PARIS (AP) — Paris blew hot and cold on Tuesday with haute couture shows that evoked a frosty ice queen and the summer sun of southwestern France.
Chanel stayed true to its sober style, sending out a snowy collection of sharp suits and lean gowns that glittered with frost-colored sequins.
Christian Lacroix, a native of the sun-drenched southwestern French city of Arles, managed to scatter the clouds in overcast Paris with his vibrant spring-summer display.
At Givenchy, designer Riccardo Tisci married feather-light fabrics with leather straps that had an S&M quality about them to create a subversive-yet-feminine look.
His was among the strongest shows yet of the three-day-long haute couture week, which wraps up on Wednesday with displays by Valentino, Jean Paul Gaultier and Elie Saab.
Sequins and rhinestones sparkled like icicles on A-line cocktail dresses, which were paired with abbreviated bellboy jackets and short-sleeve caplets that fitted squarely over the shoulder.
Nowhere was the expert work of the label's famed "petites mains" — the seamstresses and embroiderers who hand-stitch the made-to-measure garments — as evident as on the collection's evening gowns.
Long and lean, the architectural dresses shimmered with thousands of sequins and feathery strips of chiffon. Designer Karl Lagerfeld also paired white matchstick trousers with long capes, their hemlines heavy with beadwork.
Bond girl Olga Kurylenko hailed the collection as "absolutely stunning."
"It was so elegant, the lines were so modern and graphic, and it was a mix or romanticism with modernism," the Ukrainian-born actress and model told The Associated Press.
Papery white camellias, Chanel's trademark flower, adorned the garments and the models' hair — some on wiry crowns of thorns. Framed by a bonnet of white petals, one model's face was like the center of a flower.
Lacroix described the collection as a return to his roots in the southwestern French city of Arles, which, with its warm weather and bullfighting rings, has a Spanish feel. It drew on all the designer's signature elements, from eyepopping colors to polka-dot prints to heavy brocade and matador costumes.
"It's the flowers, the summer, the south" of France, he told The AP in a backstage interview. "I take those elements, which have been there since my very first collection, and try to update them."
Tufts of crinoline and ornate appliqués added a baroque touch to short cocktail dresses in a rainbow of saturated colors.
Lacroix borrowed from the wardrobe of Arles' matadors, adding toreador touches to much of the collection. A red sash punctuated a gorgeous ruffled pantsuit in navy and white polka dots.
Even the bride, who was swathed in layers of ivory tulle, wore a matador's jacket in baby blue with heavy gold embroidery.
The show, held at Paris' Pompidou Center modern art museum, was heavy on accessories. Models wore chunky plastic bangles stacked up to their skinny elbows and rhinestone-studded hoop earrings so heavy they had to be tied onto their heads with ribbon.
Ivana Trump, the former wife of billionaire developer Donald Trump, called the show "amazing."
"It's a gorgeous spectacle, as always," said Trump, one of the rare women who purchase the wildly expensive made-to-measure haute couture garments. "I'm a good customer."
The first look set the tone for the rest of the kinky, feminine collection: A translucent beige tulle blouse revealed the outline of a bra-like harness of black leather and silver chains.
Airy goddess gowns in pastel hues were given a S&M kick by patent-leather straps that peeked out from beneath delicate folds on the bodice or crisscrossed bare backs.
French actress Emmanuelle Seigner said her favorite look was a series of dresses made out of elastic bands draped in ivory lace — like a chic mummy bride.
Asked whether she thought the dresses, which left little to the imagination, were wearable, Seigner replied "but of course," with a saucy smile.
Chains played a subtler role in Tuesday's show, where they were integrated into the structure of the dresses.
The collection managed to be fashion-forward while remaining consistent with Gothic-romantic look Tisci has developed since he took over at Givenchy in 2005.
Even Hans Christian Andersen wouldn't recognize the little mermaid imagined by Zuhair Murad. The Lebanese designer sent out a deep sea seductress in sparkling metallics and strategically placed shells.
The show was made up of endless evening gowns which, tight through the bust and torso, flared out into kicky mermaid tails. Warm tones of orange, beige and blue dominated, and pleated aqua-colored silks undulated like water.
The dresses were embroidered with chunks of real coral and bits of broken sea shells — in addition to what seemed like tons of sequins and rhinestones.
Models carried clutches shaped like shells, and the perilously high platform heels were similarly embellished.
Murad, who caters to a moneyed Middle Eastern clientele, shows on the margins of Paris' haute couture week.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.