PARIS — It’s never easy for young designers who don’t have rich parents or a deal with the devil to get their clothes out there, but where there’s a will, there’s a way — or at least, there’s American Express. And for Gaspard Yurkievich, a designer in his fifth season and based here, there’s Mandarina Duck. The company sponsored him and three others this time out in exchange for two outfits from each for its fall line. Yurkievich took the opportunity to show one-sleeved silhouettes, mini-pouf skirts and high-waisted disco pants.
Jerome Dreyfuss’s collection was also on the wild side — the Wild West side, that is. His Mohegan-theme extravaganza brought together models wearing face paint and loads of denim, including a bustier dress with a smocked bodice and a denim top held together with safety pins. Word on the rue is that Dreyfuss may even be dressing Michael Jackson for his next set of tour dates.
Who knows what that kind of exposure could do for his career — but it couldn’t hurt. Another designer with famous friends is Andre Walker, who, of course, has been around the block a few times. He had Marc Jacobs and a whole crew from Louis Vuitton in the audience for his show, “Design Annihilation.” Walker, who styled the Louis Vuitton men’s show, used an unusual mix of polkadots, fake fur, dowdy florals and nubby knits to make up his ladylike suits, which looked nothing like the troop of Tough Chic numbers that Jacobs sent out. Walker has ideas of his own, and that’s why his friends love him.
Belgian designer Patrick Van Ommeslaeghe, on the other hand, showed a collection that exposed his roots. As a design assistant for Adeline Andre, he learned all about draping the fluid fabrics favored at that house and used the knowledge to his advantage for fall, though less so than last season. For fall, there were Gothic capes and chunky knit skirts, a leather apron dress and even a full-length dress made out of fake hair that was shown with a braided hair belt. Well, it’s a season for fur, after all.
Yet another Belgian on the Paris runway circut is Jose Enrique Ona Selfa, who began his career by designing knitwear for his college buddy Olivier Theyskens five seasons ago. The knits Ona Selfa showed under his own label for fall were strong and creative, from a mauve sweater with an attatched scarf to a long cream knit skirt with Aran detailing.
An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx, also of Belgium, took their inspiration for the fall A.F. Vandevorst collection from the rugged French countryside, showing jackets that looked as if they were made from felt saddles, waxed cotton Barbour-style coats, plaid skirts and cable knit sweaters. The most classic pieces in the mix put the duo right in step with Veronique Brahnquino, whose chic and classic collection delighted retailers and press alike.
But they aren’t the only designers with connections to Belgium. Lutz Huelle, a former student at St. Martins who sent out his first collection this season, called Lutz, spent three years working with Martin Margiela on the designer’s knits and handmade items. For fall, Huelle did an inventive cable knit sweater with one giant twist on its front that branched out over the shoulders, and a trenchcoat silhouette in classic khaki cotton and in knit. Though the designer didn’t know the prices for items on the line, he was clever enough to borrow contemporary artist Fabrice Hybert’s clean, bright loft — across the street from his showroom — to show the collection. And it was a strong debut. As long as he can keep the momentum going till next time, Lutz will be worth a second look.

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