PARIS — The hottest ticket in town is a front row seat at one of the spring/summer couture collections.
With Ivana Trump flying a group of friends in husband Donald's private 727, Garfinkel's chairman Neal Fox squiring 12 of the Washington-based store's best customers to the shows, and Paris faithfuls such as Marie Helene de Rothschild, Countess Isabelle d'Ornano, Sao Schlumberger and the Princess Beauvau Craon jamming the front row, Paris is definitely the place to be.
"It's the first time these women have been exposed to couture, and they are awed," said Aniko Gaal, fashion director of Garfinkel's. "It's an adventure for them, and although they know how much these clothes cost"--think car prices--"most of them have made appointments to buy."
Los Angeles' Patricia Kennedy has also been at most of the shows, rating Christian Lacroix's collection as "marvelous" and Emanuel Ungaro's "like eating a feast of sherbet."
While many of the clothes seen on runways here this week would not look out of place in Marie Antoinette's or Scarlett O'Hara's closets, versions may turn up in the United States sooner than you can say "Victor Costa," because the American designer has also been at most of the shows.
Right after Ungaro's collection Tuesday morning, Costa said: "My ladies can make those, too," referring to his Dallas-based work force.
It will be quite a feat if they do, for Ungaro, never one for an understated approach, spun his ruffles, bows, drapings and what-have-you into a traffic-stopping entrance.
Lengths at Ungaro were his shortest so far and shortest among the collections. His distinctive big-sleeved silhouette emphasized curving waists and hips in colorful mixes of floral prints often counterpointed with polka dots.
Flowers, especially roses, theme every collection. Ungaro's looked to be made of spun sugar, and he strung garlands of them, Boticelli-style, over just about everything.
Roses, Roses Everywhere
There were smaller roses on high-heeled, sling-back shoes, as earrings and as buttons; there were detachable sleeves as big as a cheerleader's pompons.
Tuesday's star was Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, who showed at the Museum of Modern Art. While Lagerfeld sometimes goes overboard on accessories, this time he let his clothes speak for themselves, and everything on the runway said: "Buy me."
He gave a charm and freshness to the Chanel suit through snug little jackets sitting on the hips of slightly bell-shaped skirts with his new detail, masses of tiny buttons. New, too: lace layered on classic Chanel tweeds or frosting lapels and cuffs on wool suits with the blouse underneath a simple tank in delicate lace.
He began the collection with a group of black-and-white or navy-and-white looks before exploding into unexpected hot colors such as firebrand pink and emerald or flame-red mixed with yellow.
Hats, Lace, Slim Skirts
Another scene was floppy pants in menswear patterns, but in crepe georgette, the same look repeated for evening in black georgette mixed with lace and satin--a look that had the front-row ladies taking notes.
Someone had to do it, and Lagerfeld did: slip in a few slim, mid-calf skirts and coatdresses where the proportion looked 1912 rather than 1988.
For evening, Lagerfeld said he was inspired by the 19th-Century painter of royalty, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, from whom he borrowed the clouds of spangled tulle that framed the daring decolletes of many of the low flounced, long dresses.
Monday, Christian Dior's Marc Bohan scored a triumph with what many called his best collection in years. Dior and Christian Lacroix are backed by the Agache Group.
What made this collection so fresh was Bohan's excellent sense of proportion and color for suits that were always above the knee, with jackets shaped as only the couture can shape them. One of the best was the shaped-to-the-waist red gabardine jacket decorated with buttons on a polka-dot silk blouse and a houndstooth checked sarong skirt.
Other versions, with hip-rounded skirts on crinoline and a similar silhouette for coatdresses, recalled Christian Dior's New Look of 1947 but reinvented with a charming naivete for 1988.
In a season where most designers are showing hats big enough to camp under, Bohan's miniature straw fedoras and boaters were an added light touch.
Jean Louis Scherrer was another suit fan with an excellent day group of pastel gabardine jackets with rosebud trimmed or laced edged lapels paired with oxford baggies or short skirts.
For evening, there were Marie Antoinette fantasies, which his clients, many of them members of French nobility, expect from him.
More beautiful evening fantasies from Nina Ricci's Gerard Pipart were the prettiest, long slim silk dresses in tangerine, fuchsia or turquoise silk crepe.