Italian designerValentino and John Galliano for Christian Dior highlighted two opposingfaces of haute couture on Jan. 23; one based on classic, redcarpet-ready elegance, the other revealing a more experimental approachfor the 21st century.
Gracefulevening gowns fluttered to the ground in luxurious white fabrics atValentino, who kept the glamour refined, sophisticated and feminine forthis spring/summer, while the silhouette was always statuesque andfluid, skimming the body.
Occasional ladylike prints ofpeonies and roses offset ruffles, pleats and diamond-encrustedembroidery, as the legendary Italian couturier, known as the 'master ofthe dress', conjured up a collection of both day and eveningwear thatwas unostentatious but clearly full of couture craftsmanship.
Saharansand dunes sought to dispell the cold chill of the Parisian night fromthe desert catwalk at the ornate Fine Arts School on the Frenchcapital's Left Bank, with the rising sun sending out a warm glow as theshow got underway.
And in lipstick red–Valentino's signaturecolor–a long silk chiffon dress with pleats and ruffles seemed to dothe trick, adding a bold fiery splash to the otherwise delicate palepink, lime, sand and white hues.
Earlier, British designerJohn Galliano dipped into revolutionary France for his spectacularcollection for Christian Dior that was imbued with passion, creativelightness and dramatic effect.
From the word go, the effectwas pure drama, heightened by the soundtrack of swishing swords andneighing horses. For starters, the British designer sent out ablood-red embroidered satin cape as a taster of what was to come–red,red and more red.
As Galliano said in his crimson-colouredshow notes, "Red is the New Libertine," and a scarlet voluminous dresswas breathtaking with a jet black cross hanging around the neck andadorned with black embellishment.
Another ecclesiasticalovertone came in the form of a black hooded coat–until the eye reacheddown to the richly glittering thick band edging the bottom.
Butthe creative strength of haute couture was also much on display inGalliano's highly structured use of leather, which he described as "thenew luxury." As well as trousers, jackets and dresses, the models allwore heavy brown boots.
These set off the lightness of thegarments created out of masses of fine fabrics such as tulle, chiffonand taffeta, that was often heavily draped and seemingly effortlesslysculpted.
Light veils were wrapped around the heads of the models, who all wore white frizzy wigs. One had 1789 written on her chest.
Lacesran up trouser legs, boots, corsets and on the back of garmentsoffering another historical reference. For the finale, a light-as-airwedding dress floated in embroidered ecru crin, lace and tulle, with aveil off one shoulder.
French actor Jean Reno and Ivana Trumpattended the show, which culminated with the designer, ever theshowman, making a dramatic appearance, fencing sword in hand, to takehis traditional bow.
Adeline Andre sent out a multitude ofvariations of the silk dress in new colours, also shown on the firstday of the spring/summer haute couture 2006 collections being shown atvarious venues across the French capital. Simple fluid lines onlyhighlighted her technical command.
A cardigan dress in deeppurple and sky blue silk was sensational, while delicate green andyellow provided a vivid splash for summer. An avowed lover of colour,Andre said she is always looking for unusual ones.
Alsoshowing his collection on the first day was Portugal's Felipe OliveiraBaptista, who could not have offered a greater contrast to thetheatrical Dior show.
Danger was uppermost on OliveiraBaptista's mind for his second appearance on the official couturecalendar, as he sent out garments that he described afterwards asinspired by armour.
Under the cupola of the Palais de laDecouverte science museum, the collection appeared minimalist with asomber palette of black, white, big black and white checks and murkyturquoise.
But with every garment, the designer explored theart of structure, crafting tops of dresses out of sharply cut shapes,strips and panels, asymmetrical or overlapping, but fitting togetherand held by pins.
This was teamed over light, narrowly pleatedskirts or a sloping waistline, like the fringes of the models' croppedpageboy haircuts.
A large wing motif standing off theshoulder, or a gun holster-shaped cut-out over a chocolate brown dressadded both witty and military touches to a collection which thedesigner said had set out to explore "the contrast between fragilityand danger."
Ruffles added a flourish, cascading down thefront of a dress, while sequins traced a sparkly outline on a simpleblack dress falling above the knee and lapels curled obedientlyoutwards on a white trouser suit.
Karl Lagerfeld for Chanelkicks off the second day of spring-summer haute couture catwalk showsin Paris today, followed later in the day by Christian Lacroix andGivenchy.
by Kate Miller, Copyright 2006 Agence France-Presse