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|Lanvin ruled exciting week PARIS With so many style options, it s not easy to see the forest for the trees, especially in the thick of a fashion week in a city as intoxicating as Paris. I ve spent the past seven days at Paris Fashion Week, devouring the delicious eye candy, trying to decipher the messages that the various fashion houses are telegraphing. It s a challenge to make sense of a scene whose only constant is change. Consumers want our existing esthetic to be satisfied, yet we yearn for it to be challenged. Meanwhile, design houses are obsessed with branding; it s how knit ugg boots they make sure they re remembered in a cacaphony of options. Then, there s the reality check of retail: Will women actually buy these ideas, wear these clothes? Will we resist being seduced by marketing strategies and just choose the pieces that best work for us? But perhaps it s most important that fall shows in Paris showed we re living in exhilarating times. Designers are working hard to bring us goods that will excite and inspire, and there were some exceptionally beautiful collections. The Belgian trained Haider Ackermann, one of fashion s most revered designers, suggested a sophisticated, pared down approach in warm autumn shades. His did the peplum waist one of the season s hottest trends better than anybody. Givenchy s Riccardo Tisci riffed on peplums too, but went the equestrian route, another big direction for fall, with arresting silhouettes and stellar garments that were both refined and edgy. Some of Tisci s garments were encrusted with mega jewels. Others featured short, wide sleeves, an interesting new silhouette. Sheer, black, pleated chiffon was draped over red satin to dramatic effect, while pants were draped and quilted. Tisci s muse, the performance artist Marina Abramovic, was joined by musicians Kanye West, P. Diddy and Alicia Keys at the show. "We were all transfixed," Abramovic said. "That s the power and the brilliance of what he does." Speaking of edge, who would imagine that a veteran like the iconic Karl Lagerfeld would still be injecting such hard core sizzle into a classically chic house like Chanel? slippers ugg His crystal inspired collection was forward, whimsical, and one of the season s most imaginative. Dark, smoky tones prevailed. Some looks were boldly embroidered with beads and crystals. Multicoloured diamond shapes appliqud to one top gave the impression of a breastplate. It was a brave collection that gives women a lot to play dress up with. Lanvin s Alber Elbaz has a love for women so strong it erupted into a celebration of disparate feel good looks as wearable as they were desirable. Elbaz couldn t wipe the smile off his face as he presented a love story of simple neoprene dresses in bright colours, dramatic full skirts, dresses in metallic lames and brocades and whimsical furs in every colour of the rainbow. It was a greatest hits package for Elbaz, who has spent a decade at the house. Sarah Burton, who heads up design at Alexander McQueen, is becoming as daring and dreamy as her legendary predecessor. Her creative play with volume, yet another huge trend, was nothing short of magical. It s amazing that only two years ago, fashion editors wondered whether the house of could continue to exist after McQueen s suicide in 2010. Burton has quieted any doubts. Her fall collection of embroidered, cinched waist coats, minis made of fur pompoms and bright fuchsia, feather trimmed dresses brings some much needed fairy tale to fashion world. Romance was in the air for Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton, who took us on a glamourous Orient Express style train adventure, and Dutch design duo Viktor and Rolf, who toyed with the notion of mystery with dramatic pieces that had a couture feel. Then there was the much loved Stella McCartney, always in tune with the modern woman s wants and needs. McCartney went the real life, sporty route and gave us tweeds and knits and masculine tailoring to keep our fall closets full. The pieces de resistance were flirty, colour blocked dresses, with little fluttering skirts. "She sure knows how to make women look beautiful!" ugg bag said Stella s father, Sir Paul McCartney, after the show. At Herms, Christophe Lemaire advocated comfort and ease as the highest form of luxury, showing us capes, blanket coats and pants that ballooned from slouchy boots could be regal. And leave it to the designers at Valentino for keeping ladylike dressing relevant by making it modern enough to woo a new generation of young women. Judging from what was shown at Paris fashion week, there ll be a multitude of possibilities for women of every age and shape this fall: peplums and cinched waits, edgy romance, equestrian chic, oversized masculine tailoring, a palette of warm colours and new takes on green to charm us. Fall 2012 promises to be about listening to your inner voice, addressing your outer body dictates and making the choices that will best tell the world who you really are. Fashion is a powerful tool. It s time to study and embrace its refined possibilities, and stride confidently through that big style forest ahead.
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