An American in Paris

An American in Paris
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For the last decade, I think I have celebrated every 4th of July in the City of Lights. Yesterday was no exception. Although Giambattista Valli made his couture debut on Independence Day, I was not granted an invitation to the show. I heard it was full of over the top gowns and a long front row of socials. I don't know if any of these PYT's plan to buy anything, and certainly the ladies I know who buy Haute Couture were not in attendance since they were with me at some other events around town. Which makes me wonder: if you are doing a show, isn't it wise to invite those who actually are owners and not loaners? PYTs may garner press, but ultimately if a designer isn't selling the collection, I find the entire circus to then be a vanity act.

As for those selling their wares, Bruno Frusoni hosted a chic cocktail party Monday night to reveal his latest "demi" couture collection for the ultimate cobbler, Roger Vivier. The prices are steep: I have seen evening shoes in the $20,000 range and I am told they really do sell. With a strictly limited production for each model and exclusives granted to a particular client's territory (for $20,000 one should be assured that they are the only client in North America who owns a certain poie de soie pump with feather protrusion), Vivier is doing brisk business in Asia and Russia with these limited editions. And how prohibitive is a $20,000 shoe when one considers a $50,000 croco Birkin is de rigeur when lunching at L' Avenue?

If couture is fashion as art, certainly Hussein Chalayan's first retrospective, which had a private preview last night at the Musee de la Mode et Decoratifs, proves this point. The designer as architect is Chalayan's milieu (he has made dresses that turn into tables) and he is an exceptional conceptual artist who happens to use clothing as his canvas. Each vignette resembled almost a performance art experience. I think a lot of fashion is performance art from the presentation on the runway to the eccentric shopper who pushes the limits when donning a head-turning creation. Only the brave can wear a table as a skirt.

I ended the 4th at the George V with a group of Americans who buy couture. Over burgers and fries, we reviewed the day's events and possible acquisitions. After just enough sleep, the 5th began with Giorgio Amani Prive. I haven't always loved Prive. I often find it too stiff and ultimately architectural, but not in an intellectual manner as achieved by Chalayan. However, last summer I loved his show and was impressed that Armani actually showed day clothes on the runway. Many of my friends buy Prive, so if his front row isn't filled with the hippest crowd, he is moving the merchandise and it certainly isn't chopped liver to have the trifecta of Cate Blanchett, Katie Holmes, and Daphne Guinness take their places for showtime. With my second row seat behind a suited three-year-old boy with a blow out and a Cartier watch, the show notes proclaimed an "Homage au Japon." When Armani loves a theme he really sticks to it and this was no exception as variations of Kimono fabrics were applied to half a jacket, an obi, or a pair of pants. The models wore Geisha-inspired hair with chopsticks sticking out from their crowns. I found it odd that not a single model of Asian descent was cast considering the theme of the collection. Look after look in black velvet which puzzled me since it isn't the most flattering fabric unless you are svelte. I loved some of the beaded fringe pieces including a jacket that revealed a waterfall of orange and red shimmering crystals. Prints include fans, Kanji characters, and cherry blossoms. Several of the evening gowns were gravity-defying strapless bustier silhouettes with deep plunging side slits that revealed the model's ribs. Not sure how many in attendance are lithe enough to work such revealing clothing, but the beauty of couture is the ability of the client to modify a look.

Now it is off to Givenchy and a Chanel show at dusk...tout a l'heure.

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