants, some of which will be shown with traditional Scottish sporrans. Will he fill them with haggis like a good Highlander? "No, only condoms," he says.

--with contributions from GODFREY DEENY, NATASHA FRASER and WILLIAM MIDDLETON

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