This week's Paris shows brought out the Wild West in some of Europe's premier designers.
Stella McCartney let her stallions run free for Chloe, Christian Lacroix featured holster belts and Gaultier found inspiration in Hell's Angels.
It all added up to a number of uneven collections for spring/summer 2001. Highlights follow.
Chloe: All the Pretty Horses
Chloe may be the Paris house receiving the most attention these days. This is thanks, in no small way, to the fact that Stella McCartney, daughter of Beatle Paul, is at its helm.
At this week's fashion shows, the rock star progeny went all out with an equestrian theme — wild horse motifs showed up on sweaters, dresses and, well, just about everything.
While the clothes were well-cut, the horse imagery was an awkward gimmick that recalled the equine posters on a teenager's bedroom walls. A miss for Stella, although some critics applauded her jeans and use of striped fabrics.
Christian Lacroix: A Failed Experiment
Normally known for ladylike elegance, Christian Lacroix broke his own rule with a collection that looked more like experimental art than haute couture.
Models stepped out in frocks cut in a dizzying array of angular hemlines, asymmetric lapels and silky sleeves in garish colors that hung by a thread — one model looked like she'd been caught in a fishing net.
Lacroix also featured some Western-style holster belts. Paired with fringes on wrapped skirts and the odd feather on the head, well, partner, the models looked like cowboys gone astray. "It looked like he ripped them apart and stitched them back together again," Bloomingdales buyer Kalman Rutenstein said about the outfits.
Jean-Paul Gaultier: Rock On
French design maestro Jean-Paul Gaultier, who rocketed to fame on Madonna's bra tips, seemed right at home during the continuing '80s revival. He unleashed a rock 'n' roll riot, blowing away genteel competitors with a gang of leather-clad bad girls and heavy-metal thunder.
Marrying castaway fragments of fabric and the occasional sleeve looking like it had been borrowed from a Hell's Angel, Gaultier's ladies were rag dolls stitched together from dun-colored scraps and eggshell chiffon.
The collection's rough feel didn't scare away elegant French actress Catherine Deneuve. "It made me want to dance, it was so inventive, so lively. I adored it," she told Reuters.
Givenchy: Star Power
Rumors have circulated that British bad boy Alexander McQueen may not be at the helm of the venerable Paris design house Givenchy for much longer, but his Paris show may have proved them wrong.
His Hollywood-influenced collection had long, lean lines, sharp tailoring and sexy curves. There were slim cocktail dresses with wide-scooped necklines and wasp waists, often accentuated with wide leather corset belts that seemed tailored to the lithe body of the house's original muse, Audrey Hepburn.
But when McQueen got less girly, he scored higher marks. His well-cut blouses with cuffed pants were a hit with the critics.
Emanuel Ungaro stayed true to decorative clothing. Petals graced chiffon halter dresses, silk flowers and ribbons oozed from jacket shoulders and ruffles dribbled down the sides of gold lame trousers.
When he kept it simple, the effect was beautiful, but most outfits — in sugary shades of peach, lemon, mint and violet — were overburdened with heavy-handed ornament, like the crusty embroidery on a sheer top and the wide suede belts that swaddled hips with cowboy fringe and leather blossoms.
Valentino rarely goes astray from refinement, loving to please customers rather than the fickle press and jostling TV cameramen.
Black and white dominated in gorgeous crepe suits with pleated jackets or sun-pleated skirts, but color came up in a big way: in a red ruffled wool crepe dress, and a pastel striped chiffon short cocktail dress, light as air.
Nutty Galliano at Dior
Designer John Galliano's masterful showmanship didn't fail to impress at his show for Christian Dior, although some of his ensembles were strictly for the runway.
There they were: cat-maidens in uneven wrapped pointed skirts, patchwork battle-jackets with motorcyclist emblems, stiletto sandals and wide hip belts with studs (the wide belt is coming at us from all sides).
Even if one would not dream of wearing — much less buying — these clothes, Galliano did it with plenty of wit. A new jacket in plastic glaze looked like a lifejacket — just like the ones you get on airplanes, but in designer-flowered colors.
Mixed Bag at Balmain
Design house Balmain's show was a bit uneven, starting out in monotones with prim houndstooth skirts, white shirts and tassled black leather jackets, then bursting into color.
After an austere beginning, viewers received a reprieve from blandness as Copacabana-style beach music blared and models in bikinis and clingy summer dresses in bilious green, titillating pink and azure blue glided down the runway.
— The Associated Press, Reuters and The New York Post contributed to this report