Saint Laurent, Elie Saab are saleable, predictable

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Associated Press

Posted on September 30, 2013 at 7:06 PM

PARIS (AP) — It's a tricky balancing act for Paris fashion designers to express their individuality and still bear witness to the trends.

A case in point is Saint Laurent's Hedi Slimane whose spring-summer 2014 show — one of the biggest of Monday's ready-to-wear collections — stuck steadfastly to his obsession with Rock 'n' Roll styles, showing him impervious to the current fashion conversation.

Some called it bold, others out of touch — but most remained baffled.

Whatever it may be, it intentionally produced a saleable collection of early 80s sparkling disco dresses, that will continue to attract young hipsters and carry on the house's reportedly buoyant sales figures.

Elie Saab, too, produced a collection that didn't stray far from his signature va-va-voom silhouettes and feminine cinched waists that will please his loyal clientele, though it packed no great creative surprises.

But is being commercial, to the detriment of the artistic, necessarily a bad thing?

Other shows of the day included Stella McCartney's beautiful display that played with undressing and hinted at nudity, and Giambattista Valli who, too, exposed inches of flesh in the leg and midriff.

SAINT LAURENT

There was not much excitement to be had here.

Slimane moved away from grunge into his very young-looking Eighties disco ball styles that riffed on glam rock, with ultra-tight micro minis, red lip prints and pink sequins.

The silhouettes were variations on the French-born designer's previous collections, with some wearable pin striped menswear blazer jackets — and one great look which appeared to be a tuxedo jumpsuit. (None were, however, a patch on Yves Saint Laurent's "Le smoking.")

A highly creative assymmetical, black and white optical dress stood out midway through the show — and promised to be the start of some creative evolutions in the rest of the collection. The promise was dashed as the rather homogenous hipster styles continued to the end.

Slimane's signature is turning out to be the skinny pants with Rockabilly leather jackets and cool, intentionally inexpensive-looking thrown-on looks that appeal to a young buyer.

But the big question many fashion editors are asking is: How many 18-24 year olds really have several thousand euros (dollars) to spend on a jacket or a metallic mini skirt?

ELIE SAAB

Elie Saab channeled the colors of flowers for parts of his spring-summer 2014 show.

The Lebanese designer's usual explorations of cinched high-waisted, narrow plunging gowns were thus given splashes of camellia white, eglantine rose, bougainvillea and verdant green "herbe de tendresse." The rose-bed palette gave way to some lace dresses fabricated using needlepoint, which the program notes say aimed to "imitate the wild foliage of a garden."

But Saab isn't wild enough.

There were a couple of interesting new looks such as a long hanging vivid red dress with sporty vest straps that swept the floor nicely, but the designer needs to stray more often from his rather restrictive and commercially-minded bread-and-butter silhouettes.

STELLA MCCARTNEY

For Stella McCartney's subtle collection was sensual step-by-step guide on how to get naked with your clothes still on.

To a soundtrack featuring the words "Let's get naked," McCartney sent out fluid satin and organza oval silhouettes — one in brilliant white — slashed to reveal peek-holes through to the flesh.

Diaphanous lace dresses in red, coffee and black mixed thick fabric and see-through sections that played on visual depths, seeming to hover above the skin. "Understated seduction" was how the program characterized the airy mood.

Elsewhere, faux croc skin scales made of fabric were appliqued on a sheer material to reveal glimpses of the body. For animal rights activist McCartney, this faux-croc touch was a creative way to get around using real skin.

McCartney, whose shows often have a sporty vibe, kept this cool element with zippers, athletic sports tops and futuristic John Lennon-style round shades.

Those looks were cheered on from the front row by the late Lennon's songwriting pal (and the designer's dad): former Beatle Paul McCartney.

GIAMBATTISTA VALLI

Summer was literally in the air at Giambattista Valli's Paris show.

A lack of effective air conditioning heated guests beyond comfort.

When the show began intense white light bulbs turned on, upping the temperature even more. Several models broke out into a sweat under this bright science lab decor.

The collection's aesthetic also showed that Valli is one designer who embraces heat wholeheartedly.

The first looks in black and white featured ultra mini skorts (a skirt with shorts underneath), elegant crop tops, and below-the-knee slit skirts that exposed the leg right up to the hip.

Wide fabric swirl details provided the otherwise simple show's creative elements, creating an ascending silhouette around the midriff like an unfurling flower.

But apart from a great flash of bright yellow on a micro dress and 3-D appliqued flowers, Valli seemed to have lost some of the energy seen in his diaphanous couture show in July.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

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