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Posted by SIM on March 1, 2007

Ideas are focus of Paris fashion shows
By Joelle Diderich
March 1, 2007

PARIS — The Paris fashion shows on Tuesday ran the gamut from primitive to refined, with a cave girl theme at Vivienne Westwood and a celebration of 1940s elegance at Christian Dior. But don’t expect to find the outfits in a clothing store near you.

Women have taken to running up advance wish lists on the popular Web site Style.com, which features full photo coverage of every major collection, but find that many of the items showcased on the catwalk never make it to the shop floor.

The reality is that by the time the shows take place, buyers for department stores have filled up to 70 percent of their order books for next season.

Hal Rubenstein, fashion director of In Style magazine, said the advent of the Internet had created confusion about the primary function of catwalk presentations.

“This was never designed to be the market place,” he told The Associated Press. “The runway was always about ideas, it’s always about a conception of how somebody is thinking for the season.”

Nowhere has this been more true than at Dior, famed for featuring outfits that verge on the unwearable. Criticism of its over-the-top approach recently prompted the label to tone down the theatricals, but without losing any of its luster.

Dior’s blockbuster show celebrated two milestones _ the house’s 60th anniversary and British designer John Galliano’s 10th year at the helm of the brand.

Models swept down a grand double staircase in ladylike ensembles including cinched coats with oversized fur collars and sleeves, multilayered cocktail dresses in shimmering silk gazar and sinuous evening gowns fit for a Hollywood siren.

Even if the show is not designed as a catalog, Dior is keenly aware of the importance of the Internet. It launched its new jewelry collection last month in the virtual world “Second Life,” creating avatars for 200 editors that allowed them to view the gems.

British designer Vivienne Westwood is a self-avowed technophobe _ perhaps that is why her collection of nip-waisted dresses with pointy breasts was inspired by cartoon character Wilma Flintstone.

Models in bluntly chopped wigs paraded in perforated sheepskin jackets and sack dresses printed with caveman art. These were shown alongside more sophisticated pieces to convey a sense of civilization-come-unstitched.

Standouts included a russet taffeta peak-shouldered jacket with a mini cape back that may well end up on the racks of avant-garde Paris boutique Maria Luisa.

Its owner, Maria Luisa Poumaillou, is a rarity among independent retailers, many of whom are reluctant to stock brands like Westwood because they buy few advertising pages in magazines and consequently receive little press coverage.

“Maybe they are going to learn gradually to measure the impact of Style.com, which is in the process of replacing all the missing editorial pages, and it will give a bit of courage and energy back to all these retail outlets that are crushed by branding,” she said.

In the meantime, the shows remain all about spectacle, as evidenced by a trio of guests who caused a small sensation by coming dressed as cave dwellers. Hollywood has also grasped the entertainment potential of the fashion world.

Westwood said she had been contacted by Brian Grazer, the producer of “The Da Vinci Code” and “A Beautiful Mind,” to make a movie based on her life that will stretch from London’s punk heyday in the 1970s to the present day.

“I want it to be a true film and so do they. It’s not just a sort of fashion story, it’s really going to be my story,” the 65-year-old designer told the AP.

Westwood has no preference for the actress that will play her part. “I don’t know, because I never go to the cinema and I have never really seen many people act,” she said with a shrug.

Gaultier referenced the punk era’s tartan fabrics and mohair sweaters in his Scottish-flavored autumn-winter collection, sending out models in dashing feather crests inspired by mohawk hairstyles.

A tapestry print peplum jacket with a black fur tail was evidence that the former enfant terrible of French fashion now caters to the establishment that punks hoped to destroy.

Retailers cheered a see-through crocheted black dress and a long gray tartan coat lined with strips of silver fox fur.

However, the biggest hit was Canadian supermodel Coco Rocha, who opened and closed the show with a display of the Irish dancing skills that got her discovered at the age of 14.

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