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THE FALL COLLECTIONS / PARIS : High Drama, Yes, but Not on Runways

March 09, 1994|MARY ROURKE | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

PARIS — Expect high drama at a Karl Lagerfeld show.

This season, though, it had nothing to do with clothes. Well before the lights went up on the designer's fall '94 line Monday, a fire door slammed shut and water began flooding the showroom lobby. People were trapped for several long minutes and rumors circulated about a bomb threat by a women's group protesting exploitation of women via fashion.

"Not at all," protested Jacques Mouclier, president of the French Chambre Syndicale, organizer of the shows. Car-exhaust fumes in the underground parking lot set off the alarm, he explained.

Meanwhile, another protest brewed on the other side of the fire door.

John Fairchild, publisher of the fashion trade newspaper Women's Wear Daily, let it be known that he wants no part of the Robert Altman film "Pret-a-Porter," on location here. People here fear it will be a fashion version of "The Player," the director's cutting commentary on Hollywood.

Waiting for Lagerfeld's show to begin, Fairchild stepped in front of the seats occupied by the U.S. fashion press. "It's not fair to us," he announced, pointing to a notice enclosed in invitations to the Christian Dior show later that day. The insert read: You may be featured in some of the shots. Therefore your presence during the event tacitly implies your consent to being in this film.

"We don't know what they're going to do," Fairchild continued. "(This) reads like a legal thing."

Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour agreed. "They're setting us up," she said, referring to Altman and company. "Going to the Dior show is to consent to be in the movie. So we're not going to Dior."

On second thought, she sent a fax to Dior saying she would attend only if the movie lenses were turned in other directions. Fairchild also showed up. Both, presumably, were out of camera range.

"Altman is a genius--I just hope he's doing something positive," said Andre Leon Tally, artistic director for Vogue.

*

To those with little at stake, such as newspaper journalists, the Altman crew has seemed surprisingly unobtrusive. Some have wondered out loud whether this tempest in a cafe au lait cup isn't the fashion industry's way of getting more attention. The shows do seem in danger of being overpowered this season. Still, Lagerfeld and Dior left an impression.

Lagerfeld's purple, orange and yellow stretch jersey dresses, piled on top of each other and over pink tights and stiletto-heeled clear plastic boots, were an eyeful. Look for low-priced versions soon in stores such as the Limited and Contempo Casuals.

Suits and jackets were the best of this show. After several seasons of unmatched looks, this was a collection of monochromes. Deep green, wine, navy and black short jackets and short skirts, both wide at the hem, gave suits the vigor of a double flying trapeze.

Pantsuits, rarely seen in this line, were a strong theme. Longer black gabardine jackets topped skinny pants that crumpled over thick-heeled shoes. Black stretch pants worn with long jackets in gray tweed or solid black had a chic, energetic quality.

At Dior, designer Gianfranco Ferre, really put on the dog, inspired by Altman's cameras no doubt. This collection hasn't looked so young and with-it in several years. Black leather minis had silver hardware that resembled corsets. Dior showed them with crisp white shirts. Black body wear seemed downright ladylike tucked under long, swashbuckling coats.

A furry pink Angora sweater set trimmed with pearls topped a long black chiffon skirt for a sweetly romantic evening look.

After the show, "Pret-a-Porter" cast members Lauren Bacall, Kim Basinger and Stephen Rea made like fashion regulars, climbing onto their chairs and hopping up on the runway to get backstage.

*

So far, the stars have been wearing Valentino, Issey Miyake, Christian Lacroix and Calvin Klein. But at Nino Cerruti's show, the press director handed out a list of who is wearing his label. Basinger, Tim Robbins, Marcello Mastroianni and Forest Whitaker, who plays fashion designer Simone Lowenthal in the movie, were on it. And this season's collections will appear in the movie, too, posing as Lowenthal originals.

Costume designer Catherine Leterrier, sitting in the front row, took notes when the runway filled up with ankle-length man-tailored coats of pale gray worn over deeper gray pin-striped pants and off-white suede Oxfords. Other good looks included a beige suede shirt dress with a flared hem, topped by a deep gray rib-knit coat, both short.

The movie bus arrived at Jean Paul Gaultier's show, held in an abandoned train depot, and out stepped Sophia Loren in an enormous black hat and dark suit that have been her uniform this week.

Her outfit didn't look much like the clothes on the runway. Gaultier's trans-Siberian fashion trip led past a folkloric montage of sheepskin jackets with fake-fur hoods, silk pajama pants, quilted kimonos, Chinese silk parkas and a few of his favorite tartan plaid kilts.

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