Paris fashion: Excess at Balmain; Chloe designer makes debut

By THOMAS ADAMSON Markets Associated Press

Claudia Schiffer and Pamela Anderson added some star quality to Paris Fashion Week's decadent Balmain collection Thursday, while a debut from Chloe's new designer wowed the crowds.

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Here are some highlights of Thursday's spring-summer 2018 ready-to-wear shows.

BALMAIN'S OPERATIC EXCESS

Fashion needs its showmen, and Balmain's designer Olivier Rousteing is one of them.

On Thursday he took his guests to the opulent Paris Opera, where thousands of white roses peeped out of foliage decorating the venue's stone staircase.

And in case guests were unsure what event they were attending, a giant gold-medallion embossed "Balmain Paris" gleamed in the center.

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Model Natalia Vodianova strutted out to operatic music, sporting a loose black sheeny jumpsuit, gold-chain shoulder-straps and see-through PVC boots.

Her look set the tone — this may be the opera house, but nothing shown here will be classical. Designs with unadulterated excess followed, with sheer printed plastic skirts, angular black perforated sweaters, and speckled corsets with strategically placed zippers.

Stripe motifs, horizontal bands and Rousteing's signature warrior-like stitching then added some kinetic energy to looks dominated by black, white and silver — with a flash of vivid color.

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SCHIFFER CAUSES A STIR

It was all screams, elbows and shoving as supermodel Claudia Schiffer appeared suddenly from nowhere in front of the Paris Opera.

She triggered mayhem as she stepped out of a car alone for the Balmain show, sporting the voluminous hairstyle and Breton stripes reminiscent of French sex bomb Brigitte Bardot.

It's the first public appearance the 47-year-old German has made since she grabbed headlines at Milan Fashion Week, modelling alongside supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen and Carla Bruni in Donatella Versace's eponymous show.

Schiffer is promoting her upcoming book, which looks at her 30 years in the fashion industry.

Joining her on the Balmain front row was former Playboy Playmate Pamela Anderson, who wouldn't comment on Hugh Hefner's death at the age of 91.

Later in the day, Balmain will launch a new lipstick collection with L'Oreal at a celebrity-filled soiree.

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NATACHA'S GLORIOUS DEBUT

In one of the most hotly-anticipated shows of the season, the low-key designer Natacha Ramsay-Levi brought some much-needed magic back to the house of Chloe in a finessed first collection.

A Victorian spirit infused the fresh, spring looks replete with high collars and detailed embroideries, while the house's signature '70s boho look was captured in fluid silk blouses with geometric motifs of flowers, peacock feathers and magical eyes.

Model of the moment Kaia Jordan Gerber, the 16-year-old daughter of Cindy Crawford, showed off contrasting snake boots.

"Chloe girls have a suave mix of sophistication and humility, they are timeless but never conventional," said Ramsay-Levi, who was formerly Nicolas Ghesquiere's chief lieutenant at Louis Vuitton.

The beauty of the show was in its detail and execution: A handbag sported multiple hanging colored straps and chains, and an off-white layered gown was cut on the bias with a back panel that rippled and bounced.

Chloe's former designer Clare Waight Keller will present her debut collection for Givenchy on Sunday morning.

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ORGANIZATIONAL HICCUPS AT CHLOE

Spring wasn't quite in the air in Chloe's show planning — despite the perfection of the clothes.

The house got fashionistas out of bed at the crack of dawn Thursday — only leave them to wait on the sidewalk for 20 minutes as it rained heavily, before the show got off to a tardy start.

There were moans and groans, some self-deprecating laughs, and lots of running make up.

Chloe's CEO Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye ventured outside in the drizzle to show he wasn't above his guests.

"How self-sacrificing!" said one journalist, sincerely.

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CARVEN DEBUTS DESIGNER

Quirky was the word as Serge Ruffieux — who led the Christian Dior couture design team under Raf Simons — unveiled his debut collection at Carven.

Contrasting colors, textures, silhouettes and styles mixed up in the show with creative effect — in ensembles that highlighted, or truncated, the torso.

Multicolored, wooly pompoms spruced up ribboned sandals.

The best looks played on proportion — such as in one oversize boxy beige workman's coat with huge pockets that was harshly truncated below the bust. Another look featured a quilted black button-down coat with a mushroom shape that evoked a regal shawl.

Though Ruffieux's debut could at times have benefited from a more cohesive approach, there were plenty of diverse fashion ideas.

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RICK OWENS' DIRT

In reaction to the dirtiness of modern life — or what he calls "socio-economic peril" — American designer Rick Owens wants to start afresh.

His womenswear collection, titled "Dirt," did just that — and presented the proposition of a blank canvas, tabula rasa.

Starting with white fabric, Owens wrapped models' bodies in abstract shapes that evoked a loin cloth at one point, then a sari and later, a toga.

The styles saw one leg wrapped in a legging and a bandage, as if the models were being treated after a perilous war, perhaps a socio-economic one.

A long symmetrical sleeve hung down, as if the arm were hanging by a thread.

Sneaker-clogs in white, green and gold sported giant rudimentary strapping that looked almost medical.

"I feel I need to propose experimental grace and form as a gesture of turning away from threat," the designer said, enigmatically.

The collection title was brought home in the final sculptural looks in blue, black and white that saw multiple webbed layers of material piled up around the body and looked like a microbe under a microscope.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamson_K