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PARIS — Not so long ago, no one worth their Guccis would have dreamed of going to the Lido, Le Moulin Rouge or the Folies Bergère. Those aging cabarets, drowned in kitsch, were for the worst kind of coach-class tourists. It just wasn’t cool.

This story first appeared in the March 3, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

But suddenly the Paris cabaret is enjoying a renaissance, attracting high-voltage fashion attention and selling tickets by the handful to a new generation of cool seekers.

Christian Dior’s John Galliano helped ignite the trend when he hosted a bash for the launch of the house’s Addict fragrance at the Lido last fall. Who could forget Galliano soaring down from the ceiling on a suspended float as Lido dancers revved up the crowd?

Galliano got hooked on the Lido after a friend took him on a whim. “I was given a grand tour backstage,” he recalled. “And that was it. I was hooked.”

In this month’s French Vogue, Galliano took the collaboration further, staging a fashion spread of his Dior designs at the Lido — some even shot on Lido dancers.

“There is a certain magic from a bygone era that exists nowhere else: the costumes, the dance routines, the special effects,” explained Galliano of his love for the club. “It is totally spellbinding. Glamour is back. Romance is back. I feel this is one of the reasons for the revival of the Paris cabaret.”

Indeed, the cabaret is sprucing up for its new fans. Last autumn the storied Folies Bergère, founded in 1867, introduced a new $7 million revue, “Nuits de Folies.” The Lido has a new $9 million production in the tubes that is slated for debut in December.

Georges Terrey, director of the Folies Bergère for the last 25 years, attributed the revival to people seeking escape.

“The cabaret is a fete,” he said. “And people want that. Fashion people especially love it because there are no rules in cabaret. Everything goes. The more spectacular the better.”

Over at the Lido, director Carl Clerico said he has noticed a “return to real entertainment. We live in a more serious time. People want to lose themselves in fantasy. They want something they can sink their teeth into.”

Meanwhile, Didier Bernadin, who runs Crazy Horse with his sister, Sophie Bernadin, connects the revival to prevalent fashion trends.

“Modern fashion is about fantasy,” he said. “And fashion has played with nudity a lot recently. Now people want to see the real thing. In a way, it’s a return to the source of inspiration.”

Jean Paul Gaultier, another designer entranced with the over-the-top world of cabaret, is a regular at Crazy Horse.

“It’s very modern and visually very graphic,” he said of the show. “It’s almost cinematic perfection.”

On a more provocative note, Gaultier cited Michou, a rollicking Cage-aux-Folles-style transvestite cabaret among his other favorite haunts. “It’s diametrically opposed to the Crazy. Parody and the grotesque are de rigueur.”

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