LIGHTS OUT IN PARIS

Christian Lacroix: Paris may have swung toward Conservative Chic this week, but Christian Lacroix is still a die-hard Independent. While others may be paring down, Christian just keeps loading it on. He’s the decorator of fashion — piling on more passementerie, embroidery and layers of lace than Mario Buatta. His artistry can take your breath away: a lace-covered pink bustier dress, an iridescent taffeta skirt, or a strapless evening gown perfect for a grand ball (if only they were still being given). But great clothes today are about silhouette, shape and cut — not decoration. And although Lacroix sent out one stunningly simple black crepe dress that brought the house down, the rest of his collection was more like a stage full of exquisite costumes. It may be beautiful. It may be art. But is it fashion ?

JEAN-LOUIS SCHERRER: In his first couture collection for Scherrer, Bernard Perris chose a grab bag of inspirations — everything from old opera divas to Italian Surrealist cartoons. Perris sent out a slew of eccentric dandies in baggy pants, spencer jackets and military peaked caps, and then used, and misused, lots of Lesage lace and Lemarie feathers. He did hit a few of the right notes, as with the mousseline baby-doll dress with a rhinestone-studded leather bustier and a black organza cutaway jacket. But overall, much of this collection was out of tune.

LAPIDUS: This season Olivier Lapidus went radically high-tech. The couturier teamed up with French research scientists to create a technicolor collection replete with hologram sequins and embroideries that created 3-D effects and fabrics which produced unusual optical illusions. “The 3-D fashion era has arrived,” Lapidus declared in the program notes. With the theme music from “Wonder Woman” and “Charlie’s Angels” blaring out, Olivier showed his pretty young fans tight-fitting, waist-accentuating jackets paired with very short wrap skirts. For evening, he kept it more traditional with long gowns with cutouts, or bold contrast trim, and floor-length evening skirts in organza with handpainted madras patterns.

LOUIS FERAUD: Wherever Louis Feraud’s girls were going, there must have been a lot of fun and sun. They came down the runway Tuesday afternoon to a sort of jungle salsa, dressed in everything from bright colored bustiers to ruffly tulle skirts. When the fiesta was over, Feraud went graphic with boldly striped dresses, halter tops and sassy little minis. At night, even with all the flounce, Feraud was quite elegant. There was a striking black column slit up to the hip, revealing a colorful mini and a band of long beaded flapper dresses, flaunting that old couture skill.

HANAE MORI: Hanae Mori is one of only two women in the couturiers’ club, and she knows exactly what her customer wants: no-fuss fashion. There were no wild prints or decorative overdoses in this collection. Instead, Mori offered a palette of solids ranging from navy and black to tropical pastels. Day suits came with tight, curvy jackets with exaggerated lapels and collars, and skirts that hit right above the knee. Mori draped her way through cocktail hour in everything from silk chiffon to satin — yet another homage to Mme. Gres. The effect was most striking in a slender black faille gown with a big bow in back.

GALLIANO’S COUTURE DREAM
The big question in Paris this week was: Will John Galliano be chosen as Hubert de Givenchy’s successor? Even Le Grand Hubert, who has one couture season left, thinks Galliano has what it takes. So WWD decided to ask the witty designer — whose influence was apparent all over the spring runways — what sort of couture he would have sent out this season. “If I were to do a John Galliano couture collection, I’d continue to pursue my love of construction and technique,” says the designer, who has whipped up three looks, including a glamorous opera coat, inspired by the romantic 18th-century painter Watteau, and a snazzy fur poodle jacket.

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