Designers Blend Opposites

Short meets long and faux becomes real in the European ready-to-wear shows

IN European fashion this season it's right to be wrong (uneven hemlines, unfinished seams), real to be fake (silk varnished to look like plastic and nylon), and avant-garde to rear back (bustles, trains, tails.)

Last season, it was fashionable to look filmy (see-through everything). For fall, it's ``filmy'' to look fashionable (a movie by Robert Altman, called ``Pret-a-Porter,'' is being made about fashion-world intrigue. The stars include Sophia Loren, Kim Basinger, Sally Kellerman, and Lauren Bacall.)

The idea is that opposites attract. Mannish pantsuits share the runways with baby-doll dresses. Long coats share the body with short dresses. Fake furs blend right in with the real stuff. The West looks to the East for inspiration. Futurists delve back to the 1960s again as their favorite launching pad to the 21st century.

Here are the trends for fall-winter 1994-95:

The great pretenders

``Fake doesn't imitate real any longer; real imitates fake,'' Karl Lagerfeld said after his triumphant Chanel show.

The real black and white Chanel jacket that opened his show was a fluffy, unreal fur and the faux-fur ranged from hip-to-hem bands on skirts to handbags, hats, muffs, and hair bows, some of them in vibrant acid colors.

The most stunning statement on fabric-as-fur came from the world's most famous furriers, the Fendis of Rome. Carla Fendi says the company's decision to make a fake fur collection as well as to mix fake fur with real fur in the main collection is a fashion statement, not a political statement.

In the Fendi lineup for fall are coats and jackets combining fake Persian with real fox; Mongolian lamb with boiled wool; feather-stitched shearlings inspired by American sampler embroideries; fake mink bordered with white plastic telephone cording; and fake beaver, Persian, fox, and chinchilla. Some of the real furs were covered with rubberlike plastic raincoats with perforations to let the fur breathe.

Claude Montana's white fake-fur snowball dress and Lagerfeld's rib-knit dress with fake-fur bustle and cape collar for Chloe were among the most imaginative fakes of the season.

Other achievements in making real look fake came from Gianni Versace, whose amazing ``plastics'' turned out not to be vinyl at all but silk varnished, lacquered, or pearlized to look like plastic. The plastic idea may have started in the '6Os, as did Versace's short double-breasted jackets over short A-line skirts, but he has made all of them look '90s-new.

Lagerfeld also used his powers of deception to turn silk into what could pass for the Rip-Stop nylon used in ski jackets and hiking gear. The fabric appeared at Chanel in padded pants and knee pants as well as jackets and vests.

The great defender

In a move to stop polluting the environment, Milan's Franco Moschino created a collection dedicated to ``inflicting the least possible damage to the environment and the animal kingdom.''

The designer says he has stopped using dyes, fabrics, and print procedures that are ecologically harmful. His newest jackets are hand dip-dyed in vegetable dyes, and his newest prints are taken photographically from science textbooks ``in an effort not to alter the God-given details.''

Issey Miyake expressed ``going green'' by featuring hats that sprouted green grass, and his edible bread hats also gave new meaning to the word ``consumption,'' as the model bit off a hunk of the brim and ate it.

The rear guard

Remember the scene in ``The Piano'' where Holly Hunter creates a tent on the beach out of her hoop skirt? The idea has caught fire here in hoops, cages, and other devices that pouf, rustle, and bustle the silhouette - especially the backside.

Valentino dedicated the finale of his much-applauded show to the film, interpreting voluminous 19th-century dresses in back-sweeping taffetas and other shiny fabrics enriched with feathers and roses.

Westwood's new bummed-out look consists of padded, bustle-like underpinnings that exaggerate the derriere. These poufed-out behinds bottomed out everything from coats to suits and dresses.

The trend to bustle-like fullness appears even in daytime jackets, such as Emanuel Ungaro's checked wool jacket and Lagerfeld's button-on hankies for his signature collection as well as his fake-fur bustles for Chloe. Ozbek's mouse-tailed jackets and Lagerfeld's tail-like jacket streamers also contribute to the rear-guard movement.

Promises of the East

Kimonos, obis (broad sashes with bows in the back), satin damask Oriental prints, Mao and Mandarin collars, padded jackets, Raj jackets, fezzes, robe-like coats - all have their roots in the East. Perhaps more than any single garment, the real contribution of this passage to India, Turkey, Persia, Indochina, China, and Japan is the different esthetic it brings to fashion. The focus is on the fabric rather than the body, and the new interpretations have an unfinished quality that makes them modern. This eastward movement could signal the end of tight, body-revealing ``Western'' clothes (Madame Chiang Kai-shek's cheongsam notwithstanding) and new beginnings for wrap-and-tie dressing. Even conventional suits and dresses look new with self-wrap ties as at Jean- Paul Gaultier.

John Galliano's obis also give a new spin to such standard Western fare as double-breasted jackets. Picture a black organza jacket sashed in a wide obi with flat bow in back and worn with sheer seamed stockings and high heels, and you get some idea of how East meets West at the fashion frontier.

The big sports

Down-filled and/or padded parkas climb the mountains of chic for fall with Gaultier's trans-Siberian Eskimos leading the pack in fake fur-lined sheepskin parkas, followed by Chanel's down-filled jackets with quilted, down-filled pants, Gianfranco Ferre's down-filled parkas for Dior in brown sequins and glazed reptile, Montana's glacial, spatial parkas and parka-ponchos in snow white, and Sonia Rykiel's down-filled red velvet show stopper.

Racer stripes sped down the runways, looking especially directional on the knits at Dior and Chanel.Les legs

From Valentino's ombre tights for Oliver and his paisley prints for his own collection to Versace's sequined pantyhose and Lacroix's velvet-lavished trompe l'oeil hosiery that looks like boots, legwear is the key for making short skirts look new. And legwear also includes boots - ankle boots, rubber wading boots, calf-high grannies, knee-highs, back-laced over-the-knee boots, and Three Musketeer thigh-highs. Most are set on high shaped heels.

The most futuristic boots are Lagerfeld's see-through plastics, and the most futuristic shoes are Jean Colonna's ruby-red sequined slippers from the land of Oz.

Manning it

Menswear pantsuits live on, especially in pin-stripes. Romeo Gigli's renditions look new with long Nehru-inspired velvet jacket-coats, Jil Sander's sparkle with metallic yarns, and Dolce e Gabbana's are worn with the hottest new jewelry item of the season - silver identification necklaces.

Giorgio Armani offers coolly serene jackets that barely touch the body, many with longer overblouses and tunics and narrowish cuffed pants. His newest jackets, some cut with princess seaming, have cascading lapels. The man who reinvented the jacket, stripping it of its manliness, is now reinventing the dress in a flowing, fit-and-flare shape over narrow pants. The beaded versions for evening are works of heart and art.

Fashion as art

The two most thought-provoking shows of the season are by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons and Miyake. Kawakubo's poignant clothes message captured the metamorphic mood of the moment with her cocoon-like coats that wrap the body in one piece of boiled-wool fabric that knots or is caught in larva-shaped rolls at the side. Her raw-edged clothes with unfinished hemlines and raveling seams took the audience from selvage to salvage.

Miyake's uplifting message is a fabric story told with charm and wit. In addition to his brilliant pleats and pre-wrinkled fabrics, he wowed his audience with the most sensational hats of the season. The edible ones included not just the breads but also those made of butterscotch candy and pasta. Garbage bags, Kleenex boxes, Brillo pads, and lighted candle hats were all part of the heads-up headgear.

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