PARIS COUTURE
TIGHT IS RIGHT

Wunderkind Karl brings back curves at Chanel, Ungaro has a fantasy fling and Givenchy goes his own grand old way.

GIVENCHY: IN HIS FASHION
Is this Givenchy’s last couture season? That’s the rumor flying around Paris. But, according to his contract, ol’ Hubert should be around for all of 1995, and possibly longer if he accepts Bernard Arnault’s offer of lifetime couture — designing the collection for as long as he’d like.
You can say one thing about Le Grand Hubert, he certainly is consistent. He’s still churning out the classic suits that keep his lovely Ladies coming back season after season. One more finely tailored Givenchy tailleur is never too much. This season’s double-breasted jackets and short, straight skirts came in powdery tweeds over timeless silk blouses. Shoulders are back — although they never really left this house — and they square off Givenchy’s well-constructed jackets and coats, a fitting nod to Paris’s rage for shape.
Hubert is an authority on simplicity — at least when it comes to fashion — and he showed off his expertise with high-collared, belted jersey dresses and the softest short wool coats in shades such as bright blue and pea green. For evening, the big bow was one big obsession. It graced just about everything, filing down cocktail dresses, fastened to the back of a long silk gown or popping up at the bottom of a deep decollete.

CHANEL: THE WUNDERCORSET RULES
Watch out, Linda Wachner. There’s a new Wunderboy in fashion, and his name is Karl Lagerfeld. The collection he showed here Tuesday afternoon was a revolution in silhouette, an attempt to bring women back to an age of sensuous shapes and voluptuous curves. His weapon in this new campaign? A new corset-like bustier created for Karl by a theatrical costumer, Mine Verges Baral.
“Under the jacket it gives a perfect fit, a narrow, narrow ribcage so that the body is flexible,” said Karl, who dubs his strict silhouette “The New Clean.”
“It’s so comfortable it feels like pantyhose,” claimed Susan Gutfreund who had a chance to try on one of the new Chanel corsets. And it’s not bad for posture, either. Karl’s stately beauties stalked the catwalk in what was his most conservative collection for Chanel to date.
He may not be the first to show the bustier, but has anyone ever built a collection of clothes around it? Lagerfeld’s short redingotes and classic tweed jackets — with little square shoulders and ultra-tight sleeves — cling to the torso, while his newest skirt literally hangs on the hips and blooms out like a petal. Karl says he refuses to call it an hourglass figure. But that’s exactly what it looked like to a lot of people in his audience. They didn’t quite know what to make of this collection, but that often happens when Lagerfeld is making an important point. And this was only accentuated by his virtual lack of accessories.
The designer was obviously nervous before this show (“Do you like it? Do you like it?” he kept asking during one of his usual frenzied press previews in the cramped atelier.) And it’s unclear whether this whole corset idea will fly commercially. But, after years of domination by loose, drapey clothes, the return to the female silhouette is big news in the fashion world.
Karl wouldn’t be Karl, however, without some elements of kitsch. This year, there was a strange ode to Elvis, reflected in a score of Vegas-inspired jumpsuits — many of them worn by Claudia Schiffer, whose boyfriend David Copperfield (the new King of Vegas) was seated in the front row. Some of the jumpsuits were quite nice; some even The King wouldn’t have worn. But that’s life in la mode.

UNGARO: FANTASY ISLAND
Quelle exotica, quelle indulgence, quel courage. It was over-the-top haute couture, but if you took it apart bit by bit, it was easy to see why Emanuel Ungaro is doing so well — especially in America. It was the display of one man’s fantasy and one man’s faith in the artistry of couture. And like most artistic statements, some people loved it and some people hated it.
The show began with the unveiling of a Schnabel-esque background that seemed to say, “This is Art” — which is kind of a relief after years of seeing couture runways filled with ready-to-wear clothes. These aren’t necessarily clothes for real women. But if you examine Ungaro’s opulent confections, you can find a ravishing jacket here, a stunning skirt there.
Like the rest of Paris this season, Emanuel loves a parade of legs. In fact, he showed only one pair of trousers. Instead, he went for the short-skirted suit, with fitted wool or soft chenille jackets in splashes of color. In true Ungaro fashion, nothing matched — but since when does an artist follow rules? His big idea was the soft suit. Emanuel used fabrics as cushy as sweaters, from chenille to the couture’s favorite, mohair. The fluffy suits in colorful plaids were worn with little beaded vests or tight velour sweaters.
“This is made for a man,” Ungaro said of the best dress in the collection, a super-sexed-up number in black, red or white, which was wrapped and ruched in all the right places. The rest of evening, though, was a flight of fancy; Emanuel seemed to be doing whatever he pleased. Too much frou-frou, frills and lace can send even the most masterful artist way beyond fashion fantasyland.

Laroche Boheme
Call it bohemian couture. Michel Klein’s second collection for Guy Laroche picks up right where the designer’s own ready-to-wear leaves off. And that’s just what the house seems to want from him. The idea behind the collection was “different women dressed to go to a ball,” Klein said. And, as at any ball, some of the girls looked fabulous, and some of them not so fabulous.
His gala-bound girls came down the runway at the Ritz pool, accompanied by old film soundtracks. They wore everything from glamorous, fox-trimmed cashmere sweaters to short wool dresses cinched with sleek velvet corsets. Klein sent out his classic Maos again, but he was far from sober this season. At one point, Naomi Campbell strolled out in a second-skin leopard catsuit with a red light flashing from her hair. In fact, all the hairdos were out there — from tubular geometric shapes to feathered bathing-cap wigs and peacock mohawks.
But Klein’s bohemian side ended at night. He showed some seriously square gowns, a bit too old-fashioned even for Madame Balladur and Madame Pompidou, who were both sitting front-row center.

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