Gaultier explores the wonder of the deep

PARIS, Jan 23, 2008 (AFP) -From seashells to mermaids, real and imaginary inhabitants of the deep were the inspiration of Jean Paul Gaultier's summer haute collection on Wednesday.



Jean-Paul Gaultier spring-summer 2008 - Photo : François Guillot/AFP

His show opened with a cheeky reinterpretation of Copenhagen's famous little mermaid reclining on a rock surrounded by soap bubbles.

Gaultier's mermaids, with flowing damp tresses, sported his infamous conical bras over their fishtail skirts, which looked like real scales.

He also showed a new take on his classic blue-and-white striped fishermen's jersey, almost morphed into a mini-dress in a lacy knit, over a fishtail skirt in shiny sequins.

A little black dress had shoulders swathed in a fish net, while wide flowing pants swirled like seaweed and jackets looked as if they had been encrusted with seashells.

Models showed off tattooed legs under sweet floral frocks and carried oriental parasols over jumpsuits in silk printed with vegetation.

The bride, in a mother-of-pearl shell conical bra and gold fish scales, hobbled on with crutches, which she discarded after unzipping her mermaid tail to be able to use both her legs to a storm of applause, led by Catherine Deneuve and ex-model Ines de la Fressange.

Lebanon's Elie Saab, who showed earlier Wednesday, is one of the designers with most reason to lament if the Oscars ceremony is cancelled over the screenwriters' dispute, as custom-made red carpet gowns form the core of his couture collection.

Nothing experimental or difficult to wear, his dresses are designed to make a woman look every inch the screen goddess when she is in the limelight.

For next summer he based his palette on the rarest of precious stones -- coloured diamonds -- in citrine yellow, aqua blue and the palest pink.

He opened with short cocktail frocks with flippy skirts in Chantilly lace or guipure studded with strass and silver pearls.

A dainty bolero cardigan dripped with sequins, while delicate ostrich feathers ruffled hems or necklines.

Grand evening gowns were often backless sheaths pinned in front with a huge rhinestone brooch, or single-shouldered with a wide rhinestone-encrusted strap.

Sashes swished from the tightly-ruched bodices of slinky lurex numbers and big trains trailed behind in clouds of tulle with an intricate cobweb of silver embroidery and spangled with crystals and bands of sequins.

France's Franck Sorbier treated his audience to a series of delightful tableaux to present his ideas for next summer.

First came a picnic with men in denim suits and caps with frayed seams put together from vintage jeans and women in ethereal fin-de-siecle white organza dresses, with raffia-embroiderery or delicately sprinkled with hand-painted pink petals.

To sit by the seaside he showed a 1930s vintage print dressing gown over an old-fashioned cover-up corseted swimsuit. Two models with Eton crops sported fabulous pyjamas in Art Deco prints in stripes and black and white spots, accessorised by a dalmation.

After the gentle nostalgia, he woke everybody up with a group of Tahitian drummers in raffia skirts while the models showed off exquisitely worked evening gowns in raffia and feathers and extraordinary patchworks of over-embroidered and shredded silk chiffon. These are Sorbier's hallmark and proof that ethnic can be sophisticated and refined in the right hands.by Dominique Schroeder and Sarah Shard

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