updated 24 Dec 2010, 14:28
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Fri, Dec 24, 2010
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Kenzo's birthday show whisks Paris back in time
by Emma Charlton

PARIS - Kenzo spirited Paris back in time, mining four decades of in-house design to create a sumptuous line of fairy-tale folkloric costumes to ring in its own 40th birthday.

Staged Tuesday in a historic indoor circus in the French capital, all plush red seats and red-and-gold curtains, the Fashion Week show by designer Antonio Marras had 40 richly-attired models take place on the central ring.

Like living dolls, Kimono-like ethnic costumes wrapped the wearers from head to toe - with elaborate headdresses towering a foot high, leaving only the face visible, powdered white with coral lips.

From multicoloured striped knits dresses with a towering pom-pom head-dress, to a layering of deep fuchsia pink silks, and on to greens, reds, browns and finally, ceremonial whites, the outfits worked around the colour spectrum.

But on closer inspection, they revealed their true DNA: pieces lifted from Kenzo's archives spanning four decades, subverted, layered and reassembled. "I looked at the lines from the 90s, the 90s," Marras told reporters after the show. "They were beautiful but it didn't feel right to just show them as they were."

So the Sardinian designer, artistic director of the house since 2003 when its Japanese founder Kenzo Takada retired, decided to turn the clothes into something new.

"A jacket becomes a hat, a dress becomes a belt," Marras said. "It's like a journey around the world," he said. "It is also a tribute to all the designers from Kenzo's past."

The Kenzo retrospective followed the label's ready-to-wear show for spring/summer 2011 - a line of long, loose dresses in pale, exquisite prints, worn with futuristic Oriental-style platforms in bright green or pink.

Earlier, at Alexander McQueen, dresses adorned with ears of wheat and pheasant feathers defined the first line since the designer's suicide in February, unveiled by his successor and ex-number two Sarah Burton.

Carried in on planks of light wood, wild grasses seeming to grow between them, the first piece was a riding coat of layered raw ivory silk, without seams but with threads dangling loose, over a pair of trousers.

Dresses had leather leaves embroidered onto a skin-coloured base, like climber plants twining up the body to encircle the neck, while a short-sleeved orange dress was entirely made from butterflies.

Several short dresses, with exaggerated, rounded hips, conjured the sprit of the late McQueen, whose mark was also felt in the baroque ambiance and generous the use of gold.

For Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld called up the spirit of Versailles in a glamorous procession of feathers, faux-tweed, rips and lace.

Under the vast glass domes of Paris' Grand Palais exhibition hall, models walked out on white gravel between fountains and black rock "hedges", a wintry French garden effect to showcase Chanel's ready-to-wear look for next summer.

Actress Keira Knightley and singers Lily Allen and Courtney Love were among the famous faces who graced the front rows as the hall filled with a symphonic orchestra's renditions of pop anthems from Bjork to Oasis.

"It's Versailles. It's - quote - 'dead French'," the designer quipped after the show.

Models wore silver or gold platform ankle boots or platform sandals that morphed into black leather thigh boots, their hair pulled back into slick pony tails or cut short and boyish.

Chanel classics were there - but sexed-up and revisited - like faux-tweed skirt suits in pastel yellow and pink, or jackets twinned with risque mini-shorts in black, ivory or lime green.

Ostrich feathers puffed out a jacket, spiced up the hem of a tweed-effect dress, or clothed a model head to toe, in a coral sleeveless dress that swept caressingly around the legs.

Dayside fabrics were given a roughing-up, with ripped holes piercing black and white jackets, while a baby-pink satin dress had rectangular panels of slashed strips like shredded paper.

"Fashion changes, fabrics change - that's what is fascinating. But there has to be a certain mystery in novelty," Lagerfeld told reporters of the show's trompe l'oeil tweed, rips and other quirks.

At Valentino, there was not a pair of pants in sight and a diaphanous blouse was the starting point for an ultra-feminine summer look that layered organza, tulle and chiffon in subtle, tone-on-tone plays on transparency.

Cut sleek and close to the body, light-as-air knee-length dresses layered sheer organza, flecked with delicate polka dots in black and white, over caramel or dusty pink petticoats to create a sensual nude effect.

Collars were modestly high, fastened by small ribbon bows, flounced, or rounded with fine black hemming, while sleeves were either short, with flounces, or long and draped over the wrists.

Hair was loosely plaited, there were gentle ruches at the breast, wrists and shoulders, while elegant closed-toe heels in nude pink or sand completed the look imagined by designer duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli.

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