PARIS PICKS UP THE PACE
LAGERFELD WANDERED THE GLOBE — AND THE DECADES — AT CHLOE, WHILE KAWAKUBO CULTIVATED “FLOWERING CLOTHES” AT COMME DES GARIONS AND SITBON CELEBRATED VINTAGE CHIC.

CHLOE: In the raging debate between fashion and anti-fashion, Karl Lagerfeld has come down firmly…in the middle. The fall collection he designed for ChloE was presented the way Karl talks — stream-of-consciousness, at machine-gun speed. Lagerfeld went from the simplest little sweaters and floaty dresses to the most ornate concoctions with an exotic flavor. While there is an Indian air wafting around Paris, it’s doubtful that anyone else will capture it as Karl has: Bejeweled aqua saris over metallic sheaths and vibrantly reembroidered, sparkled lace cut into poufy party dresses and sheer pants. These were worn with metallic boots that would send Nancy Sinatra into an absolute tizzy.
In between, Karl sent out a little Seventies (black maxicoats that were ribbed wool knit on top and slicker fabric on the bottom), a little Eighties (fitted suits and dresses in ottoman and waffle textures) and a slew of terrific knits, from cozy two-piece dresses with contrasting borders to charming schoolgirl angora pullovers with little peplums. Lagerfeld’s sweeping coats were also terrific, especially the military versions and an oddball low-belted lavender wool with a trench back.
When Karl wanders, however, he goes the distance, with such looks as black skirts decorated with multicolor argyle motifs and Mongolian lamb trim. As for those colorful dotted puff-sleeve blouses worn with suspender skirts, they seem just right for Minnie Mouse. And no matter what one’s affinity for Mickey’s better half may be, her sense of style doesn’t always play well outside of Orlando. But so what? We’ve already seen more than enough one-note collections. Thank heavens for Karl, who still believes that variety is the spice of fashion.

COMME DES GARCONS: One can throw countless adjectives at Rei Kawakubo’s work; disturbing, odd, intellectual, pretentious and beautiful are just a few. The collection Kawakubo showed Tuesday night was, once again, all of the above. She has a way of suggesting that the current trends, be they retro, anti-fashion or something else, are mere trifles — and she would rather address larger issues. What is beauty? What is femininity? Her clothes are stimuli that force us to examine not only our visual perceptions, but our emotional reactions as well. Exactly what all that has to do with the selling and wearing of real clothes has long been debated. And, as usual, this time around, there were plenty of naysayers.
Yet no one can deny that, from her iconoclastic perch, Kawakubo has had incredible influence — although she recently said that now, at a moment so taken with retro, she thinks she has “no influence at all.” Nevertheless, Kawakubo continues to fascinate and inspire. A few years ago, Calvin Klein came to one of her shows and was moved to banish the supermodels from his runway. And on Tuesday, Donna Karan, here for PremiAre Vision, made Kawakubo’s her “first European ready-to-wear collection” ever. “I wanted to go where my heart is,” Karan said.
For fall, Kawakubo calls her collection “Flowering Clothes.” That means clothes that fold and unfold softly, clothes bursting with richness in color and texture — cut velvets, tapestries, toiles. While last season she was in a feisty mode, with unabashedly playful stripes and configurations, she now takes on a more fragile esthetic, part Renaissance, part china doll, part celestial choir. The cuts are intricate beyond description, and the mood delicate, despite some pretty cumbersome goings-on. And believe it or not, some looks, especially the off-kilter long, layered dresses, had an air of peculiar glamour.

MARTINE SITBON: Vintage chic is the look of the moment. Retro pieces thrown together in an offhanded way — that’s the way some supermodels have been dressing for years. And now, it’s the way some of the hippest designers around are designing whole collections. For fall, Martine Sitbon’s thrift store offers olive wool military coats, leather trenches and skirts and the best head-to-toe sweater dressing. And at night, forget the glitz. Sitbon’s gone soft with romantic cut velvet dresses straight out of “Henry and June.” If only her quality could match her creativity, Sitbon would have the commercial success she deserves.

NINA RICCI: At Ricci, it was nonstop suits, in black vinyl, solid wools, tweeds and faille, sometimes with velvet collars. They’re all very wearable — just as you’d expect. But sometimes designer Myriam Schaefer got a little more adventurous with such looks as liquid white vinyl jodhpurs. Also worth noting was a fetching green iridescent faille suit with wide-legged pants and a double-breasted jacket with a fake fur collar.

MARIOT CHANET: Design duo Michele Meunier and Olivier Chatenet’s fall collection included their signature asymmetrical convertible wrap dresses. But this time, they also showed more tailored looks, including tweed pantsuits and paper-thin knits.

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