PARIS — Michael Jackson couldn't have picked a better time to make a comeback. There he was on Thursday, the fashion muse of the fall season, announcing his "final" tour in London while dressed in a sparkly, "Thriller"-era jacket that looked a lot like the ones coming down the runway at Balmain just hours before at Paris Fashion Week.
Balmain designer Christophe Decarnin, who has been cribbing from Jackson and other '80s icons for a while now, is to blame for fashion's current crystal addiction, for sparkly biker jackets and disco-ball micro mini-dresses that have crept into the wardrobes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Moss, and onto nearly every runway this season.
Decarnin is the reigning king of trashy luxe. So, not surprisingly, he gave us a repeat performance for fall. His collection was one of several bold but varied statements in the opening days of the fall collections here, where expectations are high after lackluster weeks in Milan and New York.
I never thought I would see MC Hammer pants on the runway, but there they were, sprinkled with crystals, of course, and worn with a biker jacket. (Mr. Hammer, it's your agent calling -- have you thought about a comeback?)
But aside from those ballooning pants, sliced open over the leg, and a few crystal-striped T-shirts, this show was a par-tay of barely there, butt-grazing mini-dresses.
They came in quilted black leather or electric blue, with silver chain details or covered in a grid of crystals. They came strapless or sporting enormous shoulders, with trains, frills, pouf skirts or a single crystal-studded sleeve. After a while, they all started to look the same. Which raises the question, what's next for Balmain?
With his thrilling collection for Nina Ricci, Olivier Theyskens captured the season's rock 'n' roll edge by looking to the future instead of the past.
Theyskens hit the scene after Madonna wore his black satin coat dress to the 1998 Academy Awards. But this collection did not go into goth. His mistresses of the night were otherworldly, stilt-walking on some of the most outrageous shoes to come down the runway in years.
The dangerously high black or pink glitter platform boots, scooped out where the heels should have been, were a sendup of the current craze for sky-high heels. They were also a platform for his elongated silhouette and glossy clothes -- mostly black with flashes of silver, red, pink and purple -- which seemed to reference Thierry Mugler and Ziggy Stardust, but with a look all their own.
The tailoring was sharp and angular -- jackets with sculpted shoulders and pointy lapels, and skirts with jagged hems. Mini-dresses and jeans came dusted with cosmic-looking stones or spliced with crystal thunder bolts. Shimmery sheer pajama pants that poured over the shoes were topped by oversized knits or some of the season's best leather jackets. And gowns were a cascade of undulating frills.
Rumor has it that this is Theyskens' last collection for Nina Ricci, which may be why it felt as if he had an eye toward his own future rather than that of the more romantic house.
Toning it down
Putting aside the sci-fi fantasy that has driven him creatively for the past few seasons, Nicolas Ghesquiere came down to Earth with a soft and wearable, recession-friendly collection for Balenciaga. How else do you explain something so basic as a beige coat with a sash belt coming from the designer who gave us robotic-looking C-3PO leggings?
Changing his venue from the dark Left Bank Balenciaga showroom space to a sunny Hotel de Crillon salon overlooking the Place de la Concorde breathed new life into the collection, which was a feat of drapery and classic French chic.
Soft femininity was the starting point for swagged silk charmeuse skirts suspended from banded waists, with tweedy metallic tops tucked in. Black point d'esprit stockings and high heels with fabric ankle ties completed the picture.
For women not shaped like curtain rods, there were satin-trimmed velvet coat dresses and blazers with draped silk charmeuse bodices, worn over uncomplicated cigarette pants in solids or pinstripes. Black lace bandeau tops were the underpinnings for the collection, adding a flirty touch to colorful dappled print dresses with plunging necklines.
For evening, those dresses were covered in sequins, crystals and bits of degrade velvet. With puffed up sleeves, they too struck an '80s note.
It was lovely and ladylike but not nearly as directional as we've come to expect from Ghesquiere. Guess he's leaving that to Decarnin for the moment.