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Paris couture

A subtle palette of white, clay and stone and self-effacing silhouettes reflected a more austere mood in Paris

In a recession, they say, the top and bottom ends of every market continue to prosper. So it is little surprise that designers came out with all guns blazing for the first round of haute couture shows since the words credit crunch have been on everyone’s lips.

Although prices for the most exquisite, exclusive pieces of fashion in the world are not for the faint hearted, a loyal band of around 300 customers worldwide keep the industry afloat. And that’s quite apart from the glamorous trickle-down effect that the couture presentation has on a designer’s subsequent work and, perhaps most importantly of all, the publicity buzz generated which inadvertently translates into tills ringing to the tune of perfumes, lipsticks and handbags.

For this season, a number of coherent trends were discernable. Black and white was used by almost all the designers on show, most notably at John Paul Gaultier in tuxedo-inspired jackets; Christian Lacroix in polka dotted and dramatically striped dresses; neat 1940s style suits at Giorgio Armani Prive, and at Chanel, where it is, of course, a house signature. Otherwise, the palette across the shows was overwhelmingly subtle with ultra high maintenance white, clay, stone and soft mauve leading the way.

The feeling of modesty and discretion was continued by the silhouettes, which, in the main, sat on or around the knee and featured high necklines, often funnel or mandarin shaped taking reference from Chinese and Japanese styles.

Ruching and swathing which took the form of appliqué rosettes and sometimes had the appearance of bandaging was also an important element in collections from Valentino and Givenchy.

To counteract the malleable gentleness of these artfully draped creations, menswear references were brought into play. At Jean Paul Gaultier, sharp double-breasted tailoring with strong shoulder lines borrowed from 1980s tuxedos and at Lacroix, three piece suits were reworked and military elements were used.

So it seems that even if the couture houses will be not be directly affected by the economic climate, they have certainly acknowledged that it is happening in their collections.

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