PARIS — The first French fashion Oscars were awarded here Wednesday night, in a live-for-television show that took place at the Paris Opera House. It was an event from which Hollywood could take lessons.
Mannequins flanked the wide flight of pale marble stairs in the lobby, all of them wearing gowns in shades of red designed by top French designers. These were not simple little dinner dresses but elaborate silk, satin and lace ball gowns, the kind nobility wore nightly before the revolution.
But the young-and-beautiful reception line seemed insignificant compared to the jeweled, beaded, custom-tailored flow of guests that paraded up the stairs.
Audrey Hepburn (in a design by Hubert de Givenchy), Catherine Deneuve (Yves Saint Laurent), Cher (Claude Montana) and Anouk Aimee (Emmanuel Ungaro) were just a few among 1,500 mostly French guests whose exquisite attire was an homage to the French fashion industry and the country that is wise enough to honor and appreciate it.
France is taking care of its fashion industry under this socialist regime. A new doctoral program in fashion is about to begin under the sponsorship of the government. And the government, represented by French minister of culture Jack Lang, underwrote the fashion Oscars too.
The evening was as perfectly seamed as the clothing. No pushing, no shoving, no tacky TV interviews or boisterous crowds. In fact it was quiet, although it seemed that all of Paris was standing outside the Opera House watching guests go in. They were either awed into silence or extremely polite.
Only a few photographers were permitted to take pictures, all of whom proceeded discreetly. The entertainment, all of it vocal, ranged from rock to opera. The most outstanding solo was an operatic aria by the young, beautiful soprano Barbara Hendericks.
When it was time for the envelopes, the winners were Yves Saint Laurent, for his life work in fashion; Helene Lazaress for founding Elle magazine; Sonia Rykiel, for her contribution to fashion. John Fairchild, publisher of Women's Wear Daily, won an Oscar for his publication. Issey Miyake won the Oscar as best foreign designer, Claude Montana won for best spring collection and Pierre Cardin won for his contribution to international fashion. Audrey Hepburn also got a trophy for helping the French fashion-industry image through her films.
In the surprise of the evening, two awards went to the diminutive, painfully shy Azzedine Alaia, the Moroccan-born designer whose inventive and skintight clothes have taken the international fashion world by storm. Alaia literally had to be dragged on stage to accept the honors. Once there, he assumed a sort of thumb-sucking position, trying to hide behind the presenters and the other winners.
Alaia's first Oscar was a special award by the jury, composed of fashion experts and journalists. His second award was for the best fashion collection of 1984, and it was no less painful for him to accept. But he had better get used to the limelight, because there are likely to be more honors in store for him.
Earlier in the afternoon, right after a fine Yves Saint Laurent show, a few people had gathered at Alaia's showroom in an un-chic arrondissement of Paris. It was an informal showing of only part of his new collection for spring. And even this little bit of Alaia fashion was extremely inventive and unusual. He showed bilevel hemlines; short leather jackets, and a slim group of coats, skirts and jackets that could put denim fabric back on the fashion map this year.
Some With Tight Fit
Some of Alaia's clothes are so tight that women cannot gracefully wear underclothes beneath them. But others, such as his silk mandarin coats over leggings and his denim group, can be worn by almost anyone.
Alaia's only U.S. shop is in Beverly Hills. It is owned by Charles Gallay, who was not seen at the designer's mini-showing. This added fuel to the rumor that the designer may be about to change his entire U.S. distribution system.
But Alaia would not comment after the show, on that or any other matter.