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WWD Collections issue 04/12/2010

Belle Curves
“Tits were obviously in the air!” In the words of Katie Grand, such was the simple reasoning behind one of the fall season’s more unusual runway trends: the prevalence of big-busted, big-name models more likely to appear plastered all over a teenage boy’s bedroom walls than a high-fashion runway. Grand, editor in chief of Love magazine, should know: She styled the Louis Vuitton, Giles and Loewe shows, all of which were stocked with stacked models—Alessandra Ambrosio, Izabel Goulart, Bar Refaeli, Laetitia Casta, Karolina Kurkova and Elle Macpherson among them.

This story first appeared in the April 12, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The voluptuous model moment originated at Prada, where seven women best known for their work with Victoria’s Secret, including a few of the elite Angels, such as Ambrosio, Miranda Kerr and Doutzen Kroes, were cast to fill out the clothes. Before the show, Miuccia Prada said it was a “womanly collection with sexier models,” which was interesting, since much of collection, regardless of the recurrent focus on the bust, was made up of conservative, even matronly, silhouettes not typically suited to swimsuit-edition models. The perversity of it all wasn’t lost on Ambrosio, who was vacationing in her native Brazil at the height of Carnivale when she got the call for Prada. “It was kind of surreal,” she says. “What would they want to do with me? They’re usually not interested in sexy models.”

But if Prada sought to cover up the girls’ assets, Marc Jacobs wanted to show them off at Vuitton. “He wanted cleavage,” said Ambrosio, who wore a fit-and-flare skirt and floral bustier engineered for maximum push-up effect. Indeed, Jacobs’ collection was a Bardot-inspired celebration of womanly beauty, titled “And God Created Woman.” Which was to say the collection was geared toward and inspired by certifiable adults, a point he hammered home with his lineup. “We’re opening with Laetitia Casta and closing with Elle Macpherson,” he said a few days before his show, noting that, at Vuitton, “everything is bigger.” And older. Jacobs’ show opener and closer were 31 and 47, respectively, with the rest of his models in their mid-20s.

It made for a major statement, though Jacobs has since insisted it was not intended as a political input into fashion’s ongoing conversation about healthy body image—or age, for that matter. “Katie Grand and I already decided way before the collection began that we were going to use [these models],” Jacobs told the audience at a recent lecture. “The criteria was that they had to be available the day of the show and they had to be gorgeous.”

Giles Deacon was similarly apolitical. He simply wanted to show his clothes on figures more relatable to his clients. “I like to cast women who have lived a little bit of life, not 15-year-old virgins,” said Deacon, adding that Linda Evangelista and Eva Herzigova have walked his runway in recent seasons. “I think they show up much better.”

For her part, Grand boiled it down to even simpler aesthetics. “With Giles, it was clear we wanted an all-sexy cast, and we used a lot of blondes,” she said. “Stuart [Vevers] at Loewe wanted women who looked handsome and with dark hair. And at Vuitton, Marc said very early on, ‘I’ve been thinking about tits.’ And the necklines were cut very low, accordingly.”

As for the models’ reactions, most were surprised to be considered. Even if they have a designer runway history, it’s been a while since they were regulars. Macpherson couldn’t even remember the last time she walked a catwalk. “Perhaps Valentino, 20 years ago!” she said. “Marc called and asked me to do the show and, trusting his vision, I immediately said yes. Since I’m producing a TV show at the moment, I couldn’t believe I actually had that particular day free.” Meanwhile, Kurkova and Adriana Lima, who also walked in Vuitton, each had their first baby last fall, and as Refaeli put it: “I don’t walk fashion weeks. It is usually the really skinny girls and very, very tall girls who are doing them. I kind of feel like an alien among all those girls.” Still, the prospect of being cast as a novelty didn’t deter any of these women from making an exception for the shows.

Now, the question is whether this curvier fashion moment will stick.

“I don’t think it is just for one season,” observed Grand, who was struck by Goulart and Ambrosio’s “overt sexiness” when she worked with them in October on Fashion Rocks in Rio de Janeiro. “I don’t know why, but I definitely feel more inspired to work with these kinds of women.” She’s already booked Ambrosio for several other fashion projects, including a short film called The Love Thing.

“Usually I’m on the beach, super tan, modeling bathing suits and lingerie,” said Ambrosio. “[Since the shows], I’ve actually been doing a lot of editorials—definitely with more clothes on.” —Jessica Iredale

Girl, Uninterrupted
Sigrid Agren burned up fall runways, strutting in a staggering 70 shows. By comparison, walking 50 to 60 shows in a single season makes for a jam-packed schedule. Not only did Agren top that, but she opened six shows and closed seven, walking for the likes of Dior, Chanel, Lanvin, Balenciaga, Gucci and Prada.

This Martinique native’s look blends golden features and dark eyes with a coolly intense gaze that projects a poise beyond her years— all 17 of them. After a strong fall 2009 season, Agren skipped spring 2010 to study for her high school graduation exams. Returning to the runway caused Agren some anxiety about how she’d be received. “I missed doing shows in September—you don’t know how it’ll go after not doing one season. That’s why I’m really glad it went so well this season.”

Indeed, while all four fashion capitals treated her well, Agren admits she has a special fondness for Paris, not only for walking the runways of fabled houses, but because she got some old-fashioned TLC backstage there from Mom and Dad. “They were helping me,” she says, “like bringing food for me at the shows. They really like seeing me on the runway.” —Cinnamon St. John

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Lindsay’s Parisian Adventure
She was part of the team that put heartshaped pasties on models’ bosoms at Emanuel Ungaro, but there’s no love lost between Lindsay Lohan and the French fashion house. From Christian Dior, John Galliano and Viktor & Rolf to Chanel and Kenzo, Lohan made extensive rounds of shows and soirées during Paris Fashion Week—except her own. A veritable victim of fashion, the starlet was missing in action at the Ungaro show, confirming speculation that her creative consultancy at the Parisbased maison was a one-season wonder.

Not a big surprise, since former Ungaro president Mounir Moufarrige, who hired the notorious starlet to jolt the house, exited the company in December. Before the show, Ungaro owner Asim Abdullah said Lohan was “not involved in this collection,” with no elaboration on the terms of her contract, but word on the street was that Lohan didn’t even receive an invitation to attend the event. The fashion industry certainly has a take-no-prisoners approach to collection flops, save Karl Lagerfeld, who lent a few words of support about her Ungaro fiasco. “It’s not doing her justice,” he declared, “because she’s she’s the sweetest girl in the world.” —Emilie Marsh

Picture Us
Between the throngs of street style blogs, Twitter feeds, fashion television programs buzzing around the front row for a sound bite and, lest anyone forget, the very magazines they publish, editors do not lack for media outlets through which to channel their points of view. Yet that didn’t stop a few publications from adding to the barrage with more self-referential material this season. In fact, it was nearly impossible to trip to a fifth-row seat without being clipped by an overstyled editor with a camera crew in tow.

Harper’s Bazaar launched “The Front Row,” a series of three-minute Web videos documenting Glenda Bailey and her staff’s journey through New York, Milan and Paris. Some of the action-packed footage captured Bailey admiring the newest belles du jour at a Roger Vivier appointment and executive editor Kristina O’Neill sidelining Natasha Poly to discuss her personal style. Meanwhile, Marie Claire added a meta layer to its ongoing “Fashion Diaries” Web series by arming its fashion staff with Flip cams to record their every move, from getting coffee before work to changing into comfortable shoes to complaining about the weather—a multiepisode story arch. —Jessica Iredale

Ice, Ice, Baby
Leave it to Karl Lagerfeld to design the coolest set during one of the chilliest Paris Fashion Weeks in recent memory. Some 270 tons of “snice”—the term for frozen snow—was imported from northern Sweden on 14 trucks and brought into the Grand Palais, the magnificent Beaux-Arts, glass-topped exhibition hall where the Chanel show would be held. Some 35 ice sculptors, hailing from around the world, worked six days to create the wind-swept effect of an iceberg, its highest point rising to 29 feet. To preserve their handiwork, the ice mound was hermetically sealed in a huge box—some 187,000 cubic feet huge—that was refrigerated to a few degrees below freezing. As the stirring Simple Minds instrumental “Theme for Great Cities” pumped through the speakers, the box was lifted, releasing a wall of cold air and a breathtaking sight. Snice work, Karl! —Miles Socha

Sign Language
“Flirt! Have fun!”

“Be smiling, sexy and de-gorgeous!”

“Everyone wants to be you!”

Hyperbole rarely flowers quite like it does on the signs backstage at fashion shows. Heavy on the hearts, exclamation points and capital letters, and light on copyediting, the handwritten placards add a homespun touch to the sometimes austere, often frenetic prep zone. More importantly, they are there to offer the models a bit of motivational coaching or tough love (depending on the designer), as well as a sense of what mood to project on the runway. For example, this season, John Galliano’s posters read, “Nomadic girls, just coming from the mountains. Follow the rythms [sic] of the drums.” Cut to a parade of Amazons in piled-on ethnic attire.

Diane von Furstenberg opted for an ultragirly slogan, complete with hearts dotting the I’s: “A man’s life in a woman’s body. SMILE, SEDUCE, be proud to be YOU.”

“This collection is about a fantasy of masculine clothes done in a very feminine way,” the designer explained, “so I used a quote I always say, because it was my life’s dream to have a man’s life in a woman’s body.”

One longtime fan of backstage signs, Michael Kors, likes to underscore the jet-set theme running through his work with references to geographic locations such as Saint-Tropez. This season, he reminded models, “You are sporty, sexy and very Michael Kors! You rock the room from NY to Gstaadt [sic] and late nights in Paris.” (A rep for Kors confirmed the designer handwrites all the signs for his shows.)

Most signs strike a tone as effusive as a Montessori school report card (see the sequined banners at Sonia Rykiel reading “Be Happy” and “Smiiile,” or Betsey Johnson’s cheerful scribbles), but a few sound a more cautionary note. “NOT TOO FAST!” was the tag line backstage at MaxAzria, and Max Mara included a caution symbol above the instructions: “GIRLS REMEMBER — Walk Fast, Look Strong.”

Model Kelli Lumi, who walked for von Furstenberg and Kors this season, said that, in her experience, the models actually do pay attention to the signs. “Knowing what is expected always makes me feel more confident,” she said, adding that sometimes the only instruction is “NO smile.”

For the navigationally challenged, some designers even include diagrams of the runway with arrows directing the models where to walk. But perhaps the most helpful sign this season, at Topshop Unique, reflected the more lo-fi nature of London Fashion Week. Bookended by exclamation points, the inscription read simply: !UNEVEN FLOOR. TAKE CARE! —Véronique Hyland

Celebrating Yves
Two years after his death, Yves Saint Laurent remains as popular as ever in France, which is celebrating his legacy with a flurry of projects including several books, a concept album and a documentary about his relationship with longtime lover and business partner Pierre Bergé. Dozens of people queued in freezing weather on the opening night of a retrospective at the Petit Palais dedicated to the couturier.

Architect Peter Marino, designer Olivier Theyskens and Roger Vivier brand ambassador Inès de la Fressange were among those who took in the more than 300 outfits on loan from the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, including an entire wall of his famous “le smoking.” The night before, Bergé held a star-studded dinner featuring a who’s who of French fashion, including Saint Laurent muse Catherine Deneuve, who has a room devoted to her at the exhibition. Noticeably absent was Stefano Pilati, the current creative director of the Saint Laurent brand. So far, the exhibition has been a success, with 19,000 visitors in the first 15 days. —Joelle Diderich

Art Smart
Milan was not only about hemlines this season, as fashion houses invested in art exhibitions to help stimulate the city’s cultural appeal. Some say it’s even more important now, given the controversy surrounding a shorter fashion week and the city’s alleged waning appeal. Exhibits sponsored by Giorgio Armani and Salvatore Ferragamo helped raise the art quotient. Armani hosted street artist Richard Hambleton’s first European solo exhibition since 1985, curated by Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld and Andy Valmorbida. The opening at the Armani Teatro drew guests such as Clive Owen and Tatiana Santo Domingo.

Ferragamo unveiled “Greta Garbo: The Mystery of Style,” an exhibition at the Triennale dedicated to the legendary actress, whom Salvatore Ferragamo first met in 1927. Garbo was a loyal customer of the house and once bought 70 pairs of shoes in one go. Her personal pieces, clothes by Gucci and Givenchy, photos and original Ferragamo footwear, including the Greta shoe, were displayed alongside a selection of film costumes, such as the dress worn in Queen Christina.

“It’s an important sign—we want to spark interest in Milan and allow others to have access to unique artistic properties and heritage,” said Michele Norsa, chief executive officer of the Florence-based house. Images of Garbo also were projected on a screen at the Ferragamo show, which marked the well-received debut of Massimiliano Giornetti as the brand’s women’s designer.

Across the Channel, Pringle unveiled a collaboration with London’s Serpentine Gallery during London Fashion Week. Marking their respective 195th and 40th anniversaries, Pringle and the Serpentine aimed at producing a collection of limited edition knits by figures including actress Tilda Swinton, Turner Prize–winning artist Richard Wright and Scottish writer and artist Alasdair Gray. The knitwear collection, known as 195 Collaborations, bowed in February during the capital’s show week. —Luisa Zargani

Go, Roberto
Amy Winehouse crooning “Rehab” would have been the perfect fit for Roberto Cavalli’s front-row and postshow party trio of guests—Courtney Love, Ron Wood and Lindsay Lohan. The threesome sat front and center at the show, creating a paparazzi frenzy in a season low on celebrities.

Wood arrived with his new girlfriend in tow, 26-year-old Brazilian polo instructor Ana Araujo, whom he met a few months earlier at the Covent Garden Opera House in London. “We’re doing very well,” he gushed as Araujo reciprocated by saying how they fell in love with “each other’s auras.”

The rocker also chatted up Love, who pulled back the sleeve of her dress to show him a tattoo on her arm that read, “Let it Bleed,” after the 1969 Rolling Stones album.

Cavalli, who is gearing up to celebrate his 40th anniversary, was in particularly good spirits, unleashing a strong collection filled with one-of-a-kind animal prints, many of his own invention. The designer and his wife, Eva, mismatched the zoo of prints with lush furs and pelted scarves, all served up to exude that rich, boho-chic streak he does so well.

To end the day, the designer hosted a dinner party at his Just Café restaurant for about 80 guests. Dinner included cheese soufflé with tomato cream, a royal shrimp and saffron pistil risotto concocted by Cavalli himself, followed by sea bass or veal.

While the flamboyant designer said “it took him a bit to unwind,” due to preshow tension, once the stress eased off, Cavalli let loose and danced until the wee hours.

In general, though, Cavalli noted it’s not “trendy anymore” to lead a fast-paced social life and confessed that he has slowed down, preferring time with his family or organizing laid-back dinners with friends. “Many years ago, I invented a lifestyle with lots of big and wonderful parties, but now, for me, it’s about friendship, especially with the [financial] crisis.” —Alessandra Ilari

Missing McQueen
The death of Lee Alexander McQueen—who took his own life on February 11 at the age of 40, just as New York Fashion Week began—cast a long shadow over the international collections, prompting an array of tributes throughout the ensuing season, and a poignant moment in Paris as the last 16 dresses he cut paraded in a gilded salon.

Reaction to the loss of a fashion great was immediate, and often spontaneous. Ordinary consumers, and designer peers including Diane von Furstenberg, laid flowers in front of McQueen boutiques in London and New York, and rushed to stores such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols to snap up his signature skull scarves.

As the New York shows continued, the first of many organized events paid homage. Naomi Campbell ended her Fashion for Relief show, which benefited earthquake-ravaged Haiti, with Daphne Guinness in a glittery, full-length bodysuit from the late designer’s spring collection, followed by a vignette of models including Helena Christensen and Karen Elson, who, like many in the audience, were overcome with emotion.

In London, the British Fashion Council set up a board in the main fashion week tents on which visitors pinned some 1,200 messages to the late designer that will be compiled in a book. Sir Paul Smith, retailer Joan Burstein and British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman were among notables sharing their sentiments.

At the On/Off location in nearby Bloomsbury, home to London’s off-schedule shows, a wall of 40 iPods was set up, all loaded with images of McQueen’s past collections. Around town, department stores mounted windows in the designer’s memory. Liberty’s was titled: “For McQueen and Country.” At a group show for master’s degree students at Central Saint Martins, a recording of the late designer was played in which he fondly recalled his student days at the acclaimed college.

A charity evening in London dedicated to Haiti’s mothers and children also had a potent McQueen moment as Kate Moss, Campbell and Annabelle Neilson strode the catwalk clad in McQueen’s designs to the disco hit “Last Dance” by Donna Summer.

Gestures during Paris Fashion Week were discreet and varied. Roland Mouret had “Goodbye Lee” tucked into the corner of his runway program, while Stella McCartney dedicated her show partly to him. “You’re missed!” she wrote.

Hussein Chalayan began his show with a voiceover: “Really, when I think of Lee McQueen, I see someone who had complete honesty in the way he conveyed his ideas.”

To be sure, his final collection had haunting moments: religious imagery woven right into the clothes, and broken skulls and angels carved into the shoes. His inspirations ranged from Byzantine art and old master paintings to the carvings of Grinling Gibbons, yielding regal gowns, dresses and cloaks that were as dazzling as they were assured. Fabrics were ingeniously molded into jutting and swooping lines that were both organic and otherworldly, and digital patterns were painstakingly plotted so that angel wings aligned with the shoulder blades. A commercial collection spanning 160 pieces fleshed out the London-born designer’s last ideas, and all of it was met with an enthusiastic reception from retailers, according to McQueen chief executive officer Jonathan Akeroyd. “The pre-fall collection was well above our expectations, and the main line was very much in line with that growth,” he noted, also citing a “lot more” interest than expected in the 16 exceptional pieces, which retail, on average, for 30,000 euros, or about $40,250 at current exchange. Akeroyd’s read-across? An endorsement of parent Gucci Group’s plans to continue the McQueen business without the founding designer. “They obviously see here a good, solid future ahead of us,” he said. —Miles Socha

Space Race
Who knew Pierre Cardin had such a hard-core fan club? When the designer made an appearance at his restaurant, Maxim’s, during Paris Fashion Week, the scene was pure pandemonium.

As guests including socialite Bethy Lagardère, gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac and Fifties-era model Bettina Graziani thronged the reception rooms above the historic eatery, Cardin maintained a royal composure, gamely posing for photographs and exchanging cheek kisses with his admirers.

The 87-year-old spent three hours signing copies of Pierre Cardin, 60 Years of Innovation, an illustrated tome authored by his longtime collaborator, Jean-Pascal Hesse, that charts Cardin’s six decades in fashion, including his Space Age creations of the Sixties. “The event went beyond my expectations,” Cardin marveled afterward. “It’s comforting to see your career recognized.” —J.D.

Bye-Bye, Bryant
The music wafting over the loudspeakers prior to Tommy Hilfiger’s fall show—Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond—fittingly put the weary crowd, gathered for the last show of New York’s runway season, in a giddy, nostalgic mood (case in point: those in the photographers’ pit—typically a den of snarky jostlers—rocked back and forth, singing in unison to “Sweet Caroline”). Indeed, Hilfiger’s collection was the last to be seen at Bryant Park. After 17 years at the intersection of 41st and Sixth, New York Fashion Week—aka Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week—and the great big white tents that go with it, will move to Lincoln Center in September, ostensibly to create more space for the scores of shows that participate in the event (not to mention the myriad sponsors and advertisers who keep the venue stocked with water, Frappucinos, chocolates and broadband purveyors).

Despite editors’ gripes about the uptown location—Midtown cubicle-dwellers no longer have the luxury of dashing a few blocks to the park—the impending move was played as an improvement by Hilfiger, who added flourish to his postshow bow with a few impromptu remarks. “Onward and upward,” Hilfiger said, after thanking the innovator behind the Bryant Park shows, Fern Mallis (now senior vice president of IMG fashion), as well as her collaborator at the Council of Fashion Designers of America, former president Stan Herman, both of whom sat in the front row. The irony was lost on few: In recent years, Hilfiger had eschewed Bryant Park for locations including none other than Lincoln Center.—Sarah Haight

Dear Jean
In his second season at Vionnet, Italian designer Rodolfo Paglialunga chose a transporting venue: The former Paris apartment of Jean Cocteau, where a faded blackboard still bears a list of phone numbers handwritten by the poet and artist— including one for Pablo Picasso.

As guests wandered through the warren of rooms overlooking the picturesque Palais Royal, they discovered a collection rich in eveningwear. In keeping with the period setting, prints were inspired by the Ballets Russes: The company’s costume designer, Léon Bakst, provided the painterly harlequin motif on a coat trimmed with black fox fur. In the spirit of founder Madeleine Vionnet, Paglialunga’s fall gowns were made from squares of fabric that were draped, ruched and twisted around the body. —Joelle Diderich

Love is in the Air
“Be charming to everyone—you never know who they know,” said Amber Le Bon, imparting her mother Yasmin’s advice on how a fledgling model should navigate her way through the London shows. Le Bon was a guest at the Love Ball, a party Natalia Vodianova hosted during London Fashion Week, along with British Harper’s Bazaar and De Beers, to raise money for her Naked Heart Foundation, which builds play facilities for children in deprived areas of Russia.

The party, held at the sprawling Roundhouse theater in North London, drew Kate Moss, Elizabeth Hurley, Stella McCartney, Donna Karan, Jade Jagger, Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Joely Richardson, Evgeny Lebedev, Charlotte Casiraghi, Matthew Williamson and Carolina Herrera.

Artist Dinos Chapman served as creative director for the evening, and hung twinkling fairy lights and models of unicorns from the ceiling. As guests sipped on Champagne and shots of ice-cold vodka, they took in performances by Yusuf Islam, Paloma Faith, Leona Lewis and Sharleen Spiteri. So by the time the crowd came to bid, it was no surprise it was in the mood to dig deep. A De Beers necklace designed by Vodianova fetched $270,000, while a piece by Jake & Dinos Chapman—a sinister sculpture version of the McDonald’s character Hamburglar—was bought for $202,000, a price Tracey Emin proclaimed “an absolute bargain.”  —Nina Jones