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Paris: the Sequel

Ferre showed some pretty clothers at Dior, Lagerfeld stuck with the skindress and Altman started to get on everyone's nerves.<BR><BR><STRONG>Altman: The Backlash Begins</STRONG><BR><BR>Sunday, people couldn't get enough of him. But by Monday, director...

Ferre showed some pretty clothers at Dior, Lagerfeld stuck with the skindress and Altman started to get on everyone’s nerves.

Altman: The Backlash Begins

Sunday, people couldn’t get enough of him. But by Monday, director Robert Altman had fallen from grace: Both Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino had banned his camera crews, and certain editors were asking to be seated out of camera range.

Many journalists and retailers were also offended when they opened their Christian Dior invitations and found a note that virtually amounted to a release form. “We would like to inform you that Mr. Robert Altman’s camera crew, as well as several members of his cast, will be among the guests at our fashion show,” the letter read. “You may feature in some of the general shots. Therefore, your presence during this event tacitly implies your consentment [sic] to being in this film.”

When questioned, Dior president Bernard Arnault claimed that he was unaware that such a note had been inserted in his house’s invitations. But he — like many others — made sure he was seated well away from the filmmaking during the show.

Meanwhile, Lagerfeld announced that he would have nothing to do with “Pret-a-Porter” for any of his collections. The designer explained that the Altman script called for him to visit Anouk Aimee to console her for the loss of her lover.

“But I hate displays of emotion like that,” he said. “Anyway, I don’t want to be an actor. I’m not a megalomaniac, you know. Everyone who attends a show that Mr. Altman covers will remember only his film and not the clothes. I’m afraid he’ll make fashion look like a nightmarish cartoon. I make fashion for people who need to see fashion, not the movie industry.”

The house of Valentino will also announce today that it has decided to steer clear of Altman. “First, there is no need for a satirical movie on fashion at this difficult moment,” said company chairman Giancarlo Giammetti. “Second, the pret-a-porter industry is not just Paris, and, as an Italian house, we object. Third, having the movie cameras would just distract attention from the show, with the clothes becoming ‘extras.”‘ Giammetti added that one suggested scenario had Kim Basinger on Val’s catwalk, but it was rejected.

Altman’s cast certainly hogged the limelight at the Dior show, as the director quarterbacked the action from on high. “If my accountant knew how much we’ve shot, he’d have a heart attack,” said the director, who refused to comment on the reaction to the Dior note.

“This project has proved even more complicated than I expected. But we have been getting great stuff,” Altman noted before scurrying off to direct Marcello Mastroianni, who plays a Russian tailor on the run from the French police.

Backstage after Dior, the cast lined up to be filmed congratulating Gianfranco Ferre. Stephen Rea, who plays a star fashion photographer, asked one bystander: “What am I going to say to the man?”

Then Kim Basinger, dressed in a silk Dior suit, asked Ferre a series of questions in a heavy Southern accent: “I’m standing beside the most handsome man in fashion. What has inspired you this time? Would you say your clothes are architectural? How does the Dior collection differ from the Ferre collection in Milan?”

And what did Elsa Klensch think about Kim playing her in “Pret-a-Porter”? “She’s certainly very glamorous, but I would have preferred a brunette.”

Dior Does It

Even if Sophia Loren calls him Giancarlo, Gianfranco Ferre knows who he is and, as he proved at Christian Dior Monday, he knows what he’s doing. Ferre’s clothes are the essence of a certain kind of expensive ready-to-wear: masterfully cut and finished, wearable, but not without drama. This isn’t kid stuff, but it will give snap and dash to a lady of the world.

For starters, Ferre’s pants were the best in Paris: long, high-waisted and clean, worn with simple white shirts under black sweaters, or as pantsuits. Jackets were shapely, either double-breasted with long rows of buttons, or fastened simply with a single button at the throat.

Ferre likes his skirts mostly short. In the opening segment, he joined the ranks of those trying to redefine the word with black leather corset skirts that were really extended belts. But more often, he added a little breathing length, and sometimes put those skirts under very long redingotes with deep back pleats.

Gianfranco didn’t shy away from romance, and infused much of the collection with a Renaissance air, especially the billow-sleeved, white poet’s shirts he loves and his velvets: a short, shaped, robe in crinkled berry over one of those shirts, and a group of the most languid evening jackets imaginable, which fell off the shoulders over long silk dresses. Yet none of it looked like artifacts from a costume drama.

Ferre resisted his overwhelming urge to decorate, and by his standards, this was a toned-down collection. He was in control from the start, and it paid off.

Lagerfeld: Skin Deep

Karl Lagerfeld loves to run with an idea. Last season, his bells were ringing for the “skindress,” basically a glorified stocking that he conceived as the base for a new way of dressing. It didn’t play well back then, but instead of abandoning it, Karl merely plunged in deeper — much deeper.

In his fall collection, Karl turned the skindress into a wardrobe unto itself: skinskirts, skinshirts, skinturtles, skinhalters…you name it. Even he wore one. Each layer was see-through, if not as sheer as last time, and the idea was to use it like a fashion Lego set — put it together to suit your fancy. And Lagerfeld did it in living, screaming colors that he mixed with the exuberance of a kid gone mad with a box of crayons. Shocking pink, acid green, bright orange were all piled on together, right down to the blinding hose under those knee-high clear plastic boots. At one point, Shalom came down the runway dressed like a giant Halloween candy corn in yellow, orange and black.

This type of skintight body-dressing, whose natural habitat is the club scene, definitely has a market, but it may not be Karl’s. Last season, in fact, Kal Ruttenstein rushed a $48 copy into his juniors department at Bloomingdale’s practically before Lagerfeld’s originals got off the knitting machine. The problem is the skindress just doesn’t look like expensive ready-to-wear, even on supermodels, and, as they say at retail, it’s not going to hang well.

Of course, there were some great things. Karl cut everything using dressmaker technique, with no linings, facings or pads, so the clothes followed the body beautifully. Best were the suits with long jackets split all the way up the back and the swingy loden and cashmere cape-jackets. This was a huge collection, the biggest Lagerfeld has ever sent out. He moved from gangster suits with neon neckties to satin boudoir slips, to metal-embroidered evening blazers and beaded fringed sheaths. The one constant factor was the skindress. But in the end, it was only a gimmick, not a nucleus powerful enough to unite all the creative ideas that teem in the Kaiser’s fertile mind.

Monday in Paris

CERRUTI: There were no klieg lights, but Katherine Altman sat in the front row at Cerruti, driving home the point that this designer makes real clothes. Of course, he is also one of fashion’s most prolific film designers, and the show opened with a backdrop projection of some of his big screen moments. Then out came Nino’s knits in muted colors and an interesting play of textures. A robe-jacket swept the runway, and a flirty group of suits came with short jackets, pinstriped vests and short flared skirts. But the collection went out of control for evening with metallics and wispy layers.

CLAUDIA WATCH: The bodyguard count just keeps going up. As she sashayed through the Carrousel, Claudia Schiffer was surrounded by a small army of big guys — at least seven — in her not-so-secret service. How much protection does one girl need?

LANVIN: Has Dominique Morlotti taken up riding? The snappy collection he showed for Lanvin opened with lush, velvet-collared cashmere redingotes, wool whipcord jodhpurs and thigh-high boots in butter-soft suede. Morlotti got it right with clean motorcycle jackets and organza cocktail dresses, but his hand was less sure with long taffeta dresses with puffy down jackets.

GUY LAROCHE: Designer Jean-Pierre Marty made subtle use of the military and ethnic trends. There were sweeping officer’s coats and shapely jackets, Chinese-inspired jackets with frog closures, and Russian-style coats with passementerie or astrakhan trim. For evening, Marty showed asymmetric jackets with discreet jeweled closures over wide crepe pants.

MARCEL MARONGIU: From the models’ slick heads — which were sculpted into a single flame — to the long, bobbing elastic-hemmed skirts and soft dumbbell silhouettes, Marongiu showed off his skill with shape. His collection, mostly in black and navy, was spare, but not severe, veering instead toward girlishness. That was clear from the first series of knit leggings and long, high-waisted skirts. The sweetness continued with short kilts, soft dusters, and little bloomer suits.

KENZO: It seemed Kenzo desperately wanted to be part of Altman’s new film. He named his show segments after movies, mixed sound bites of Gene Tierney and Lauren Bacall with his music, and used a huge roll of film as a backdrop. The collection itself was another ethnic trip around Asia, with printed kimonos, Cossack tunics and Chinese dresses. But it became a bit confusing. Making Nadja Auermann look like the chubby wife of a provincial kulak takes some doing, but Kenzo managed it. And Altman wasn’t there to record it.