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Fall 2000 Collections

Paris Is Burning With Retro Glamor

In Contrast to the ladylike looks on runways elsewhere, designers are tweaking the classics for millennial femmes fatales.


PARIS — Deep six Seventh Avenue. Put Milan on the back burner. And, ma chere, start planning your next winter wardrobe around this city's designer offerings of eclectic, electrifying, great-looking clothes.

Remember the New Year's Eve millennium bash that bathed the Eiffel Tower in an endless spray of fireworks? Well, the fireworks are back--but they're on the runway in fashions with edgy individuality.

Sure, there were beaucoup luxurious creations parading down the catwalk in cashmere, fur and butter-soft leathers.

But coats with trains sweeping the floor behind you? Olivier Theyskens did it with flair.

Cashmere that reverses from a daytime skirt into a glitzy number--held up with magnets, no less--for a night out? It was a chic magic act for Thierry Mugler.

Or how about a fur muffler worn with a tweed coat and corduroy pants that could easily have come from a thrift store? Michael Kors for Celine says there's nothing wrong with a luxe mix-up.

What about thigh-high leather leg warmers worn with a slinky knit top and high heels? Alexander McQueen for Givenchy says go for it, girlfriend.

No wonder they call this place the city of light. French and other designers showing here have more bright ideas than the repetitious ladylike looks recently presented in New York and Milan. Paris was living up to its mega-watt fashion reputation as the fall ready-to-wear collections unfolded this week before rain-drenched capacity crowds.

After all, this is ground zero of the fashion universe. Remember the "I Love Lucy" episode in which Lucy and Ethel wore burlap outfits and feeding-bag hats that Ricky and Fred tricked them into believing were the latest French designs?

While that look hasn't materialized--yet--artistic license is a given from the likes of McQueen,, Kors , John Galliano for Christian Dior, Stella McCartney for Chloe and Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto--all of whom have cleverly broken the fashion rules and concocted new twists on classic looks for the thoroughly modern millennium woman. The shows included a final one by Alber Elbaz for the Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche collection (see box).

Homage to the '70s and '80s

McCartney--with her famous dad, Paul, and guests Vidal Sassoon, Jerry Seinfeld and wife Jessica, and Sean Lennon in the audience--presented a retro-style collection on Wednesday at the Paris Opera House. The designs, she says, were inspired by her childhood during the '70s and '80s. She mixed day and evening wear, luxury and simplicity, in a collection filled with diamond-print jerseys.

McCartney, an animal-rights advocate, reinvented fur by loading many coats and sweaters with artificial feathers fashioned out of large paillettes. They were among the collection's boldest standouts.

She sent out models in ecru-colored, maxi-length army trench coats, and distressed-canvas jackets sporting regimental military patches on the right sleeves. Matching trousers featured three or four rows of military stripes down the right leg, but mostly the coats were tossed over diamond-print jersey mini-dresses in soft greens, many with sleeves that resembled bat wings.

The military-styled coats, she said, were made to resemble a boyfriend's second-hand coat as a last-minute answer to the sexy evening dress, worn with stiletto-heeled boots.

Like McCartney, McQueen for Givenchy presented a retro-style collection that was both sensual and menswear-inspired.

For instance, he threw a leather tie around the neck of a crisp white blouse worn with a micro-mini coat dress. But that was just about the only thing the model donned--well, that and zip-up leather leg warmers and stiletto heels. Or how about one leg warmer--always the right leg--with the left one bare?

McQueen's collection was devoid of glitz and shiny prints, opting instead for a mostly dark palette of brown, black and greens that looked black, as well as patent leather and a colorful plaid on the tightest of stretch trousers.

He showed low-cut hipster pants--a hot trend in just about every show--in wool and gabardine and matched them with tailored jackets, about the only ensemble one could wear to the office without being sent home to change.

On the other end of the Givenchy spectrum, there were clingy pullovers, minis that zipped up all over the body and purple leather dresses--all exposing lots of skin.

For evening, patent-leather tunics and dresses looked mod, especially when worn with colored tights or long, leather evening gloves with circular cutouts along the inside of the arm.

Emanuel Ungaro's collection did some time traveling, too. It was back to the 1980s for the Ungaro woman as models strutted to the party music of Grace Jones and Billy Idol.

He showed several pinstriped wool suits topped with sequined leather tops and set off by clear plastic pumps with gold stiletto heels or zippered stiletto go-go boots encrusted with gold sequins.

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