Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Armani, with attitude

By Suzy Menkes
It began with Giorgio Armani's "Rock Symphony" and ended at midnight Wednesday with a barefoot Courtney Love in a Givenchy couture gown belting out "Samantha" until even the wrought iron banisters of the august Paris fashion house were shaking.
So the haute couture autumn/winter season rocked? Not exactly. Although the former model Claudia Schiffer dressed as a "Libertine" as seen through the lens of Karl Lagerfeld - the image unveiled at a party awash in Dom Perignon Champagne - did suggest the rock-the-baroque scenario of Sofia Coppola's movie "Marie Antoinette."
But parties with a decadent glamour are nothing new for couture, especially in a season with so many landmark celebrations. The surprise was to find a new vision from the maestro of Milan: Armani with attitude.
Citing his muse as David Bowie and switching from beige to shocking pink, Armani Prive challenged pre-conceptions about the designer. And although a lot looked forced (think pink - and more pink) the show had an energy and dynamism you don't get from ladylike couture.
"Soft rock," said Armani. "I thought about the women of today - a lot has changed in the world even for the wealthy. And women who may be old still want to dress young. I am designing for a woman who wants to be assertive."
You would certainly be noticed in a shawl made up of a tangle of pink and blue plumes, a pink feather coat, a bright orange bolero with ballooning, frilled sleeves and what Armani called "crinoline rock." That was a strapless dress with an egg-shaped skirt, split to one side to show off boots and recalling some of Gianni Versace's wilder creations.
But since Armani Prive has built a serious client list, the partygoers did not need to take all the hoopla too seriously. It was as if a rock band in full swing was trying to drown out the bass notes.
But those were there in the collection: a lean tuxedo, fancied up with a shocking pink shirt and one of the crumpled mini fedoras, which had a rakish charm. Then there were the opening daytime outfits that seemed eons away from glam rock, with their small jackets, deep belts and full, girlish skirts. They too came in colors, but including an inky ikat blue.
For those who wanted impeccable evening wear, silver came up as the new neutral shade and the line was slender, nipped in at the waist.
The general feeling was that Armani was testing himself, trying to break out of his own shell, rather than seeing the 60-piece collection as a wild departure from his signature style. Often the funky pieces were accessories: a single fingerless, studded glove; an egg-shaped clutch bag in vivid pink; glitter bootees; and those multicolored shawls that the designer has tinkered with in ready-to-wear.
It didn't make for a cohesive vision. But the front row guest Cate Blanchett got the show.
"It was fanstastic - so rock," she said, picking out for the red carpet a black gown with a swoosh of chartreuse taffeta. "And God is in the details - I loved the shoes."
Suzy Menkes is fashion editor at the International Herald Tribune.

Paris Fashion: The jewelers of Place Vendome get in on the act

By Suzy Menkes
With rose-red rubies dangling in the trumpet of a flower and sapphire petals spreading over diamond branches, the "Catherine" necklace from Boucheron opened up its garden of earthly delights.
This nature-inspired collection was part of a general botanical jewelry theme that sprouted as the jewelers of Place Vendome opened their doors for the haute couture season.
Haute Joallerie, as the French call it, is living up to its rarefied name now that the hedge fund managers and oligarch's wives are zoning on jewelry.
As befits their big ticket prices, these floral classics of the industry now come in eye-popping sizes with a sculptural three-dimensional effect.
Boucheron's "Fleur Fatale" has a femme fatale allure, with trembling branches of stones and diamond serpents emerging from abundant nature.
Many of these flamboyant pieces can also be un-clipped to produce a smaller brooch or pin. Shown in the salon against boxwood greenery and mesh fencing, the collection also has a more approachable side, with a tiny owl on a chain and gold grapes.
Chanel's camellia is the house signature, but shown in a scenario of a crystal cherry blossom tree, the diamond tracery of the flower took on a new dimension. So did the classic 1930s feather, its whiskers of brilliant-cut diamonds buried in the tail of a white peacock.
The jewels - including the bold J12 watch - were shown in Coco Chanel's personal apartment at the Ritz hotel, decked out for the presentation with Mademoiselle's own objects, like a camellia-patterned fan and two sculptures of deer. In the autumn, the Chanel jewelry store on Place Vendome will be renovated to showcase a collection that is still rooted in the 1930s comet pieces that Coco designed but also contains imaginative new pieces.
For Van Cleef & Arpels, flowers are always in fashion and the big crowd that showed up for the open house evening gawped over both the big pieces and some of the charming additions to the sweet Alhambra range, including mother-of-pearl butterflies.
De Grisogono, famous for its black diamonds, went green. But that meant a selection of emerald jewels in exceptional mixes of cuts, from briolettes to pave work, so that the jewels looked like haute gravel on a bracelet or like stamen heads at the center of a floral ring. Also in this garden, a diamond serpent bracelet with emerald eyes.
Dior had bouquets of multi-colored flowers in its Diorette collection, where lacquered surfaces gleamed on the nestling blooms.
Chaumet's world was sea blue at its merry summer celebration, where the courtyard of its Place Vendome store had a mock swimming pool - the better to make a big splash with its new version of its iconic diving watch. The Class One 39 MM has a Mediterranean blue face washed over with white diamonds while the face of the Haute Joaillerie version is a foaming surf of pave-set stones.