PARIS — Yves Saint Laurent and Hubert de Givenchy closed the spring/summer showings thaty opened here Sunday.
The way each designer was dressed as he came out on the runway at the end of his show reflected in attitude. Givenchy, a pair of scissors slung around his neck, wore the traditional white linen smock couturiers wear when they work; Saint Laurent, a loose black corduroy artist's smock.
While Givenchy, whose first major collection was in 1952, still is interested in dressing women, Saint Laurent seems to be aiming for fashion immortality. Already, he has had retrospectives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musee de la Mode in Paris and a museum in China.
Indeed, the effort in this collection went into capes and jackets embroidered into walking masterpieces inspired by Braque and Picasso and by Van Gogh in "Sunflowers" and "Irises". All recaptured to perfection by couture embroiderer Francois Lesage.
Helen Von Ludinghausen, directrice of the Saint Laurent couture salons, estimated that the "Sunflower" jacket would sell for about $60,000. The grass-green satin skirt and yellow satin blouse that complete the outfit are extra. The morning after the show, however, a Middle Eastern client was already having fittings on the jacket.
Saint Laurent's other main theme was birds; abstract Matisse-like ceramic or wood bird earrings announced the message from the first outfit out on the runway, one of Saint Laurent's toujours classic pantsuits, this one in navy gabardine.
For day, Saint Laurent stuck with other tried-and-true classics, such as his sharp-shouldered, one- or two-button suits, the skirts slightly longer than in his spring collection but still well above the knee. In fact, so simple and strict was the day message that an American designer who has been at all the shows this week, did not open his sketch pad until No. 80 in a collection of 132 pieces that walked down the runway.
But back to the birds. Large feathered ones fanned out from the bodice of short evening dresses while even larger ones wrapped around the neck to hold up long columns of satin-- "the albatross dresses," as they were being referred to after the show. There were bird belts and pins and even leather birds flying off the corners of leather handbags.
It was the understated evening clothes that made the strongest fashion statement: a cage of bitter-chocolate chiffon floated on a short matching sheath banded in satin; a pleated, wrapped-waist floor-length strapless dress in powder-pink chiffon, and a group of floral printed taffetas with masses of stiffened ruffles framing decollete bodices and skirts that started well above the knee and billowed into trains.
For Ellin Salzman, senior vice president and fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, Saint Laurent was the highlight of the week because: "He represents haute couture. "
"It's been a very good week with Dior, Ungaro and Givenchy doing beautiful clothes for their customers, while Christian Lacroix continues to please," she added.
After the Givenchy show, Los Angeles' Patricia Kennedy said: "I love the collection. It was feminine. Flirtatious. Divine. It's been a very exciting week with Lacroix; an inspiration for everybody."
On the Givenchy runway were the kind of clothes that fit into the life style of the women he dresses--many of them at the show including Kennedy, Ivana Trump, Mildred Hilson and any number of French duchesses and countesses not to mention Michele Duvalier, wife of the exiled Haitian president.
Often, Givenchy's day suits, either in raw silk--the star material of the week--or lightweight flannels were shirred across the back to bring the fit in even closer. Skirt lengths were consistently short at about mid-thigh.
Day dresses were what the designer calls "body gloves" with fabrics outlining every curve. Easier silhouettes were the portrait-collared, full-skirted silks in Givenchy's pretty versions of the floral prints that are all over Paris.
For evening, some of the standouts were the flame-red organdy long dress, its back a mountain of ruffles; the strapless petal dress that looked like an exploding red peony, and the lilac organza ball gown re-embroidered with sprigs of lilac.
For yet another approach to couture, Mississippi-born Patrick Kelly created three outfits: one inspired by Mme. Gres, the second, by Elsa Schiaparelli and the third by Christian Dior. Kelly said he had only done three outfits because three is his lucky number and that he only planned to take three orders on each outfit.
Thursday, in the final ceremony of the week, Christian Lacroix was awarded the Gold Thimble for the week's best collection.