Fashion industry's coming of age on show in Paris

PARIS, Nov 24, 2010 (AFP) -From Italian "porno chic" to Japanese pleats, conceptual Belgians and French sophistication, the past two decades of fashion history go on display Thursday in a new show in Paris.


Carrousel du Louvre

After the festive excesses of the 1970s and the theatrical 1980s, "the 1990s saw the industry come of age, became more professional," curator Olivier Saillard told AFP.

"By this point, to be a designer is also to be a businessman. This meant the clothes were possibly better made -- but we are dealing with an industry that leaves no place for fooling around."

Global affairs took a darker turn in the following decade, as the world grappled with the September 11 attacks, terrorism, climate change and financial meltdown -- ushering in a more sober, discreet period for fashion design.

But the 2000s also brought "surprises" like the rise of Israel's Alber Elbaz at Lanvin and France's Nicolas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga with a quiet, sophisticated brand of luxury that broke with the "flashiness" of so-called porno chic in the late 1990s.

Saillard built the show around groups of designers who took turns stamping their mark on fashion in the 1990s and 2000s, with 150 items plucked from their most emblematic collections.

First comes the Belgian school -- with dresses made of fishnets or blonde wigs at Martin Margiela, kimono dresses and peasant skirts at Dries Van Noten, or black leather from Ann Demeulemeester.

Followed the Japanese, with Rei Kawabuko at Comme des Garcons and her bulbous, assymmetrical dresses made of polyester foam, her technicity echoed at Issey Miyake with his emblematic collection "Pleast Please".

Then comes the English school, from the grande dame of British fashion, Vivienne Westwood, to the rebel designers John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, whose death this year marked the end of the fashion decade.

The Italians get a look in with a bare-backed cream dress from Dolce and Gabbana, or muted tweeds and feathers at Prada.

And the show celebrates a group that "revived" French haute couture, from Jean-Paul Gaultier with a dress pairing a denim bustier with an ostrich-feather skirt, to Christian Lacroix and to Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel.

More broadly Saillard sees the late 1990s as a time of revival for couture, which "became a communication and image issue" as "both Chanel and Dior worked to keep their house's Parisian couture operations alive."

"The 1990s-2000s: An ideal history of fashion" runs at the Caroussel du Louvre in Paris until May 8.

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