Giorgio Armani pays haute-couture homage to Japan

Giorgio Armani paid stylistic homage to Japan on day two of the fall-winter Paris haute couture shows on Tuesday, with sharp bustier dresses making up a big chunk of his collection.

No less than a dozen of the 44 looks from Armani Prive were figure-hugging, bare-shouldered numbers - some in black velvet, others in tangerine sequins including one that suggested a mermaid that had just emerged from the sea.

Overall the styles - matched with piled-up geisha hair-dos - were edgier than the ivory wedding dress that the celebrated Italian designer provided Princess Charlene for her weekend nuptials with Monaco's Prince Albert.

Ever the Hollywood favourite, Armani's show at the Palais de Chaillot boasted such front-row VIPs as Cate Blanchett, Daphne Guinness and Katie Holmes, who jumped from her seat to give a solo standing ovation at the end.

Respectfully working the Japanese theme four months after the earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of the country, Armani balanced his trademark modernist tailoring with lots of silk and floral prints.

From a large black overcoat with floral details, the collection moved through black wool crepe blazers and suits matched with straight-legged trousers best worn by the slimmest of hips.

The bustier dresses came later, with the models seemingly poured into them like liquid mercury - harking back to the space-age theme of Armani's previous haute couture outing in January.

Later on Tuesday, Chanel recreated the Place Vendome after dark in the Grand Palais for a virtual retrospective of its founder Coco Chanel's contributions to fashion, from the classic tweed suit to the boater hat.

It may have been a muggy summer night in Paris, but the mood was definitely mid-winter as models meandered around a replica of the Vendome column, with Coco at the summit in lieu of Napoleon.

By paying so much respect to Chanel's legacy, it was no surprise to find a boyish quality to many of the outfits. Jacket arms ended just below the elbow, and a purple sheath gown was a welcome break from so much grey and black.

In other shows, French designer Stephane Rolland took over another part of the Palais de Chaillot to send out his collection before a multinational crowd in which Americans, Chinese, Indians and Lebanese rubbed shoulders.

The venue's Grecian columns perfectly complemented the tubular detail that Rolland worked into finely crafted gowns, dresses and suits that oozed feminine power and authority.

An intricately knitted wedding dress with sparkling crystals was a celebration of the craftsmanship that defines haute couture, even if its broad sculpted lines veered dangerously close to those of a hotel bathrobe.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian architect-turned-designer Gustavo Lins pleased his small but growing fan base by taking over a perfume boutique next to the Palais Royal to show 11 outfits that highlighted his skill at structured draping.

Passers-by peering through the shop window joined invited guests in the tiny venue in watching three models with golden lips emerge in apron dresses and overcoats in black washi, a tough Japanese paper used for origami.

Red copper necklaces found a purpose in clasping felt velvet collars over a silk mousseline scarf dress and a silk cape jacket over clinging trousers, while a mere leather string held up a long training black silk crepe dress.

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