October 8, 2005

Theater looms large in Paris fashion shows

By Kerstin Gehmlich

PARIS (Reuters) - Birdsong sounds over a catwalk. Church
bells chime near another. Models with fruits and flowers in
their hair stride over straw as if on a Sunday stroll through
the countryside.

Long gone are the days when mannequins simply paraded up
and down. Spectators at the current crop of Paris summer
ready-to-wear shows often feel they are part of a elaborately
staged extravaganza.

No wonder, as theater is a major inspiration for many of
today's most acclaimed creative heads in fashion.

French designer Christian Lacroix, who has drawn and
created costumes for plays and operas such as Georges Bizet's
"Carmen," sent out his models from behind a netted curtain of
butterflies, leaves and flowers in his show on Friday.

Models wearing colourful headscarves paraded on a runway
covered in bright yellow sand, presenting swinging flowery
dresses or tight black skirts with asymmetric white lines.

Lacroix seemed happy and full of energy after he was dumped
by luxury group LVMH in January and has started to work with
new U.S. owner Falic Group.

"My fear was that people expected radical change because of
the new contract. But no," Lacroix told reporters after the
show, adding his new collection was sourced in the same spirit
he had been working in for years.

Lacroix hailed the wearability of his collection, which
featured colourful African prints and basket-shaped straw bags,
with sparkling tags attached to them.

"Ready-to-wear -- that means 'ready to wear'," Lacroix
said. "Some people are doing couture during ready-to-wear
(fashion week), others are putting up performances, we just
come here with our little flowers," he said smiling.

Theater OF DREAMS?

Swedish designer Lars Nilsson took spectators straight to a
real theater -- Paris's Theater National de Chaillot near the
Eiffel Tower -- for his show for Nina Ricci on Saturday.

Models presented blue-and-white striped minidresses with
crossed straps on the back, and displayed short ballooning
skirts to straight cut jackets.

"It's a very feminine collection," Nilsson said after the
show, adding he wanted to dress the international woman.

"She loves fashion, she is traveling. She wants something
that is very special, maybe a bit French and Parisian," he

British designer Alexander McQueen, who worked for
theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans before studying
fashion design in London, turned his models into pawns in a
human chess game in his show last year.

This season's setting was tamer. Birdsong turned into loud
rock music when models in sleek black minidresses with big
sparkling belts paraded in a former printing house late on

Robert Burke, senior fashion director at luxury retailer
Bergdorf Goodman, said it was important designers expressed
themselves during their shows.

"Their personality is shown through their clothing as well
as the setting. It's part of the creative process. I think
certain people can show in very simple venues and certain
people aren't inspired by that," Burke said.