ETHNIC AND EXOTIC

PARIS — Ethnic touches abounded in collections here, from Andrew Gn’s meticulous Bulgarian peasants to AF Vandevorst’s kimono-inspired jackets and dresses. Meanwhile, Olivier and Michele Chatenet, the new husband-and-wife duo at Leonard, cashed in with exotic prints.
For his part, Andrew Gn delivered a seamless show of easy luxury and bohemian chic. Each of his pieces exemplified quality and craftsmanship. When a lady buys from Gn, she buys real value — with a fair share of fashion relevance. With ethnic a big story this season, Gn referenced the folkloric charm of Eastern Europe in jersey tops with leather lattice trim and peasant blouses. There were embroidered skirts in the arts-and-crafts tradition of London’s Bloomsbury group and Empire-style dresses with lace embroidery. Gn hit all the right notes with poise.
An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx, the husband-and-wife team behind AF Vandevorst, have developed a design vocabulary that blends soft and hard elements. They gravitate toward masculine details, which showed up for spring in the form of tailored jackets slashed open at the sleeves, blending them with more girly elements, such as lingerie dresses and tops. This season, they added to that an ethnic touch with fetching kimono-inspired jackets that had billowing sleeves. The designers also showed a sure hand with dresses. Then they got all turned around — literally — with a host of looks designed to be worn backward. This trick — the inverted image — made sense when one considered the onstage maze of mirrors the models had to navigate. But turned-around clothes are rarely cool.
Jean Paul Knott, the Brussels-based designer who also designs Krizia Top, featured a soft androgynous look this season. He was recently commissioned to do costumes for the celebrated choreographer Maurice Bejart, a collaboration that appears to have influenced Knott’s spring collection. With a palette of black, white and red, it focused on dresses with strict architectural lines worn over gauzy chiffon tutus. Draped over the body and held in place with leather belts, they oozed femininity and romance.
Gilles Dufour, the former Balmain designer who launched his own collection last season, continued with his fresh versions of updated classics. Dufour, who works closely with the vivacious Olympia LeTan, has a penchant for colorful retro touches. He showed mischievous schoolgirl jackets with piped lapels paired with pleated cheerleader skirts. Meanwhile, Dufour has a knack for clever prints, such as the Matisse-like one on a billowing silk dress and the more streetwise variants developed in conjunction with the Parisian graffiti artist who calls himself Andre.
At Leonard, the Paris house known for its prints, Olivier and Michele Chatenet, who used to design ready-to-wear at Hermes and also have their own quirky brand of customized vintage clothes, E2, got off to a steady start. With glow-in-the-dark print dresses and sexy swimwear stealing the spotlight, they communicated a feel-good attitude that’s appropriate for the times. As was to be expected, energetic prints were the focus. But as the designers ease into their new job, one hopes they will be granted the latitude to bring more inventiveness to the Leonard silhouette.

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