ANN DEMEULEMEESTER: Demeulemeester has been red-hot. Over the past year, she has made major inroads into the mainstream with clothes that project a new, urbane glamour, one that has nothing to do with retro or frivolous chi-chi antics. And, to her credit, each season she tries to push the look. But unfortunately, for fall Demeulemeester just pushed too hard. She said last week she wanted to “decentralize” the clothes, to “break my symmetry completely. There is almost never a seam that is straight. Everything is turning.” For the most part, that translated into one-sleeved tailored jackets that button under the bare arm. It’s a look that has no life off the runway — and besides, it has been done before by Gaultier.
That said, it wasn’t only one-sleeved madness on Demeulemeester’s runway. There were also some beautiful, anatomically correct jackets and coats, as well as languid dresses and skirts with curved seams. Some retailers said they loved the collection, but it’s a good bet they’ll put their money where the sleeves — the two sleeves — are. Demeulemeester’s clothes feel like a million bucks on the body, and she doesn’t have to trick them up.

CHRISTIAN LACROIX: There are a lot of words to describe the collection Christian Lacroix showed on Thursday — disappointing is the kindest. At the first show, there was a power outage that lead to a snippy exchange between a photographer and Jean-Jacques Picart, who had come out on the runway at the jam-packed Musee des Arts Decoratifs to ask the crew when the lights would go back on.
“There are lights at the Carrousel,” the photographer barked. “If you don’t like it here, get the hell out and go to the Carrousel,” Picart replied. But when the lights finally did come up, they couldn’t lift the mood of this collection. Lacroix’s fabric mixes were messy, at times dour, and the sense of celebration that once ruled his runway was totally gone.
Of course, good-looking pieces could be extracted from it all. There was timely Seventies’ tailoring, in jackets and sweeping maxicoats; there were long, feisty knit dresses, and a lovely long black lace sheath over a white slip. But the show was too long — Lacroix chose to show his Bazar and Jeans collections, as well — and very badly styled. And that’s too bad. Ethnic influences, which Lacroix has used so brilliantly in the past, are everywhere in Paris, and so are Eighties’ references — from the days of his greatest triumphs. Had Lacroix drawn more richly on his knowledge of both, this just could have been his season.

SONIA RYKIEL: Sonia likes her gals a little innocent — and a little tarty. For fall, she gives them an Eighties twist with skinny striped sweaters worn with stirrup pants straight out of that go-go decade. There was also a host of pantsuits with lace bodices that would be just right for Lolita’s Spanish cousin, along with lots of marabou flourishes. Such sexy kitsch is Sonia’s schtick. And, just like the Eighties, it’s more than a little flashy, with plenty of selling power.

YOHJI YAMAMOTO: Cold enough for ya? That was the preshow chatter at Yohji Yamamoto’s collection, which was shown in an old open-air warehouse on the outskirts of Paris Wednesday night. The nasty chill made the fashion faithful so cranky that when Helmut Lang showed in the same space yesterday, he passed out metallic-film “rescue blankets” to warm everybody up. Yamamoto just let his clothes do the trick. Earlier this week, Barneys’ Gene Pressman called him “the most creative designer in the world today.”
But Yamamoto is savvy enough to temper his creativity with restraint, and typically, his collection treads that fine line between high concept and real clothes. Once again for fall, it worked beautifully. Yamamoto opened with piled-on layers of knits that harken back to the Japanese wave of the early Eighties. Cumbersome, for sure, but they give a different dimension to the Eighties punk-and-power mood that’s starting to make the Seventies look like old news. Yamamoto sent out some of the best coats anywhere, and his graceful long shirts over pants play to the chic side of the anti-fashion movement. He has his high-fashion moments, as well, in elaborately cut wool coats and dresses and a host of colorful, witty fake furs. While Yamamoto may not have broken new ground, it all made for a strong, in-depth collection. And now, on to New York.

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