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Jean Paul Gaultier appeals to the older woman in Paris show

Jean Paul Gaultier wooed women who, in his words, "don't want to look like their 20-year-old daughters" in a characteristically frisky fall-winter show Saturday during Paris fashion week.

Working with "slightly backward-looking cliches of elegance," plus a soundtrack harking back to the 1960s, Gaultier sought to "recast an image from memory with materials and effects from today".

French comedienne Valerie Lemercier joined the parade of models with towering beehive hairdos who descended the runway, threw down a scarf or a jacket in front of the photographers, then strolled back.

Thrown into the mix was the Australian male model Andrej Pejic, 19, a favourite of Gaultier, 57, for his long straight blonde hair and an androgynous style that made him almost indistinguishable from his female counterparts.

Earlier in the day, Haider Ackermann, the Antwerp-based designer whose name is popping up as a possible successor to the disgraced John Galliano at Christian Dior, presented one of the best-received shows of the season.

His sensual and pure collection at the Palais de Tokyo featured voluminous layered dresses in silk, satin and leather, sometimes with a shoulder bared, or a leg slit high, or a very low-cut neckline.

The result was a colourful, sexy yet freshly elegant silhouette from the Colombian-born adopted son of a French couple who spent much of his formative years living in Africa.

Paris fashion week - a misnomer for an event that runs nine days - opened on Tuesday amid scandal when John Galliano, chief designer at Christian Dior for 15 years, was fired amid a furore over alleged anti-Semitic remarks.

Galliano publicly apologised for his drunken conduct in a Parisian cafe, but denied being anti-Semitic, as he reportedly left for a rehab clinic in Arizona pending trial in France over his purported remarks.

Dior went ahead without Galliano on Friday and unveiled its fall-winter collection, sending out members of its atelier team in white lab coats for a standing ovation at the end of the show - the moment when the flamboyant London-bred designer would normally have taken a theatrical bow.

Galliano's eponymous own label, majority owned by Dior, had been scheduled to stage its show for Sunday, but that event has been downsized to a simpler presentation for buyers and journalists only.

In other shows on Saturday, the avant-garde Dutch design duo of Viktor and Rolf lowered a drawbridge and sent out a robotic army in sharply-sculpted outfits inspired by medieval knights.

With their faces made up to look sun-burned red, the models emerged from a kind of underground inferno to parade down the runway in Les Tuileries to a martial-techno beat.

The tone-setting opening look - a dark jacket with a big, whimsical collar - was followed by pleated skirts and dresses in white, black, leather and metallic shades, sometimes with stylised floral details at the shoulders.

Evening wear featured a severe tuxedo suit cinched with a wide belt.

Australian-born, Paris-based designer Martin Grant kept it characteristically sharp and sophisticated at his fall-winter show in the Ecole des Beaux Arts that opened to the beat of Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street."

Seizing the limelight - and likely to be a customer favourite - was a glossy poppy-red trench coat, together with a fur-collared coat that was long enough almost to kiss the floor.