Paris catwalks pit theory versus practice

Concept clothing faced off against real-world dressing on the Paris catwalk on Monday, as Dutch duo Viktor & Rolf deconstructed the cocktail dress while French designer Isabel Marant offered trendy clothes for women on the go.

Marant has refined a brand of effortless cool that has made her a favorite of boho Parisians and Hollywood stars like Kirsten Dunst.

"I don't make manifesto fashion, I make fashion I want to wear, above everything, and it's true that I like to be comfortable in my clothes," the designer told The Associated Press backstage after her autumn-winter ready-to-wear show.

For fall, she suggested layering a slinky cream satin dress over a black polo neck. And why not add a thick knit hat and chunky socks worn with T-strap shoes?

A shiny cream shirt worn with a waistcoat and gray flannel pants seemed to come straight from the wardrobe of British actress Sienna Miller, the "patron saint" of boho style. Even a pink metallic prom dress was dressed down with an oversized wool scarf and legwarmers.

Marant is one of a rising generation of young female designers  from Frida Giannini at Gucci to Ivana Omazic at Celine with their finger on the pulse of women's wardrobe needs.

"In the 1980s and in recent years, it was about showing off and being overtly sexy, but I think there are many women who are not trophy women and who have an active lifestyle and need real clothes," she said.

Viktor & Rolf have never been about real clothes. During the first decade of their partnership, they captivated fashion editors and museum curators with creations including mushroom-shaped outfits inspired by atomic explosions.

Though they have since set out to capture a mainstream audience, their catwalk shows continue to border on performance art.

Guests gathered in a tent in the Tuileries gardens watched models emerge in fencing-style masks that turned out, on closer inspection, to be made from latticed braids of acrylic hair.

The outlandish accessory was the starting point for a reflection on bourgeois sophistication, as variations on the little black dress were set off with fishnet tights and high heels.

In keeping with their avant-garde credentials, the soundtrack sampled a sound installation by U.S. artist Bruce Nauman. "I feel, don't touch, I have no control over the kinds and qualities of thoughts," a female voice intoned.

The twin-like designers paid homage to Yves Saint Laurent with a satin shirtdress with a wide belt tied into a bow. Huge silver roses and oversized ruffles provided a vivid counterpoint to the sea of black chiffon, wool and satin.

Inspired perhaps by their recent collaboration with Italian rainwear and outerwear specialist Allegri, the duo embellished a classic beige trench with silver lame trimming or rows of belts around the sleeves.

If that sounds wearable enough, the finale was pure theater. A model emerged in a stiff silver bustier dress with a lampshade skirt, looking just like a ballerina figure on a music box, reports AP.


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