Paris menswear shows ends recession-defiant note
Sun Jan 25, 4:00 PM EST
Jenny Barchfield, Associated Press Writer



PARIS – Paris menswear displays ended Sunday with a flourish of flowing jackets, schoolboy bow-ties and profusely pleated pants as designers here refused to bow to the gloomy recession aesthetic that has cast a pall over other fashion capitals.

French label Lanvin put its money not on pinstripes or other business-friendly fabrics but sumptuous woolen knits that billowed or clung to the body in soft waves, creating a sensuous, romantic look.

Across town, Dior Homme was all hard lines and sharp angles. Although the house sent out mostly black suits — a menswear staple in hard times — its innovative tailoring pushed the look forward.

British designer Paul Smith staged an energetic show that drew inspiration from the mischievous English schoolboy.

Throughout menswear week, which began on Thursday, other Paris designers also put flight and fancy above pure pocketbook concerns. Highlights included John Galliano — who sent out models made up as Pan, the man-goat hybrid — and Givenchy, with its medieval S&M look.

Paris' haute couture shows start Monday with displays by Giorgio Amani Prive and Christian Dior. The shows are generally grand spectacles that garner huge publicity for the handful of labels that still offer wildly expensive, made-to-measure garments.

LANVIN

Superb construction was at the heart of the winter 2009-2010 collection, which featured the French label's hallmark visible seams and darts and raw hems.

Suits and jackets were cut wide, but fabrics — mostly knits in dusky tones of gray and black — were so supple that the silhouette remained quite narrow.

The single- and double-breasted jackets were inviting to the touch, and wide-legged pants fell in luxurious ripples. Perfectly pleated slim trousers tapered through the calf and were tucked into tall boots.

Flowing scarves, some knotted into jaunty bows, adorned necklines, and many of the models wore woolen beret-meets-beanie hats.

Lanvin's artistic director, Alber Elbaz — who directs the label's menswear designer, Dutchman Lucas Ossendrijver — said they had aimed to create a collection that looked lived-in.

"I wanted to give that kind of emotion to clothes so they don't look like they you just took them from a rack in the store, but maybe from your suitcase," Elbaz told The Associated Press.

DIOR HOMME

Black suits that were anything but boring dominated at Dior Homme.

Asymmetrical cuts, strap and metalwork closures and heaps of pleats created an edgy, bold silhouette that played on volumes and contrast.

Designer Kris Van Assche — who in 2007 replaced Hedi Slimane, the creator of the ultra-slim suit that was the house's star piece — dared go big, sending out billowy pants that bucked the overall trend in the Paris menswear shows toward slim trousers. A plethora of pleats fanning out from the low-slung waist band gave the pants an almost bubble cut through the hips and thighs.

Jackets dispensed with buttons, with one often asymmetrical flap closing over the another with hooks or graphic straps.

Turtlenecks, a recurring favorite at the Paris shows, were given a graphic twist. Cut in stiff white broadcloth, the generously draped necks stood straight up with contrasting black lining on the inside.

The entire show was black and white, and the closest thing to gray was a double-breasted overcoat in black and white bouclee.

French actress Beatrice Dalle praised the collection, which she called "really nice, really sober."

"Although sobriety is not necessarily what I look for in a man," Dalle said with a smile.

PAUL SMITH

The English schoolboy, with his tweed-heavy wardrobe and penchant for irreverent mixing and matching, had the run of the catwalk.

The collection was whimsical and fun even if Smith, whose flair for giving classics a twist has won him a worldwide following, didn't stray far from his label's hallmark style.

Tweed professor blazers were paired with slim plaid trousers and smart wool jackets were worn over cycling jerseys in bright primary colors. Flashes of hot pink lining peeked out from a blazer in oatmeal-colored houndstooth.

Bow-ties largely replaced conventional neckties, somehow managing to look dapper and not too out of place on the teenage models.

The same cannot be said for the show's clunky plastic eyeglasses. Those wearing the heavy, Clark Kent-style frames looked as if they were itching to rip off the nerd gear and re-emerge in tights and spandex.


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