PARIS’S DUAL PERSONALITY

PARIS — The trend for softer, more romantic clothes turned up in spades here, from Eric Bergere’s pretty, ethnic-inspired collection to flower power at Issey Miyake. Meanwhile, sex appeal continued to be a strong story, evidenced by up-and-coming designer Adam Jones’s sultry knitwear and Gaspard Yurkievitch’s torrid strip-dancer presentation.
For his part, Eric Bergere waxed nostalgic by employing a panoply of models from other decades — Ines de la Fressange, Lynn Koester, Isabelle Townsend and Marie-Sophie Wilson. The idea worked like a charm, illustrating the versatility of his designs. Those included gaucho pants, shiny lizard trousers, ruffled skirts, peasant blouses and plenty of cute Liberty prints. Although redolent of Eastern Europe and Argentina, Bergere’s witty mix remained Parisian to the core.
For spring, Issey Miyake design director Naoki Takizawa had a penchant for flowers. Fabric on dresses was twisted to resemble bouquets of roses, while flower prints and a host of bright techno colors were splashed on trousers and tops. Takizawa showed technical mastery in origami-like dresses and the mix of complex fabrics. The energizing show was a breath of fresh air.
Kenzo designer Gilles Rosier recognizes that airy, ethnic-flavored sportswear is this LVMH-owned house’s raison d’etre. After all, the now-retired house founder, Kenzo Takada, was renowned for his droll culture-blending designs. Showing kimono jackets with slouchy pants or safari-inspired pieces and sarong skirts is a sure way to reference the Kenzo heritage. To this, Rosier added exotic palm-tree and bird prints, and also peppered the collection with colorful flower embroidery. But despite many cute ideas drawing on the house’s legacy — and some well-executed pieces — the show lacked whimsy and pep.
Known for his tough, space-babe style, Paco Rabanne can play the romantic card, too. And what’s gentler than filmy white dresses, skirts, tops and pants with fringes? True, they weren’t totally angelic, but they were in sync with this season’s trend for the soft and idyllic. But before long, Rabanne returned to his fetish: futuristic design. In that vein, he featured white latex dresses with swaths of plastic inserts, techno racing stripes and transparent plastic jackets. There was a smattering of his signature chain-link items, too. But in this sensitive season, instead of coming off as purely aggressive, Rabanne — who this time took a bow alongside his artistic director, Rosemary Rodriguez — managed to imbue them with a softer aspect.
German designer Bernhard Willhelm, who is based in Antwerp, Belgium, turned in a magical presentation with colorful filament lamps sprouting around the runway like magic mushrooms. There is a nostalgic and folkloric component to much of Willhelm’s work that makes him a real original. He continued in this direction for spring, featuring naive prints — think cute clown faces and a space shuttle — on oversized sweatshirt dresses. Sound kooky? Well, it was. But Willhelm’s sweet, childlike innocence was likewise refreshing. He also showed familiar ruffled shirts and dresses as well as baggy track pants, djellabas and a couple of nice Captain Hook pirate coats.
Another German on the rise, Lutz Huelle — known simply as Lutz — – showed his fourth collection here for spring. A former assistant to Martin Margiela, he has a personal approach that melds classic chic with more sporty touches. Case in point: a lace basketball tank and tuxedo track pants. Lutz is proving to be a fresh and uplifting voice.
In just two seasons, British knitwear specialist Adam Jones, who worked for years behind the scenes with John Galliano at Christian Dior, has carved out a niche for his sophisticated knits. With this effort, a presentation at the British Embassy, he showed a more developed hand and expanded his repertoire. Sticking largely to white, red and black, he worked around a turn-of-the-century bordello theme. There were knits of laser-cut taffeta, and his body-hugging dresses were overtly sexy without tumbling into vulgarity. Jones, who may stage his first runway presentation next season, continues to be a designer to watch.
The award for the most-entertaining presentation so far this season, however undoubtedly, goes to Gaspard Yurkievich, who showed at Paris’s famed Crazy Horse cabaret club. He even outfitted the leggy Crazy Horse girls for a rollicking, superbly choreographed presentation. Fitting the venue, Yurkievich’s clothes — the few shown — were sexy and lean. But who paid attention to the clothes?
Angelo Figus, the Sardinian designer based in Antwerp, Belgium, continued with his architectural approach. His clothes twisted around the body and included dresses with asymmetrical hems, wide-leg trousers and origami-like skirts and jackets.
Alexandre Herchcovitch, the Brazilian designer with a very particular sense of color, showed slinky Twenties-inspired dresses and inserted metal chains inside of the hems. Other dresses were decorated with oversized metallic flower appliques. For all of his innovative ideas, however, Herchcovitch also managed to deliver some very accessible pieces, such as slouchy trousers and skirts.

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