PARIS: FROM SOUK TO NUTS
TUESDAY’S COLLECTIONS WERE A MALANGE OF IDEAS — WITH EVERYTHING FROM GIANFRANCO FERRA’S HIGH-GLAM SUITS AT DIOR TO DRIES VAN NOTEN’S BIZARRE BAZAAR.

CHRISTIAN DIOR: Although there is all kinds of speculation about whether Gianfranco Ferre is going to stay at Dior, the designer tried his best Tuesday to send out a collection that was both salable and sexy. While it didn’t always work, Ferre managed to deliver plenty of good-looking suits and dresses with just enough of his usual big-bowed bravado.
Dior’s managing director, Francois Baufume, has steadfastly refused to comment on Ferre’s future. The designer, however, has acknowledged that his contract is up for renewal in October and that he is currently “in negotiations” with Dior. “I feel everything is going well with the house,” he said after the show. “I don’t think there will be any surprises.”
Dior is a hard nut to crack for any designer. Despite the fact that the company is a licensing powerhouse, its ready-to-wear has never been very successful. Ferre’s job is to remedy that problem, and he has apparently decided that the best course of action right now is to walk on the calmer side. But that doesn’t mean you’ll see any of that au courant anti-fashion irony on this runway. Mon Dieu, Dior Ladies would be appalled. They still have occasion to turn out in high-glam hourglass suits, and for fall Ferre cuts them in everything from meaty tweeds to pinstripes, shown with lacy, racy bustiers. Now, however, they come with fewer embellishments, and there’s a counterpoint in snappy camel coat-and-shift combos as well as a lineup of sweeping balmacaans lined in fake or real fur — Ladies’ choice.
At night, Ferre offers similar diversity — this too-long show had at least three possible finales. There were lean velvet gowns touched with lace as well as voluminous plaid hostess skirts. And, because flourish is a tough habit to kick completely, Ferre tossed in some slim black pants with colorful, quirky tops in beads or feathers.

DRIES VAN NOTEN: Fashion has moved from the thrift shop to the souk. At least it has on the runway of Dries Van Noten, whose fall collection mixed Eastern, military and men’s wear influences in one big geopolitico-fashiono hodgepodge. And, boy was it cold, staged in a giant garage strung with Christmas-tree lights. But at least this time, Van Noten was considerate enough to rent a place with walls, unlike in January, when he showed his men’s collection under the Metro tracks — in the snow.
He also offered a spread of Moroccan sweets and tea served in imported glass cups so delightful that some guests walked off with them. As for the clothes, however, they just didn’t stand up to the chill in the air. “I thought of cities like Marrakech, Istanbul and New Delhi — places where there is a clash of ethnic and Western cultures,” Van Noten said last week. And clash they did — military coats, lean sweaters, diaphanous flocked or jeweled wrap skirts, flowing or tailored pants, long dresses with trompe l’oeil sweater vests and bowers of flowers all worn every which way.
Many of the pieces, especially the sweaters and some jackets, looked strong, while others were on the cheap side. But, in the end, this collection was a reworking of a favorite Van Noten theme: The fusion of diametric opposites. And that would have been fine had Van Noten been inspired enough to push it into unexplored territory.

JUNYA WATANABE: In the three years he’s been in business, this Rei Kawakubo protege has become an editorial darling — and a designer with plenty of retail promise. His witty spring collection blew out of Maria Luisa, the hottest shop in Paris, and the roll should continue through fall. In a very focused collection, Watanabe conveyed elements of military and gothic with a subtlety missing from some other runways. His tough black leather and fake fur were some of the best around, and, on a more classic note, the luxurious wool trenchcoat was a standout.

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