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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Texas Fever

Don’t let one fast-fashion collaboration fool you; Rodarte is still all high-brow and arty references. Theirs is a rarefied fantasy world filled with things like panniers and daytime gloves. This October, the duo are returning to these esoteric roots, teaming up with Colette in Paris for a special exhibit/shop-in-shop. Sprawling across the second floor, the venture will offer an eclectic mix of their fall offerings mixed with “curated” treasures. These include personal faves like CDs, books and movies (i.e. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Rosemary's Baby—so they're not all high-brow), and of course, art pieces from friends like Kim Gordon and L.A. artist Elliott Hundley. To be unveiled during Paris Fashion Week (perhaps a sign of things to come?), the collaboration promises to be second only to the Louvre.

—Franklin Melendez

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Final Thoughts

Style correspondent PLAY rounds up Paris Fashion Week...

The Mood
So yes, Paris had to tighten its belt in this nasty economic climate, which meant more presentations and fewer runway shows. But naturellement, everyone pretended they weren't personally affected. And actually, the reality for the average fashion editor is akin to Franz Kafka’s diary entry from August 2, 1914: "Germany declares war on Russia. Afternoon: swimming lessons."

Tweet a Trend
Like anyone else, I want to know what's new. But I never thought I'd be turning to my cell phone to read pedestrian chit-chat on Twitter. This was a case of the early bird getting the trend. In fact, the trend this season was Twitter.

Celebrity Fatigue
I first spotted Kanye West and entourage gatecrashing their way into Viktor & Rolf. It turned out Kanye was causing havoc everywhere. He was the new Bruno. Meanwhile, at Chanel, I almost got crushed by paparazzi surrounding Lily Allen, before swarming around Kate Moss in the front row. It left me wondering how more celebs don't end up train wrecks like Amy Winehouse.

Queen Beth
But the celebrity had to be Love cover star Beth Ditto, as if following the season's unofficial motto: It ain't over till the fat lady sings. Apparently her mission was to show the outside world that the old cliché of fashion being a gated community for diet-obsessed, humor-free folks is out of touch. Ditto's finest moment was performing with her band The Gossip at the Fendi party. I wanted to tweet: "OMGOMG!!! ditto does britney! nipplegate any sec!!"

She's Got the Look
Sometimes the best way to see where fashion is going is to follow a fashion editor. Based on my stalking of Carine Roitfeld, Emmanuelle Alt and Anna Piaggi, you should think preppy, mix decades (i.e. 40s and 80s for a Casablanca-meets-Top Gun look), don double-breasted blazers (like Stella McCartney's), throw on a biker jacket and, I’m afraid to say, slip into harem pants. Key colors? Black, greige and noir tobacco, which is taking over for camel, now considered not crisis-appropriate—put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Anna Piaggi (©PLAY)

Big Top
If designers have their say this fall, we'll be wearing plastic bags over our heads (Hussein Chalayan), bunny ears (Louis Vuitton), S&M masks (Jean Paul Gaultier) and Leigh Bowery sex-doll lips (Alexander McQueen).

Power Failure
As an early-adopter of Maison Martin Margiela's leather leggings and 80s' shoulders for fall 08, I'm all for power looks. But after witnessing editor after editor working huge shoulders and oh-so-fierce platforms, I got over it fast. It felt like Art Basel last year, when I counted 20 Louis Vuitton Richard Prince bags in under two hours.

Fur Alarm
What the heck was the idea behind the over-presence of statement fur? Was it to prove one’s immunity to chilly economic winds? Only very few got it right, like Carine Roitfeld, who strode across Tuileries park looking fit to squash the squeeze.

Carine Roitfeld (©PLAY)

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hint Video: Dries Van Noten

For his fall collection of "strange beauties," Dries Van Noten says he looked to the colors of artist Francis Bacon. And Sasha Pivovarova finally cracks a smile...

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Grab an umbrella. Or, for that matter, a lampshade or birdcage. In a comical yet poignant statement about recycling, Alexander McQueen's fall looks last night were a parade of everyday objects masquerading as hats. Clever accessories aside, McQueen held back none of the drama. The dress-heavy collection bore his usual hourglass shapes and swirling floor-length, red-carpet gowns, often in magnified head-to-toe houndstooth, while the flighty red and black feathery pieces were a nice departure.

Alexander McQueen

Meanwhile, today, Hannah MacGibbon's Chloé girl seems headed back to the Left Bank. After showing conservative suits for pre-fall, MacGibbons returned to more familiar (and fun) territory. Oversize, double-breasted blazers and refined Dhoti pants could have been taken from the closets of Paris' sexy young things. And the loose, cuffed shorts with black leggings—or, in this case, thigh-highs—have been a popular fashion fete standby. Bring your own champagne.


—Bee-Shyuan Chang

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Black Magic

Karl Lagerfeld is a busy man. He's just finished his seasonal triumvirate of Fendi, Karl Lagerfeld and, this morning, Chanel, where we saw the usual paparazzi clusterfuck. This time they swarmed around Kate Moss, who remained cool and relaxed in her slick, noir tuxedo number. Black also dominated the runway, but colors soon progressed to pistachio green and then to ballerina pink. Suits were gussied up with accoutrements: lace, floppy bows and knit bowler hats—perhaps to match the new Mattress bag.


Valentino may be retired, but the brand marches on with Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccoli at the helm. Well, sort of. Sure, they stayed true to the archives with fancy opera coats, little black dresses and expensive fox-fur trim, but where was the famous Valentino red? A shocking statement, to say the least, but considering the dismal economy, it's probably better to do as every accountant wants: avoid the red, stay in the black.


—Bee-Shyuan Chang

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Your First Look: Alexander McQueen

Close-ups of the Alien-versus-Predator junk heap that formed the recycled centerpiece of Alexander McQueen's New-Look-versus-Leigh-Bowery fall collection...

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Backstage Beauty

...at Paris Fashion Week. Photos by Sonny Vandevelde...

Jean Paul Gaultier

Sonia Rykiel

Viktor & Rolf

Bernhard Willhelm

Jeremy Scott

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Greed Expectations

It's tough to beat a front row that includes Salma Hayek, Thandie Newton and an enthusiastic Beatle. Stella McCartney's early morning show was a star-studded event, and the range of hits were sure to keep 'em coming. Her manned-up blazers with thigh-high leather boots were a fashiony take on corporate greed, 80s-style. But the British designer also showed slinky lingerie-inspired dresses edged with lace, and there were always the skintight bodysuits and clingy knit dresses.

Stella McCartney

Giambattista Valli was less about Lycra and more about luxury. Who else but old money can afford peacock-feather skirts and richly patterned silks these days? Necklines ran high and hemlines low. Suddenly, all those leathered-up and sequined rocker-chic looks of the season seemed downright flimsy. The collection was serious fashion for the seriously invested.

Give them a pinch on the cheeks, Viktor & Rolf's white-faced girls looked like mannequins who had come to life. The designers flitted between geometric triangles, curtain-like ruching and curvilinear sculpting on shoulders and skirts. There were no pillows attached to the models' heads or the word NO popping out of trench coats, but after six days of shows, the crazy was just crazy enough.

Viktor & Rolf

—Bee-Shyuan Chang

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Paris Fashion Week: Day 5

By Rebecca Voight...

Sunday began in the Jardin des Tuileries, waiting outside in a light rain while the 10 am Karl Lagerfeld show was still rehearsing inside the “Ephemere” tent at 10:15. Overheard, a conversation between two American department store execs: “Do you know how much they're charging for umbrellas at the Ritz now? Thirty euros—they used to be free!” "Well, do you get the money back when you return them?” “No.”

At least seeing fashion shows is still free. Lagerfeld’s show began with electro trio Metronomy strolling down the runway with the lead singing a snappy dirge into a vocoder. What followed were beautiful motorcycle helmet by Ruby, France's most stylish two-wheel gear purveyor. Only, in Lagerfeld’s hands, they were in fur to match square-shouldered vests and coats, some with fur sleeves. And he dipped into the Christmas tinsel to cover a jersey column dress like a band leader’s jacket, shown over Lagerfeld's familiar ankle-slit satin pants in dark gray or chocolate-brown. All this building up of luxurious materials and sport staples made for a rich warrior woman look.

Karl Lagerfeld

Dries Van Noten showed in the huge courtyard of the Lycée Carnot high school. And it's clear now he's moved on from ethnic embroideries and soft draping. His new structure is centered on a boxy, rectangular jacket which he takes through textured fabrics, snake-print and crocodile skin. He did a perfect camel trench and bathrobe coats, as well as a blouson turned into a dress. His large trousers are some of the most well-tailored in Paris and every girl sported a pair of thick-framed 50s-style sunglasses. While almost everybody in the audience was wearing black, Van Noten showed hot Moroccan colors for fall: persimmon, saffron, dusty pink and lime green.

Dries Van Noten

So, this has been a tricky, recession-deflated season, with brands scrambling to allot limited seating. The idea seems to be that since there are fewer journalists and buyers, it's best to show in a smaller venue to maintain a full house. Sonia Rykiel did the smartest thing and showed right in her Blvd Saint Germain flagship. I hung out with stylist Patti Wilson, who downed a striped bottle of Coke Light designed by Rykiel's daughter Nathalie, and we watched as models skipped around the store repeating phrases like “Under my sweater I'm nude” in English and French—with a mostly Eastern European accent. Patchwork, color-blocked ponchos, big Lurex-knitted sweaters and multicolored ruffles on hourglass black dresses were vintage 70's Sonia.

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Fur Helmets and Leather Bums, Oh My

While locals had the luxury of sleeping in, the fashion elite braved the Paris rain on Sunday for another kind of luxury: fur helmets! To the synthesized vocals of Oslo band Metronomy, Karl Lagerfeld's fall collection started with giant, statement-y fur hats and helmets, followed by witchy, wide-collared black dresses and jackets with the exaggerated shoulder that has been the defining Paris trend. As if to reassure the clutch-pearls set, the Kaiser came out for the finale in his trademark white-powdered coif, tanned skin and fingerless gloves.

Karl Lagerfeld

At the Carousel du Louvre, Esteban Cortazar set the mood Emanuel Ungaro with crystal chandeliers and girlish pink-orange lighting. Missing from many of the Paris shows this season, a crush of paparazzi accosted the front row before a parade of ruffled polka-dot blouses and shirred dresses came down the runway. True to the Ungaro tradition, Cortazar kept the colors bright, but updated the collection with voluminous tweaks on pleated miniskirts.

Fresh from his retrospective at the Design Museum in London, Hussein Chalayan also favored thigh-baring minis. But in Chalayan's case, girlish fun was pushed aside in favor of powerful sexual silhouettes and molded neon leather bustiers and bums, created by the studio of Patrick Whitaker and Keir Malem. As usual, Chalayan also experimented with synthetic materials such as wood sequins.

Hussein Chalayan

—Bee-Shyuan Chang

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Paris Fashion Week: Day 4

By Rebecca Voight...

It was like a perfect Saturday morning in front of the TV as a child. Jeremy Scott‘s Mouse Trap collection was his best to date. He sent out a gang of Minnies and Mickeys that was cheap, cheerful and full of American staples like romper dresses, perfecto jackets and sneakers from his collection for Adidas in graphic black, white and red—with Rainbow Brites making guest appearances.

Now that his cartoon prints are in their second season on Longchamp canvas bags—the favorite tote of every young girl in Paris—Scott has reestablished his connection to the City of Light, which is where he began in the late 1990s. Since then he has perfected his own print-based style. This time he put cell phone faces on taxi-yellow T-shirts and covered the bags with big telephone receivers. His style is basic, easy and recession-proof in second-skin black and canvas. For his finale, Scott paid homage to Patrick Kelly (the black American designer from the late 80s who also made his name in Paris) by reprising Kelly's multicolored button trompe l'oeil mosaics in bustier shapes and tuxedos.

Jeremy Scott

Ann Demeulemeester is more wrapped up than ever in clothes that are tied like presents. This season she produced silky ethnic embroideries in black on black, curvy fencer's jackets in what looked like wet seal and vests made entirely of little bells. The pants she has always done, low-crotch wraparounds, couldn't be more à propos in this harem-draped season.

Ann Demeulemeester

Veronique Branquinho, who's just been made artistic director at the storied Belgian leathergoods house of Delvaux, finished off Saturday in white satin fit for, as she described it, “a warm-blooded ice queen.” All the Branquinho standards were present: capes, faux bourgeois-pleated skirts and then she took off with Mongolian lamb fur, which puffed up the collars of wrap coats, took over the sleeves and even snaked up the back of spike heels. Branquinho's hot little ice queen is very night-for-day in satin sheaths with sequin insets everywhere, 20s' flapper wraparound dresses and leggings with diamond-shaped peepholes up the back.

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A Stylish Samedi

In New York, front-row celebrity seating is not to be tampered with, but the French like to keep things mysterious, such as putting Kanye West in the second row at Comme des Garçons. While we waited for an outburst, ever-contrary Rei Kawakubo sent out blankets moonlighting as parkas. Earlier in the day, her protege Junya Watanabe had similar thoughts with swirling black parka dresses and oversized collars in a Victori-goth meets space-age presentation.

Junya Watanabe

Greece-born Sophia Kokosalaki pampered guests with champagne, strawberries and chocolate. Bubbly was a perfect way to start a sunny Paris afternoon at the Jardins des Tuileries. Kokosalaki presented her signature draping as well as a collection of party-favor hits, ranging from sheer and sculptural minidresses to bedazzled rocker-chic pants and jackets.

Later in the afternoon, Colette was a madhouse. Not only were the weekend crowds milling about among the new Alexander Wang handbags, but there was a roster of events that deserved a fashion calendar in itself. Designers Emily Current and Merrit Elliot were on hand for a trunk show, and Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin were signing their new work for Stern magazine. Meanwhile, Erin Wasson for RVCA pieces were up on mannequins and the stylish Texan model herself made an appearance.

Jeremy Scott kept his show lighthearted and childlike with color, polka dots and Mickey Mouse. The Disney motif will surely spill over into his after-party tonight at Regine's.

—Bee-Shyuan Chang

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Paris Fashion Week: Lanvin

As soon as the black curtain was pulled back last night at Lanvin's fall show, revealing another 20,000 sq ft of warehouse space, all eyes were focused on the feather-topped model walking through the incredible red-rose arch. With that, the hard concrete space was transformed into the most elegant space in Paris. Such was the power of Alber Elbaz's collection.

Dominated by black, with flashes of red, every piece had an element that appealed to the romantic, the elegant, the hard and the cool in all of us. This wasn’t just a classic Lanvin collection, this was the classic Lanvin collection. In a time when those who can afford it want subtle luxury that isn't flashy (ahem, Balmain), Lanvin delivered—and for those who want to invest in one exquisite piece of clothing.

Alber never underestimates the strength of a shoulder (not a statement shoulder, but one with seams been turned inside-out to create a soft point), the power of a well-cut skirt, a curved heel or a considered neckline. Fur and knit stoles embraced the shoulders of belted jackets, bias-cut dresses or trouser suits. A floor-length black velvet dress had half the audience planning black-tie events, just for an occasion to wear it to, while the other half couldn’t see it properly through their tears. Yes, tears. This show was a true fashion moment and exactly what Paris needed after three days of showy fanfares, blinding crystals and perilous shoes. Lanvin is the kind of glamour that will transcend the season and definitely transcend this damn recession, too.


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Friday, March 6, 2009

Paris Fashion Week: Day 3

By Rebecca Voight...

Romeo Gigli, the designer who made stole draping and the erased shoulder his own in the early 90s, is back after a long hiatus, which began in 2004 when he slipped away from his own label. In January, his Io Ipse Idem line—which roughly translates as "always the same me, but never quite the same"—made its debut at Paris' fall men's shows. This time he brought the women's collection to the Espace Topographique de l'Art in the Marais, in a presentation he choreographed himself. Partnered with Catherine Vautrin (a former LVMH executive who worked closely with Marc Jacobs) and Luciano Donatelli (previously with Zegna and now working on the brand's production) and backed by IP Spa, Gigli is set.

And the clothes? Ever the romantic, Gigli brought back his cocoon coats, but lighter than before, as well as narrow scrunched-up, stretch-jersey skirts and fur stoles to throw over your shoulder for dress-up. And the best pieces of all were a series of jackets with backs cut out like stained glass—his saturated colors look like no one else's.

Io Ipse Idem

For Issey Miyake, two pairs of karate champions were put on the runway to test the strength of the house’s latest A-POC (A Piece of Cloth) collection—and there wasn’t a tear anywhere. The line is increasingly turning its attention to Japanese tradition and construction. All-over pleats are a Miyake classic, but its current designer Dai Fujiwara put the pleats in strategic places this season, to give the clothes bounce.

Issey Miyake

Yohji Yamamoto, also a black belt in karate, has started a new partnership with Salvatore Ferragamo and he wasn’t quiet about it at the show. Every model sported a pair of flaming red bottines with the usual Yamamoto flowing jackets and coats over floor-grazing skirts. The result was a fire-and-ice mix, which was oddly fitting in these times when no one seems to know just how to move forward.

Yohji Yamamoto

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Paris Fashion Week: Christian Dior

No matter what John Galliano throws down the catwalk at Christian Dior, the lead-up is enjoyment enough. Where's Waldo could entertain us for hours. Waldo, of course being the celebrity guest, difficult to spot among the throng of photographers, flashing lights and the innocent bystanders just trying to find their seats. But apart from Charlize Theron, Milla Jovovich and Eva Green, there were some clothes, too.

Galliano is on an Oriental trip for fall '09, a collection rich with Imperialism, with a flap of the 20s. The show opened subtly with Astrakhan lambswool, rich brocade, Ikat jacquard, pinstripes and ottoman wool—all in the signature Dior gray—but it soon transformed through paisley print dresses into a China of the 20s. Fur capes and tulle jackets were belted tightly over heavy silk harem trousers in dove gray, exaggerated floral prints and binding heels.

But the final stop of the tour had more of an Indian vibe, as a bright flurry of embroidered chiffon dresses in peach, purple, blue, cerise and white swept down the runway. Milla gasped and clutched her chest; others were more taken with the heavy silver neckpieces. Galliano, of course, took to the runway after a long pause, a build-up of expensive lighting and what might as well have been a drumroll, but his top hat and Japanese tails were, for him, a disappointment. We'd have much preferred if he took his bow as a Chinese emperor—well, a Dior Emperor at least.


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Hint Video: Bless

Still marching to their own beat...

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Hint Video: Gareth Pugh

Gareth Pugh on the Gypsy Mafia, his "pretty boy" muse Natasa Vojnovic and those old Dior Homme rumors...

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Never Too Old for Macaroons

Pamela Anderson, the busty 42-year-old femme fatale, pranced around Vivienne Westwood's catwalk in a tutu, proving that the notion of over-the-hill is over-the-hill. There's also been a runway revival of sorts for a couple of veteran models. Erin Wasson may have RVCA, but she also walked for Balmain, and mother of two Liya Kebede opened for Balenciaga. And let's not forget those Louis Vuitton ads with Madonna. Oh, cougars.

Otherwise, Bernhard Willhelm's collection was one part greatest hits, one part more of the same. If you haven't picked up a piecey Willhelm tartan plaid dress yet, don't worry, there are plenty more to come for fall. There were also gold, life-size banana barrettes and sheer multi-colored hoods topping an array of dip-dyed tunics and argyle knits.

Like many Paris designers, Romeo Gigli spun the idea of menswear for his first collection for Io Ipse Idem: angular shoulders on blazers, impeccable men's suiting and beautifully tailored coats, many with a swing to them that the models accentuated in their dance-like presentation. We came, we saw, we coveted. And the towers of macaroons, strawberries and kumquats were a nice touch.

—Bee-Shyuan Chang

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Paris Fashion Week: Day 2

By Rebecca Voight...

Oh, the 80s ladies at Nina Ricci! In what just might be his farewell show for the house, Olivier Theyskens returned to his fetishistic roots—feet first. His bottines came in colors as bright as tinsel pink, and so high that the girls looked like they were perched on stilts. Faces were covered by half derbies pushed over the front and they were backless to show off gelled hair. But remove the shoes and the collection is full of 80s' standards: super-curvy skirt suits with peplum jackets, extra-wide skirtish trousers and skintight leggings and bustiers.

Nina Ricci

I wish Olivier Theyskens had a partner like Michele Lamy. Rick Owens' other half and the business brains behind his fashion house believes in talent first and foremost, which is why she also backs Gareth Pugh. Lamy’s calm strength is evident in the way Owens has been able to develop his style slowly but surely. For fall he continues layering earthy and cloudy tone tunics and leggings with blanket coats that look like wearable teepees in complex quilted and patchworked fabrics, plus a new silver foil that shines like a beacon.

Rick Owens

A.F. Vandevorst had a packed house—or rather, garage—for their collection of chestnut-brown wools, high-stepping shoes made to look like hooves and striped jockey blouses. Thick tights in flesh tones, huge feed bags and country-tailored pleated walking skirts had an earthy quality reminiscent of Prada's collection, with its backwoods women in thick, boiled wool suits and thigh-high rubber fishing boots.

A.F. Vandevorst

Lutz Huelle's leggy girls defy that dusty old dictum that lean times bring hemlines down. The collection he showed was an ode to the gam with plenty of fall's hooded blousons, wrap-around tailoring and flag dresses—a simple and graphic column of silk designed to wear loose and open to show off all a girl has.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Paris Fashion Week: Day 1

By Rebecca Voight...

Gareth Pugh cranked up the smoke machine before presenting his fall collection as a short film, picking up where he left off from his wicked men's collection in January, including pointy-nail studded leathers—ouch! Pugh’s always favored balloon shapes—he once had his models walk down an inflated catwalk—and this time the puffed-up looks, as well as cropped jackets and cape-like coats, came in bronze, worn by model Natasa Vojnovic.

Gareth Pugh

Kris Van Assche sent out billowy silk jumpsuits in various shades of charcoal, as well as transparent military shirts—all of which looked lighter than air. And for the girl who can't decide whether to wear a skirt or pants, he somehow managed to combine both in one piece. A skant? Pirt? Pulotte?

Kris Van Assche

Martine Sitbon had all Paris' It-girls sitting front row for her Rue du Mail show, including the lovely Zoe Cassavetes, who's currently living in Paris. Sitbon showed flesh and cream-colored hooded jackets over leggings worn with silver foil hot pants. In fact, the collection was full of hoods and black-on-black matte and shine—tough, chic and elegant.

Prada wound up its four-city Iconoclasts series with snake-charmer Carine Roitfeld's “rethink” for Paris' Avenue Montaigne store. Roitfeld, who never goes by halves, cleared out the entire place and turned it into a reptile shelter. “I thought about the snake prints in the spring collection and based the whole thing on real versus fake,” she told me. That meant live fat snakes encased in small plexi-cages and fashionably creepy snake-print rubber flooring throughout, with green lighting that gave everybody in the room a reptilian glow. The focal point was model (and dancer) Karlie Kloss, in an up-do and snake-print unitard, who slithered around the room in a hot and bothered way.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dark Star

Even if you wanted to avoid him, and we all did, it was hard to miss Sacha Baron Cohen's alter-ego at Paris Fashion Week. We know several fashion observers with, let's say, an affinity for black who were targeted by Bruno, a flaming, mincing, petulant Austrian fashion show presenter, complete with a sleeveless leather get-up and blown-out hair. They mostly ran screaming (and giggling), but one unwittingly signed a release, which means she just might appear in his next big-screen send-up. Here's Bruno being thwarted by security backstage at Jean-Charles de Castelbajac...

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Paris Fashion Week: Gold Digging

Haidee Findlay-Levin...

One of the shiniest stars of Paris Fashion Week was shine itself. One would predict that in this current political and economic doom and gloom, designers would reflect this with something pretty sober, conservative or at the very least classic. On the contrary, designers have opted for all the glittery, excessive posturing of the 80s. And I am not just referring to a color or surface treatment; I mean this quite literally. Precious metals, to be exact.

Sophia Kokosalaki usually mines her Greek heritage for inspiration, but this time she traveled a little farther east, specifically the Middle East. Perched on the head of most of the girls was a miniature gold fez. Fabrics were mostly organza in black, beige orange and bright blue, accented with gold lamé, of course. Gold earrings swung loosely from their ears while a gold bustier peeked out from under a jacket and a gold bra could be seen under a cutaway jumpsuit. And like a moth to a flame, my eye was drawn from the fez to the feet, with their sculptural platinum heels in any number of strappy combinations.

Sophia Kokosalaki

Dries Van Noten showed a far more subtle, poetic and elegant collection, which is hard to imagine when graphics and geometry are the inspiration. Black and white grid prints on boxy shirts and jackets were followed by faded and dégradé versions in blue, saffron and sunset yellow on relaxed shifts, replacing his standard floral and ethnic prints. But once again, the metals sparkled most—first in the setting, the Palais Royal sculpture garden, where Pol Bury's giant silver ball fountains took center stage. They were the perfect connect to the bulbous necklaces and bracelets in both silver and gold, suspended on long black ribbons that fell down the back, while an ankle-grazing gold jersey skirt was paired with a crisp white shirt. Dries got my gold star not only for being one of the rare designers to give women something other than a showgirl outfit, but also for offering us a glass of tea and macaroons from Ladurée during a 12-hour day of nonstop shows.

Dries Van Noten

Sparkle came in many forms this season, not least of them crystals. Large jet or mirror crystals dripped from the shoulders of black and flesh-pink capes in Givenchy’s homage to the rodeo. Or take Bollywood to the circus and you have an understanding of Indian designer Manish Arora's recent rise and shine. Meanwhile, disco must have been on Alber Albaz’s playlist long before the girls strutted down his Lanvin runway to late 70’s soundtracks, as glittery crystals adorned large sunglasses and stiletto heels in an otherwise dark collection.

And Alexander McQueen, showman extraordinaire, sent out a veritable Noah’s Ark of creatures against a 3D video projection of a revolving earth. There were some incredible beauties, but I hate to say, this time there were some beasts. Never one for restraint, he closed the show with girls in shiny crystal-covered dresses with an imaginary deep décolleté. These looks seemed more Ice Capades than exotic. But perhaps this was his point: in order to save the earth we need to save the polar ice caps. He closed the show with an unforgettable skintight and short-sleeved catsuit, completely covered in amber crystals down to the heels—clearly, going for gold.

Alexander McQueen

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Paris Street Style

photos by Rei Shito...

at Ann Demeulemeester, in the metro after Martin Margiela

at Christian Dior, at Kris Van Assche

at Tsumori Chisato, at Undercover

at Gareth Pugh (Michele Lamy on the left)

photos by Rei Shito, aka STYLE from TOKYO

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Wode Warriors

We first showed you Wode—Boudicca's new art fragrance that goes on like a blast of ink-blue spray paint, then fades into delightful whiffs of the poisonous herb hemlock—in Beauty Duty back in June. It's passive-aggressiveness in a bottle, now hitting counters; specifically, colette, which has already had to reorder, and soon Barneys New York. To celebrate the launch, Boudicca's New York graffiti friends went out every night during Paris Fashion Week painting the town blue...

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Paris Fashion Week: Alexander McQueen

Laurent Dombrowicz...

Despite his Buddhist beliefs, Alexander McQueen doesn't appear to be an optimist. At least not judging from his spring collection, which was all about unnatural shapes and disturbing alien-like forms—a kind of cyborg couture. The catwalk looked like Noah's Arc, with its tableau of stuffed taxidermy animals set against a giant replica of a spinning planet earth. The collection started with a woody trompe l’oeil on amazing frocks, then corsets with embroideries and prints of frozen roses. Kaleidoscope is the word for other prints recalling the Rorschach test. Sequined overalls closed the grand opus, followed by McQueen himself in a disconcerting red-eyed rabbit outfit.

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Paris Fashion Week: Hermès

Pia Catton...

Go-go gauchos roamed the Hermès runway, a long and dusty road covered with sand and dotted with cacti. Nary a lonesome doll was without a cowboy hat. Fringe, ponchos, bananas—all the trappings of the Wild West were here. Leather jackets and ponchos came in creamy shades of butter and tan. Scarf gowns were cinched with belts that sparkled with bits of silver.

The show opened with Stephanie Seymour, followed by Naomi Campbell. They closed the show (in reverse order) wearing tiered halter gowns. Say what you will, their steady sex appeal made the other girls look like the walking dead from a gold-rush ghost town.

It's debatable that fringe on a classic Hermès bag is a wise move. But Jean Paul Gaultier has to put all those leather goods into context season after season. And really, the Western theme has been off the radar since the last time Madonna left the gym wearing a cowboy hat. Ralph Lauren does it, but in a more turquoise-studded Americana sort of way. Here, the undercurrent was a certain Latin lustiness. The combination of feminine allure and masculine touches, like cigars, produced a frisson of sexuality, à la Zoro, plus bad guy, plus the captive princess—all in one bright orange box.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Paris Fashion Week: Junya Watanabe

Haidee Findlay-Levin...

When I think about what I miss most about living in Africa, there are a few things that immediately spring to mind: the quality of the light, especially in the early morning and after a summer thunderstorm, the sound of African men and women singing as they go about their work and the constant hum of crickets and chirping of birds in the warmer months. It was to this familiar sound of birds, followed by voices of women singing, that Junya Watanabe opened his show and his homage to the elegance of African dress. To this day, every morning I wrap a piece or two of African fabric around my body and remain like this until I need to leave the house. As I work from home, this form of dress has fondly become known to my friends as my African office skirt. So it was natural that I felt a pang of nostalgia for his deftness at tackling this very personal theme that so many designers get so horribly wrong.

A multitude of colorful Kenyan prints in cotton were twisted, bunched and gathered in his familiar and innovative ways, sometimes even pleated. What I loved most was the intricate shoulder detail or knitted yokes. These prints were also wrapped into beautiful turbans filled with wild grasses that the girls carried gracefully on their heads. He flirted a little with this spirit and also with some of these twisted or bunched silhouettes last summer, in bold block colors of pink and cobalt blue but most memorably in a variety of liberty prints. This season he exchanged those for the bold and colorful African prints, as well as a mix of leafy, leopard or zebra prints, fluorescent stretch jersey, bright ginghams, light men's suiting and faded denim. It seems he wanted to make use of accessible fabrics, those appropriate not only to Africa, but the developing world in general.

He revisited his deconstruction of denim, this time showing some fitted and peplum jackets but mostly as long ruffled skirts made out of men’s jeans and worn belted low on the hip. A zebra thong peeked out above one of them, a surprising and somewhat tacky gesture. Sometimes the denim was broken up with contrasting fabric ruffles in print, gingham or white eyelet—another accessible fabric that he made good use of combined with denim, and later in the show with natural colored linen.

While all the elements seem so familiar and commonplace, it sometimes takes a foreigner (Japanese is as foreign as any) with as deft an eye as his to appreciate the style of the culture and to see and show it from a different perspective. I do wish he had pushed it even further though, left those tiny touches of colonialism behind and let loose on the idea without any restraint or trepidation. All the same, he has already given my old African office skirt whole new meaning.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Paris Fashion Week: Hussein Chalayan

Haidee Findlay-Levin...

I joined Fantastic Man editors Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers to see the Hussein Chalayan show. They weren't there to see menswear, but to lend their support to Jody Barnes, their new fashion director, who was stepping in to style the show in place of a pregnant Jane Howe.

There were the usual high expectations from Hussein, who seldom disappoints, usually presenting one of those shows that makes Fashion Week memorable. I have been there for almost all of them, ever since his student days. And sometimes I have been in the trenches, too, filling in for Jane or offering my loyal friendship and support. Last season, in all honesty, was my first disappointment. It just never jelled for me, so this season my expectations were especially high, in light of his new position at Puma and their financial support.

The runway was the familiar circular format, this time revolving. The narrow window in the back revealed a row of wine glasses. This became the stage for a live percussionist, who added further eeriness to the soundtrack by passing his hands rhythmically over the glasses.

The first look was a gray bodysuit, and from that point on we saw many variations of intricately cut bodysuits that revealed décolleté, legs and even a fair amount of butt. All this seemed very much in keeping with the season. But at a Hussein show?! This was dangerously close to the amount of flesh he showed in his controversial show of naked women under truncated chadors.

Some of the suits were fitted with small fins or wings at the hip, others had surgical corsetry or what looked like the inner workings of a vehicle, while others were embellished with shards of glass. Space travel and aerodynamics is a subject that greatly interests Hussein and although this immediately puts him in the “futuristic" camp, he insists this is not the case. In fact, he is adamant to shake free of the label and insists that it is the now that really interests him. After all, the future quickly becomes the present.

Besides a few touches of fluorescent yellow, the gray palette transitioned into blue photographic print, another theme that has recurred in his work. This time, it was a collage of car graveyards and car wrecks, complete with fragments of license plates. Narrow trousers were given the same treatment, as were softer layers of shroud-like chiffon or a harem jumpsuit that was cut out at the hips to facilitate the protruding fins.

Another interesting addition to the line-up, and for Hussein in general, were sunglasses with little panels or shutters in place of lenses, which seemed both retro and futuristic. In fact they seemed inspired or adapted from a series of glasses prominent in the 60s, originally designed by fellow Brit, Oliver Goldsmith. There was one style with vertical panels shown in a few bold colors and another with pinched holes, a style Goldsmith also introduced with smaller holes, known as the Alice Band, as it doubled as exactly that when popped up over the head. The shoes were really the only downside, steel heels which looked a little buckled and beaten up, interesting aesthetically but treacherous for the girls who had that revolving catwalk to negotiate.

For the finale—and there is always a much-anticipated finale at a Hussein show—four girls stepped onto the revolving platform as wind machines were fired up like twin plane propellers. The print of their dresses morphed into rigid fins in the back, like those of a classic car. As the wind blew, sending their loose hair into a frenzy, the screech of the musical glasses rose before ending in a crash, as the lights dimmed and the window snapped shut.

Backstage, Hussein spoke about the concept of the show. You can be sure he will never talk skirt lengths or trends, but is usually intrigued by some philosopher whose work feels contemporary and relevant today. This time he spoke about the world in a state of flux, pregnant with the anticipation of change brought on by an outside force. This change can be physical, shown here in the shapes and forms of the clothes themselves, or as a natural, social or political event. If all change looked as amazing as it does in the hands of Hussein Chalayan, bring it on, I say!

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Hurricane Hussein

André do Val rides on the gale-force winds of Hussein Chalayan's spring show...

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Paris Fashion Week: Chanel

Pia Catton...

Karl Lagerfeld is known to be a music obsessive. And at the show today, the only thing that topped his guitar case made of white Chanel quilting was a pair Elvis sunglasses with plastic sideburns.

But the two models-as-rockers were only one part of the tableau. To the pop strains of "Our House" by Madness, models emerged from a giant replica of the house of Chanel at 31 rue Cambon. After leaving the façade, they walked down a gray runway painted to resemble a sidewalk. And the collection seemed to reflect the catch-all democracy of the street. There were classic suits (some in blown-out proportions) for the ladies, sweaters and leggings for les jeunes filles and a sublime gray evening gown for the princesses. Even a group of gents emerged, looking ever so Karl-like with their jeans, tuxedo jackets and high collars.

With the natural light flowing in from the glass ceilings of the Grand Palais, the show looked every bit the ideal day: a street of chic where everyone is coming from or going to Chanel.

Lagerfeld has a way of celebrating the tradition of Chanel without devolving into brand narcissism, if such a thing exists. After last year's carousel of giant-sized Chanel objects, this was an homage to—with apologies to Led Zeppelin—"Houses of the Holy."

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Paris Fashion Week: Yves Saint Laurent

Laurent Dombrowicz...

In a way, all the fashion world is Yves Saint Laurent's grieving widow. As such, how could the maison present a spring collections and pay tribute to its recently-deceased founder and master who lives on in the hearts of so many? Stefano Pilati, as creative director, is not about nostalgia or commemoration; he is a designer focused on new ideas, as was Monsieur Saint Laurent. His solution was to take Saint Laurent's signatures and give them a modern touch. Transparency, safari jackets, saroual trousers (Marrakech was Yves' paradise and home away from home), tuxedos and padded jackets were transposed with a sleek and edgy style. More seductive than dominatrix, the YSL heroine is, for spring, the most elegant woman on earth.

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Paris Fashion Week: Sonia Rykiel

Laurent Dombrowicz...

“When I was born,” Sonia Rykiel, now 80, has said, "my hair was so red that my mother tried to wash my head with alcohol, thinking I was bleeding. No way! I was already as I am, as red as blood.” In the late 50s, Sonia worked for her father as a window dresser, where she was discovered by painter Henri Matisse while arranging ties—and she became his muse. Ten years later, at 40, during the socio-political revolution of 1968, she started designing under her own name. Her own muse was the Parisian woman. Forty years later, Sonia Rykiel had become an iconic part of the French culture of style. Multicolored stripes, rhinestones, floppy-chic knits, berets, bohemian styling, fur coats, jerseys worn inside out—these are all hers.

For her 40th anniversary show and after-party, mother and daughter (Nathalie Rykiel is the CEO of the company) presented a lifetime of signatures. In tribute, a few dozen of her friends and colleagues were asked to design special pieces. A Martin Margiela coat made out of red wigs and a Jean Paul Gaultier dress that the model, holding knitting needles, appeared to still be making were absolutely divine. Sonia, we love you.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Paris Fashion Week: Maison Martin Margiela

Haidee Findlay-Levin...

When I read the article in the Herald Tribune the morning of Martin Margiela's 20th anniversary show, that this might be his last and that he was looking for a successor, I considered my own resignation from fashion. Although my departure wouldn't be nearly as dramatic or significant, if someone as inspired and inspiring as Margiela had nothing left to say, I found it hard to imagine carrying on.

After all, how can one individual—although he only refers collectively to his Maison—come up with so many original ideas twice yearly? He is a fish that swims upstream, one of the few designers who always does things his way, whether the rest of the industry comes around to his way of thinking or not, right down to his AIDS charity T-shirt that he consistently sells even if the fight against AIDS itself has slipped out of fashion.

Even the setting of his shows have set precedents. He has shown in the back of a pub, on buses, in dilapidated buildings and on top of tables in a dance hall. Perhaps the most genius of all was the simultaneous staging of a show in several countries, requiring no travel at all as we simultaneously witnessed the same experience. His idea long preceded live internet simulcasts.

I remember my introduction to his clothes, that blank white label and its curious four white stitches. On one of my first fashion trips to Paris, I saw a series of clothes in a store—it might have been L’Eclaireur on Rue Rossier—and I loved each and every piece. But they had no name, no identity; they were completely anonymous. From that point on I not only used Margiela for styling jobs, but also consistently bought and wore that white label, even when friends had grown tired of his anti-aesthetic.

I was drawn not only to the intelligence of the clothes, but to Margiela's humor and sense of irony. I also identified with the dark side of his work, which, while often macabre, can also be witty and silly. Margiela is one of the few designers who works through a concept over two seasons, sometimes even three, until he has completely explored and developed the idea, often revisiting it at an even later date. At his 10th anniversary show he presented exact pieces from the previous decade, but re-dyed them in a single color, showing the longevity of their design and how an old idea can be repackaged as new. Despite all his influence—acknowledged by Rei Kawakubo, Junya Watanabe, Yohji Yamamoto and Marc Jacobs among others—his clothes are so ahead of the game that they remain essentially timeless.

Now looking back at two decades, this latest show began with a single large shadow cast over the runway and then opened with a singe girl in a white lab coat dress, followed by a series of looks that entered from both sides of the runway. A screen-printed scarf dress referred to his screen-printing collection, with its sequin dresses and knit sweaters that had been screened onto silk tank dresses. This time it was like a carbon rubbing on jeans and an oversized jean jacket.

Accessories were as clever as ever, including shoes that were either too large or small, with a heel falling short of the foot or the strap extended well past the ankle but held in place with elastic. A red bag evolved and eventually draped right over the bodysuit like a cape. Newest to his repertoire is fine jewelry, which appeared as an oversized link chain on a model whose head peeked out of an oversized velvet jewelry box as the rest of the body fell out of the spotlight.

As usual the models remained anonymous, in bodysuits and masks. There is nothing misogynistic here, just that the clothes should speak for themselves. Playing with this concept, sometimes he put a dark-skinned girl in a huge blonde afro and a white girl in a huge black afro, both of which completely covered the face. Margiela has always had a love for hair and wigs, creating vests and jackets out of the inside netting of wigs, as well as fur hats in the shape of mullets. This time wigs not only hid the face of the girls, but also cascaded as full capes.

All birthday parties deserve a party dress and cake, and Margiela closed his show with two enormous party dresses, taking his familiar play on oversized volumes to extremes. Then a huge screen-printed garment in the shape of a tiered cake walked down the runway with the legs of two girls peeking out. When the curtain rose, Margiela was, as usual, nowhere to be seen as large silver confetti (oversized, of course) fell from above, models took their finale walk (this time with faces exposed) with the Maison team (in their customary white lab coats) and even a brass band took to the runway.

Happy Birthday, Martin! Here's to many more.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Paris Fashion Week: Jeremy Scott

Sophia DeArborne...

Jeremy Scott’s unique brand of cartoonish prints and over-the-top, satirical showmanship has always made his shows hilarious and poignant. And looking at the towering wigs and mini-dresses of his spring collection, I imagined an otherworldly meeting between Marty McFly’s visit to 2015 in Back to The Future and Madonna’s performance of Vogue at the 1990 MTV awards.

Living up to the title, Let Them East Gas, the models were fitted with extra-large, Marie Antoinette-esque wigs and corresponding make-up. The show opened with 17th-century, Waterford-style scenes in blue and white (think grandma's tea set), followed by girls in Scott’s signature skintight mini-dresses printed with gasoline nozzles, polka dots, flowers or airplanes. He also included his new Ksubi jeans collaboration, black high-waisted skinny jeans with a pink rose print.

The men were no exception. They, too, were fitted with the massive wigs and strutted out in signature Jeremy prints, pink-striped wrestling leotards and matching speedos with bleached out denim vests. They were reminiscent of the male play things Madonna had prance about on that MTV stage eighteen years ago.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Paris Fashion Week: Maison Martin Margiela

Laurent Dombrowicz...

The man without a face but with the famous white-stitched label founded his "Maison" twenty years ago. In two decades, he and his label changed fashion in such a drastic and deep way that most young designers today describe themselves as his children. And what a birthday it was for the iconic Maison Martin Margiela on Monday; The spring show was a celebration of extreme creativity without pretension. Who else is able to present skin-tone padded overalls, a plastic-bag one-piece or wigs as a fur coat? We only hope MMM—with sunglasses and jewelry already on the market, and soon perfume—resists the need for the global domination required of its parent company, Diesel. Or, at least, it should get there in his own way. Meanwhile, we hope the Belgian will continue directing the surreal image of his namesake label. That way, trompe l’oeil, among many other triumphs, will continue to be the ticket to exciting trips to nowhere. And we love this place...

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Paris Fashion Week: Dior

Pia Catton flirts back...

Oh, those swishy little skirts at Dior! John Galliano's diaphanous and pleated silk skirts—let's be accurate and call them minis—peaked out underneath studded, belted and fitted jackets, plus a few dramatic bodices. Too bad the Met's Superheroes exhibit closed already as this collection is prime material for the power-suited Wonder Woman in all of us—at least from the waist up. Below the belt, there was more flirty thigh-skimming on Dior's runway than a college cheerleading squad. Not that long skirts can't flirt: several sheer flowing skirts offered a view to the boy-cut underoos underneath.

Galliano's tribal inspiration included the use of bright yellow, orange and blue. (And it puts Carla Bruni’s all-plum ensembles into perspective. This is a rich Dior color spectrum.) But the tribalism raises a question: how much will a Park Avenue hostess want her Dior cocktail dresses bedazzled with the same seashells from her daughter's brush with dreadlocks at spring break? Whatever, no quibbling with genius, especially when it leads to halter tops embroidered so finely that they shine like mesh. Same goes for entire coats made of python. Same goes for the sheer gown embroidered with horizontal black stripes that contrasted against the flesh to imply an animalism.

By my count, there were two pairs of pants in 45 looks, and they were painted-on black jersey. Which makes a certain amount of sense in the Galliano-for-Dior worldview. Legs are there to be seen. Makes you wonder how long the baggy, boyfriend jean trend will last. After all, ZZ Top never wrote a song about ankles.

—Pia Catton

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Paris Fashion Week: Nina Ricci

Haidee Findlay-Levin...

The setting of a Nina Ricci show always manages to transcend the usually mundane tent experience. The first Nina Ricci show with Olivier Theyskens at the helm was held on a magnificent winter day with a translucent pale-blue sky and leafless trees that were in such sharp relief that they looked like cutouts. For that particular show, he opened up the tent and made full use of nature's backdrop. With the addition of a fog machine, the girls looked like they had walked right out of a James Tyrrell installation. In this way, he established the delicate sensitivity of the brand.

For spring, he sectioned the venue into three long passages lined with the backs of canvas paintings to achieve an intimate atmosphere. This allowed for a close examination of the work, in this case the delicacy and beauty of his dresses. This was not a collection to be viewed on a pedestal, but on ground level and on reed-like, wafer-thin girls, each draped in an exquisite version of a single concept: a floor-length Victorian-inspired dress complete with a long train, while the front ended high above the knees. In the wrong hands, this would screamed showgirl, but not here.

The colors were painterly, shades of flesh, dusty rose, the palest of china blue and lavender organza. Each dress was like a subtly different collage, treated with fine details, thin cutaways, the lightest ruffles, the most subtle of floral prints and washes of color. There was a light-as-air hand-crocheted cardigan thrown over one dress, a mutton-sleeved white kid-leather jacket worn over another. A single pair of black trousers with a delicate leather jodhpur ruffle at the sides stood out, shown with an unlined leather riding jacket. In all, the collection was very reminiscent of Theyskens' earliest work, pre-Nina Ricci and pre-Rochas. It was as if he had decided to no longer follow the desires of a house, but those of his very own.

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Paris Fashion Week: Gareth Pugh & Bruno Pieters

There are always positives and negatives to Paris Fashion Week. This season, they've either come into balance or the very idea has become the trend. Probably the most rigorous of examples, Gareth Pugh's debut Paris show at Palais de Tokyo set the tone. After nine seasons in London, Pugh's move to Paris is the result of winning the prestigious and highly lucrative Andam award. From the glossy black and white fold-up poster invite to the Dan Flavin-like vertical lighting rods, we were prepared for extremes in black and white. And we got it. Bodies were completely covered in the two colors, from the top of the neck down to the two-toned booted wedges. Extreme Elizabethan ruffled collars were paired with skirt hems with the same scroll-like effect. Arms and legs were perfectly articulated and sculpted, while micro dresses were covered in patent-leather scales to futuristic-reptilian effect. Or like costumes for some sci-fi samurai movie; in fact Pugh's designs having already found their way into the Superheroes show at the Met. For me, the highlights were an amazing series of dresses with perfectly enhanced fish-scale protrusions down the sides of the silhouette. Light relief came in a few softer renditions in black and white chiffon and silk, both in hooded robe-like coats and collapsing curtain-ruffle dresses. The show played out like a chess set, except in this case the queens, pawns, knights, castles and even the board were all fused together.

Belgian designer Bruno Pieters, last year's Andam award winner, didn’t have chess in mind when he designed his own graphic black and white collection. Instead he dedicated his show to Pierre Cardin. Pieters traded Pugh's white lights for a black-out, which made navigating our way to our seats pretty treacherous if you didn't have one of those key-ring lights that a Japanese buyer had on hand. A very sporadic spotlight did more to obscure than enhance the impeccable tailoring and construction of these doll-sized clothes worn by doll-size girls. Pieters showed both black and white micro-mini suits of short skirts and short-sleeved square-shouldered, cropped jackets—mostly in patent raffia—complete with sleeveless turtlenecks. The square shoulder felt more reminiscent of Margiela than Cardin; on the other hand, they wouldn't have looked out of place on a 60’s Braniff stewardess. Other silhouettes in black and white silk taffeta may have been more of a nod to the old master, but their lightness proved that they were in the hands of a young pro. Our favorite suite was a little black raffia one worn by my friend Nathalie Joos, the show's casting director, who greeted us at the gate, although she could've easily joined her own line-up. She later joined me for the Nina Ricci show, where the paparazzi and bloggerazzi were already well-entrenched.

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Paris Fashion Week: the Invites

Haidee Findlay-Levin gets lost in the mail...

Arriving in Paris to full sunshine and warmth—this is true pleasure and inspires brief thoughts of learning French and moving to the French capital. But that usually dissipates toward the end of the trip, when the weather has turned and I have more than enough taxi nightmare stories.

There's a ritual I do when I come to Paris for Fashion Week. I scoop up the invites that have arrived at my hotel, assess the size of the pile and start to sort and sift threw it, separating into days. No matter how huge the heap or enthusiasm for getting invites to certain shows, it's always the missing ones that sound alarm bells, regardless of the many emails exchanged with the PR. No, I am neither going to dissect the performance of PR companies nor their ability to get an invite to me in time for the show. I will, however, focus on the positive and say I love to see my name written in beautiful calligraphy. That is, after the initial shock of seeing the word “Madame” preceding it—“Mademoiselle” would be so much kinder. It's the invites themselves that deserve attention. Not just because they give you a secret view of the designer's inspiration, but also as an art in itself.

There are large poster invites, which, although dramatic, are only useful for wallpapering bedrooms. To those of us with a certain invite-to-handbag ratio, these bold statements are a damn nuisance. I have to hand it to Anne Demeulemeester for taking this into consideration this season. Her invite arrived in the smallest of envelopes—already promising—and inside was the tiniest of black notebooks, thumbnail-size, with all the show's information reduced into those tiny pages. This is something I might even preserve for posterity. Save the trees!

There is always much anticipation of Martin Margiela's invite, arriving inevitably in a white envelope of some unusual shape, weight and size. Sometimes it comes as a long white card with a bold section letter stamped on it in bleeding red ink, but never some insulting seat allocation, causing either an immediate sense of recognition or humiliation. In the past, I have received white-painted wishbones and apples from Margiela, which have taken up residence in my whitewashed home. This time, on his 20th anniversary, the invite was a silver backstage pass complete with the numerological Margiela label. One word: cool.

On the other end of the spectrum was Christian Lacroix's very painterly invite. Beautifully printed on a textured petal-colored card, it consisted of a mélange of fluorescent paint blobs and smears overlaid with graphic black hearts and a fish-scale print. I'm getting a strong Japanese feeling in the colors, poppy design and especially the elaborate envelope with peek-a-boo cutouts. Mon cher M. Lacroix, you have piqued my interest already!

Dries Van Noten sent a very slick clear sheet of plexiglass. Should we suspect transparency in his collection or was he determined to give nothing away? Plexiglass invites, however, even when beautifully printed with white script, do add considerable weight to one's bag, as well as considerable guilt about trashing it after the show.

I love seeing the bold Givenchy name printed on the back of their envelope—such perfect, timeless design. It's also a show I have not missed since Riccardo Tisci took the reins. This season the invite design was a collage drawing that seemed to suggest a rodeo, complete with Givenchy spelled out in a cowboy's lasso.

I was eagerly awaiting Sonia Rykiel's 40th anniversary invite, a show followed by a massive party to celebrate this amazing accomplishment. I was surprised to see that on the front of the large invite was a thank you to an endless list of designers, from Alber Albaz to Ralph Lauren. What on earth was she thanking them all for? After all, every designer who's ever contemplated a striped knit should be thanking Sonia! Were they her guests of honor, her hosts for the night? Watch this space.

The only unfortunate thing with this invite—and inevitably with invites from John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and usually Martin Margiela—is an extra little card. No, it's not a special press discount card; it's a map. This usually means the show is on the outskirts of Paris, at the end of the metro line or beyond. This seldom flusters on-staff editors who just slip the little card into the gloved hand of their drivers as they slide into the leather car seat. But to freelancers, it is the ultimate test of dedication to a designer. We anticipate the likelihood of finding neither a taxi to take us there nor one to rescue us from the desolate area.

And finally, there is that sign of contemporary life, the e-vite, sometimes presaged by a save-the-date email, which gives you false hope that you will soon be proudly clutching the real thing alongside your new clutch bag, as the Sartorialist or a flood of bloggers snap your picture. But usually the “real” invite is only an e-vite, an even less seductive virtual piece of information that not only finds its way into your junk folder, but also makes you feel guilty for printing it out as the small print at the bottom asks you to Please Protect the Trees. Abiding by this desire to protect the environment could mean confronting the blank stare of a bouncer, refusing to look at the flashing e-vite on your Blackberry.

There was a time when designers sent gifts and flowers along with their invites, thanking you in advance for attending (perhaps those aforementioned editors are still receiving these grand gestures at The Ritz). There were also those embarrassing blow-up toys and gimmicky invites that scattered glitter or cookie crumbs onto your new outfit when you opened them. Thus, the best invite is a chic and well-designed little card that grants you painless entry. That said, any invite from Balenciaga, real or virtual, I take without criticism or complaint.

—Haidee Findlay-Levin

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stairway to Bless

Paris Fashion Week: Gareth Pugh

This was the first show in Paris for London's boy wonder, Gareth Pugh. And living up to Hard and Shiny, the name of his company with Michele Lamy, Pugh sent out an all black-and-white blend (black in back, white in front) of space-age and Victoriana—think Star Wars storm troopers with ruffs—worn with stockings resembling those Lagerfeld used in his Chanel collection for fall. What the 27-year-old presented in the Palais de Tokyo on Saturday was surely Pugh's most commercial and classic collection to date. He even used chiffon, in what one could interpret as an homage to the grandeur of the world capital of fashion. The runway itself was staged in the lucent second story of the Palais de Tokyo, lit up by a cloudless day shining through ceiling windows and the vertical lights that Pugh used as his only decorative element. The soundtrack was an electro version of 1988's Goodbye Horses—suitably minimal and aggressive. Lamy's squeeze, Rick Owens, was in attendance, as well as Purple's Olivier Zahm, who cheerfully videotaped the show on his mobile phone.

Text by Johannes Thumfart, photos by Rachel de Joode...

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

The third and last part of Haidee Findlay-Levin's tips for fall...

It wasn't just the army of beautiful lips and bowl cuts that made our hearts leap at Yves Saint Laurent; it was the sharp, powerful, 80s-reminiscent tailoring, too. But here's what separates this season’s YSL and Louis Vuitton from Claude Montana and Gianfranco Ferré: the circular cutting and the curves in the jackets and skirts. In fact, some of the tulip and pod shapes we have seen at Vuitton and elsewhere this season are more Sebilla and Romeo Gigli—also from the 80s. I also noticed a variety of peplum jackets for fall. If the jacket was fitted, for the most part it had a sharp shoulder and a nipped or peplum waist, not only at Vuitton, but also at Yohji Yamamoto (left), where the peplum jutted out over long full skirts complete with a donut-rolled waist for an even fuller hip effect.

The shoulder was the focus last season. Now it's the sleeve, such as those at Costume National that wrapped around the shoulder blade and formed a pod in the back, or those at Kenzo that draped into a cocoon shape or an origami-like envelope. We also saw sleeves originating from the neckline, as well as sleeves that separate at the back of the jacket, falling into a detached cape back, as at Véronique Branquinho and Junya Watanabe. At Lanvin, attention was paid to a single mutton sleeve—a remnant of the 80s!

Some designers chose to embellish areas of essentially monochromatic fabrics with jet beading, feathers, ribbon, fine pleating, ruffles and pasmanterie. But there was nothing superfluous at Prada (left), where the most startling form of decoration was the heavy tablecloth lace constructed into minimal and austere silhouettes, and made further monastic by the under-layering of high-collared shirts.

The strength in Dries Van Noten this season came not only from the mix of dramatic prints, but that these potentially romantic dresses were offset by a simple high collar. Givenchy showed extremely high-collared pleated blouses, made less romantic by their coupling with leather trousers and military jackets. I loved it best at Yves Saint Laurent, where paper-thin turtlenecks were shown under tunic dresses, but extended well beyond into fingerless gloves. One known to take proportion to its ultimate extreme, Martin Margiela raised the collar so high above the shoulders as to become a cowl that almost completely obscured girls' faces.

Indulge in vast and unapologetic explosions of costume jewelry for fall. What we saw were statement pieces that were more sculptural than sweet or sentimental. Balenciaga contrasted latex and severe cuts with diamanté-encrusted collars, while the collars and cuffs at Yves Saint Laurent (left) consisted of Pace Rabanne-like chain mail with enormous crystal studs. At Louis Vuitton, the soft pastel palette was punctuated with heavy metal chokers and huge brooches. Lanvin ran with the trend and showed enormous Deco-geometric, mirror-glass pendants and wrist cuffs. This new form of armor added a needed toughness to clean silhouettes. The combination of heavy jewelry with extreme shoes could mean your chiropractor will be your new best friend.

There weren’t a lot of overtly sporty references this season, so it's safe to say you can burn your velour Juicy Couture tracksuits—and please do, if you haven't already. But there was a prevalence of scuba references. Miu Miu shook off its naughty baby-doll reputation and showed a series of dark satin scuba suits complete with Esther Williams-like swim caps. Or sometimes the scuba suit morphed into a tunic dress with bright-colored cycling shorts and sports tops peeking through laser-cut, abstract versions of lace. The addition of sequins made for a wet look that worked perfectly with the scuba references Balenciaga introduced so magnificently last season. Even Rick Owens discarded his more familiar draping and embraced open zippers that circled the legs like a scuba suit that was being slowly peeled off. Upcoming Olympics aside, the news that Hussein Chalayan is the newly appointed creative director at Puma may signal a sportier trend for him next season, as well as all those he influences.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Part two of stylist Haidee Findlay-Levin's tips for fall...

Okay, I know I said earlier that color is back for fall. And it is, but so is black. Stop your groaning—the black dress never looked better. It was skillfully laser-cut at Balenciaga (left), skimmed the body at Sophia Kokosalaki and draped to the floor at Junya Watanabe. It was in divine Spanish lace at Givenchy and heavy tablecloth lace at Prada. The opening dress at Alexander McQueen, made from layers and layers of soft tulle, was reminiscent of a black crow, though it was hardly the only exquisitely gothic dress in the collection. The mohair-lace dress stretched over layers of tulle, like one of Degas’ ballerinas in silhouette, was especially to-die-for. But perhaps the most exquisite black dresses walked Lanvin's runway; my two favorites were a wet-look wrap dress and a one-shouldered silk satin shift with a heavy fur cuff on its one side.

Brace yourself for black eyes this fall. And I'm not talking gobs of Amy Winehouse eyeliner, no matter how well she sang at the Fendi store launch party during Paris Fashion Week. I'm talking kohl eyes, the classic kind found at Givenchy, as well as the perfect cat eyes at Balenciaga. (When replicating, please don’t get carried away like one recent fashion show attendee who not only completely painted his face white—yes, he's male—but dons a Shirley Temple wig.) Blackened eyes do require a nude or beige mouth, like the kind found at Rick Owens, but if you have to have a layer on your lips, go all the way with ink-black glossy lips like those at Yves Saint Laurent.

If goth isn’t your thing, choose from the endless permutations of gray seen on the runways: slate, charcoal, heather, lilac and mauve. Junya Watanabe (left) committed fully to a collection of no-color to illustrate his deft cutting and draping, taking it so far as to completely wrap the girls' heads and faces in sheer gray fabric with mini-boxes piled high on their heads, to sculptural effect.

With the severity of cut this season, and the attention paid to minimalism and the back, the only hair to wear is a ponytail. Not the high, Blonde Ambition version, but a simple ponytail worn on the side and secured at the nape of the neck. Miu Miu even showed the ponytail peeking out of neoprene swim caps. The only other acceptable version would be a small knot or chignon, also worn low and tight. So no more Barbie hair or updos. And please no more big Oscar hair—ever!

This has been one of the most creative seasons for pants in ages, with designers really experimenting with fullness. The best baggy pants came from Louis Vuitton, especially when slightly drop-waisted and pleated. Those in shiny black leather with a slightly pegged leg were absolutely stunning, reminiscent of that Grace Jones/Thierry Mugler/Claude Montana era. My other favorites were over at Yves Saint Laurent, shown slightly cropped and higher in the waist. Haider Ackermann pushed his baggy pants high above the knee, like puffy shorts worn over leather leggings. There were Houri trousers in velvet devoré, as well as printed chiffon versions, at John Galliano, and narrow gray flannel pant-skirts at Junya Watanabe, which ended in an extremely low crotch. Meanwhile, at both Givenchy and Alexander McQueen, pants were skinny, black and high-wasted and mostly in leather or brocade. Maison Martin Margiela went super-sexy and offered leather pants complete with zippers snaking up the back of the leg like seamed stockings. And how can we ignore his other offering, the asymmetric one-legged bodysuit in a multitude of prints?

I know it seems passé to talk skirt lengths in this day and age, but here it is: skirt lengths will definitely drop. I'm not talking red-carpet gowns here, but floor-grazing, skinny column dresses at Sophia Kokosalaki, which save their intricate detail for the collar. There was also the black dress that opened her show, seemingly suspended by a single diagonal strap and falling well below the knee. Dries Van Noten, too, showed high-necked column dresses that ended mid-calf, just short of ankle socks and heavy strappy sandals. At Louis Vuitton there were some knee-length bell skirts, but it was all about ballerina-length dirndls that stood away from the hips, while at Lanvin (left) the length was kept just above the knee with sexy and tight hobble skirts made up of bands of horizontal ribbon.

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Backstage pics of never-shy Iekeliene Stange...

At Bruno Pieters, John Galliano...

At Véronique Branquinho, Sonia Rykiel...

Photos by Sonny Vandevelde

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Fall tips from stylist Haidee Findlay-Levin (part one of three)...

Everywhere I looked at the fall collections I saw fur, leather, skins and hides—from black fur stoles and cuffs at Lanvin to a tunic covered in camouflage tails at Louis Vuitton and a massive fur cardigan coat from Ann Demeulemeester. The prefurred color is blue from Dries Van Noten (left) or Anne Valérie Hash, but if blue isn't your thing, look no further than Marni for a dusty-pink cropped chubby. Exotic furs not for you? You can still discover your inner beast with Mongolian sheepskin sleeves from Toga or a lavender Mongolian sheepskin jacket from Ann Demeulemeester, as well as crocodile-skin dresses at Zucca and leather-front dresses and jackets at Yohji Yamamoto with the hide's raw edges still intact. Feathers, too, stalked the runways, starting with an asymmetric collar trimmed with the lightest of ostrich plumes at Haider Ackermann and ending with a slightly tougher black ostrich-feather skirt from Christian Lacroix. Meanwhile, pony skin was a favorite at Anne Valérie Hash, superbly cut into body-skimming turtlenecks and a jumpsuit variation.

It's all about pastels for fall. My sights are set on mint green and powder blue cashmere, molten wool and duchess satin at Louis Vuitton. Choose from an exquisite bell-shaped blue skirt, a magnificently tailored jacket with perfectly rounded edges, a liquid silk blouse or a full-on, floor-length, positively regal evening gown, if you have the occasion for it. Marc Jacobs' own line, too, was full of the softest pastels. Vanessa Bruno, meanwhile, showed a variety of pastels in full Mongolian sheepskin hats combed out and looking like a well-conditioned punk hairdo. But best from her were the palest of antique pink and sage green marabou chubbies, the color and lightness of a butterfly's wings.

Bundle up in hand-knit ruffled capelets and shrugs from Tao Comme des Garçons (left) in vivid shades of pink and violet, while contrasting them with blue mohair bloomers. Or keep it neutral in natural or black and wear one of her cake-layered cable dresses. If volumes of ruffles and cables aren't for you, indulge your punk side with the designer's multicolored mohair knit/silk-backed tunic tops or dresses. That is, if you haven't already indulged in Rodarte's wonderful colored mohair knit tops and bell skirts. Don’t stop until you have their mohair open-knit stockings, the best hosiery moment of the season.

Laddered mohair stockings wouldn't be complete without those white or rose gold studded and spiked high heels that Christian Louboutin designed for Rodarte. They can do damage! But the next wonder of the world might just be the black leather heelless thigh-highs from Antonio Berardi, a sexy homage to artist Alan Jones, whose glass tabletops rested on the back of a girl on all fours—perhaps a safer way to wear them! I was a little surprised that Louis Vuitton showed such dangerously high wedges after last season’s more reasonable winklepicker inspiration. But on closer examination, I realized there was a sliver of light passing through some of them and that there were, in fact, skinny skyscraper in the heels. Fantastic! I also loved the strength and sculptural quality in the Brancusi-looking white heels at Miu Miu. Especially when worn in sharp contrast to the minimal clothes of the collection, they could really be one of the key accessories of fall.

If you're more about bags than shoes, make it a clutch. I'm not just talking evening bag clutches, but huge leather envelopes from Dries Van Noten worn throughout the day. Although not as large as the house's oversized collars, Maison Martin Margiela also showed a massive clutches (left), as did Véronique Leroy in both her own collection and Leonard. These clutches, of course, were fantastic printed versions.

The intricately printed latex dresses at Balenciaga are another way to satisfy your fetishistic side—and without dressing, predictably, in all black. Dries Van Noten's continuation of vivid and bold floral prints was big hit, particularly the pod-sleeved column dresses, although his abstract print trouser suits were also spectacular. If you prefer tiny rather than bold prints, you can't ignore his floor-length Fortuny-pleated dresses or the high-necked cap-sleeved dress completely covered in tiny printed ruffles.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Johannes Thumfart reporting...

Next to the rue Saint-Honoré and its somewhat outworn charm, c.neeon presented hyper-geometric camouflage prints in autumnal colors of gray, orange and green. Although the Berlin design duo has designed for global brands Topshop and Mango, they also know how to think locally, creating all their textiles in the German province of Thuringia, while the kaleidoscopic carpets in the presentation were made in conjunction with Vorwerk, a beloved interior design company that can be be found in nearly every German living room. The overall vibe: a yoga instructor who's tripped out on acid and comes down with natural-smoked black tea—throbbing and soothing at the same time.

photos by Rachel de Joode

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Backstage beauty at Bernhard Willhelm...

Photos by Sonny Vandevelde

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Johannes Thumfart on Chanel...

For Chanel this season, Karl Lagerfeld chose to surprise by not surprising—and that's good. In the center of the stadium-like Grand Palais stood a gigantic carousel on which, instead of horses, the many symbols of Chanel circled: flacons, shoes, bijoux, bows, hats, lipstick, interlocking Cs and so on. With the merry-go-round as museum, Chanel celebrated its own myth in grand style, as if these items weren't already larger than life. The clothes, too, were decisively classic, with an air of nostalgia. Everything we've come to know, love and covet from the house were on parade, in shades of black, white, dusty pink and navy. And, for the kiddies who want to take a spin in Chanel, nerdy new-rave glasses and transparent raincoats with abstract patterns.

photos by Rachel de Joode

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Johannes Thumfart reports from Paris...

Bernhard Willhelm's fall collection was all about vegetables on sticks, fairy-tale skirts, crazy plaids, hyper-hippie bandanas and other surreal surprises—after all, he did work with Björk on her tour outfits last year. And instead of a catwalk, which he never uses, Willhelm created a stage-like setting with stairs on wheels, bags of ready-to-use clay and potted trees around which models performed a bizarre fertility ritual. It's no secret that Willhelm, with his many influences, is one of the few designers who informs tomorrow's fashion today, so this fall we look forward to wearing crime-scene hoodies and batik shirts over folkloric patterns—even if we're going to mix it with his police uniforms from the year before. Willhelm's genius will hold it all together.

photos by Rachel de Joode

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

André do Val takes in the sights and sounds of Paris...

With the Eiffel Tower sparkling outside, the blue glow of Hussein Chalayan's runway had people fumbling for their seats at the Musée de l’Homme on the Place de Trocadero. The obscure ambience—designed by lighting guru Philippe Cerceau, with set direction by Alexandre de Betak—was to be the designer's fashion interpretation of the Big Bang, articulated by a crystal-encrusted dress of expanding lights orbiting the body.

"What should I say if they ask us if we are sisters? Should I just pretend I don't speak English and keep walking?" asked Carol Pantoliano (below right) of her model friend Daiane Conterato—both Brazilian—on the way out of Dries Van Noten's show. “Just smile. People ask me that every day. I think I'll just say yes," answered Daiane.

—André do Val

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Backstage beauty at Vivienne Westwood...

Photos by Sonny Vandevelde

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Backstage beauty at Dior...

Photos by Sonny Vandevelde

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