PARIS: TRADING ON OPTIONS

There were plenty of choices available — great knits, sharp leathers, bold patterns, an Eighties redux and ladylike tailored looks — as the Paris fall collections wound down, then came to a close at the weekend.

Sonia Rykiel: You can always rely on Sonia Rykiel for colorful and spirited knits. And her show-opener set the tone, as seven girls lined up in wide-legged pants paired with long cardigan coats and sweaters in bold colors — reds, greens and pinks. Rykiel layered black tunic dresses over red sequined leggings and used Lurex to punch up the knits. She also glammed up her lineup with Eighties’ rock accessories such as high-heeled ankle boots, lots of badges on coats and low-slung military belts. At times, Rykiel used a softer hand, showing pastel mohair looks and slouchy plaid or boucle tweed pantsuits worn with cloches. But for evening, her transparent lace dresses shown with furs and black satin dresses were perfect for the sexy Rykiel girl.

Atsuro Tayama: Tayama takes his fun seriously, and it shows. For fall he sent out a playful fleet of little suits with small fitted jackets and girly skirts — one in tan with pink polkadots — and for evening, a black coatdress with an organza corsage the size of a head of cabbage pinned to its waist. Other accessories, made out of brown cardboard and detailed with black marker really did have some editors laughing out loud, but when the giggling died down, belted coats in tweed and a geometric patterned shell top worn with tweed pants brought on smiles. Some looks weren’t nearly as funny, however; pants with a drape drooping down one leg and flounce-front skirts weren’t amusing in the least.

Claude Montana: Comfortable clothes were the order of the day chez Montana. For fall, he cut his coats long in leather and whipped up cozy turtleneck sweaters to show with relaxed leather pants. But for Montana’s gals, being comfortable also means being comfortable with your body. They’ve never strayed from miniskirts, and the designer hasn’t either. He showed a tiny sleek version in fur with a matching fur and knit zippered jacket, and evening was busty, baby. For a seductive soiree, think vampiric gowns detailed with corset boning. The best of all: Montana’s faux denims, done in leather and treated to look like broken-in jeans.

Lucien Pellat-Finet: “It’s belle de Tokyo,” said Lucien Pellat-Finet of his new fall collection. “I took a trip there last September and found the street life and the way they mix color very interesting.” Besides a range of colorful French striped boatneck sweaters, he showed even brighter knits sporting an image of his bull terrier, Zu, and others that were so high-voltage they glowed in the dark. No, really — the designer had these cardigans knitted with special fibers to make his customers incandescent day or night.
Costume National: This season, Ennio Capasa abandoned a lot of the design tricks he has favored in the past. Yes, there were plenty of those snug-fitting, sexy pants that girls go for in droves. But Capasa also ran with the lady theme and paired them with great belted tweed coats, blousons and shrunken jackets. There were also sheared fur trenchcoats, houndstooth suits and printed glen plaid silk dresses. But elegance took a nosedive for evening with a group of veiled Lurex houndstooth that was more cheap than classy.

Issey Miyake: Underneath enormous glowing globes, each the size of a VW Bug and swaying in the drafty Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Naoki Akizawa showed his second Issey Miyake collection. Out came the inflatables — dresses, skirts and T-shirts built to be blown up and up and up. Wearing one of the white dresses, one could overshadow the Michelin man and dwarf the marshmallow monster from the “Ghostbusters” finale. Takizawa made his clothes into flotation devices. But he also showed some pleats — rounded this time — for the old-school Issey crew. Whether or not they’ll go for a bright, striped dress with beach balls spliced into the sleeves remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain: Naoki knows how to have a good time.

Vivienne Westwood: Whatever the season or whatever the prevailing fashion winds, Vivienne Westwood goes her own way. And she did again for fall. According to her program notes, this collection was inspired by an English countess with an individual style who dresses for pleasure. That translated into variations on the designer’s signature looks: fringed wool wraps over navy or black draped jersey dresses, plaid wool jackets and skirts and puffy knits. Westwood’s palette featured blues and browns, along with dashes of red, as in the good-looking argyle knit suit. But the clothes weren’t the only points of interest: Jerry Hall and English painter Tracey Emin created quite a stir on the runway.

Romeo Gigli: Gigli said that he wanted to tell a tale of the future for fall. In fact, however, he continued along his own path, as always, this time mixing his usual baroque look with a more citified silhouette by showing ruffled, trapeze-shaped coats over slim satin or metallic pants and matching cardigans. His way of acknowledging the current penchant for chic and sophistication was New Look-style skirts in velvet or waffled organza, while his collection was accessorized with jewel-embellished belts and bags. For evening, there were Empire tulle dresses with beaded embroidery.

Collette Dinnigan: Sydney-based designer Collette Dinnigan has been showing in Paris for the past few seasons, and is spreading her wings. She launched a shoe collection for fall and will open her first European store in London in April. While her collection had plenty of the lace dresses she’s known for, this season Dinnigan moved into bright-colored jeans, fake leopard pants and tweed coats. Her pretty color palette and beautiful fabrics — lace, tulle and mohair knits, some embellished with sequins and embroidery — made for some great pieces. But sometimes the clothes got a tad heavy, and the show could have used a good stylist.

Hanae Mori: There are changes afoot at this tradition-bound house. For the past few seasons, Hanae Mori has been sharing the design duties with her daughter-in-law Pamela, and together they’re trying to give the collection a younger spin. They sent out a slew of ideas — tassel-trimmed knits, asymmetrical hemlines, patchwork tweeds, bustle-back skirts, denim pieces paired with brocade, even a few Nordic patterns. But what worked best and looked more current were the simpler pieces, such as camel wool knit and tweed suits trimmed with fur and the reptile suits with Pucci-esque print blouses. And what would a Mori show be without her signature finale: dramatic, colorful prints, this time in big florals.

Andrew Gn: “The word ‘chic’ is not a new way of seeing fashion+It has always been a part of my personal fashion culture,” said Gn in his program notes. And he dished up lots of it, starting with the raccoon-trimmed shaved rabbit coat that opened his show. Suits have made a big comeback this season, and he did them with luxe touches, adding fox trim to a brown alpaca suit, for instance, or sequins and mohair braiding to a Chanel-inspired number. Gn, who sells to Barneys New York and Colette in Paris is being picked up by Bergdorf Goodman this season.

Paco Rabanne: Paco lives! It all sounds like an episode from a failed TV pilot. Aging designer retires, proclaims end of the world, is proved wrong (or at least, is off on the timing) and celebrates the dawn of the millennium with a comeback on the runway. After seven years during which design team Christophe Decarnin and Aurelian Tremblay earned lukewarm reviews and sales, the house announced that Rabanne himself would return. Paco hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to leather — sharp trenches and maxicoats looked great as did the flared pants worn with fur tops. But he couldn’t resist a metal moment with a chain-link jumpsuit — a reminder, perhaps, that this was bona fide Paco.

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