Kenzo's circus show whisks Paris back in time

Kenzo spirited Paris back in time on Tuesday, mining four decades of in-house design to create a sumptuous line of fairy-tale folkloric costumes to ring in its own 40th birthday.

Staged in a historic indoor circus in the French capital, all plush red seats and red-and-gold curtains, the Fashion Week show by designer Antonio Marras had 40 richly-attired models take place on the central ring.

Like living dolls, Kimono-like traditional costumes wrapped the wearers from head to toe - with elaborate headdresses towering a foot high, leaving only the face visible, powdered white with coral lips.

From multicoloured striped knits dresses with a towering pom-pom head-dress, to a layering of deep fuchsia pink silks, and on to greens, reds, browns and finally, ceremonial whites, the outfits worked around the colour spectrum.

But on closer inspection, they revealed their true DNA: pieces lifted from Kenzo's archives spanning four decades, subverted, layered and reassembled.

"I saw all the pieces from the past 40 years arrive," Marras told reporters after the show. "I looked at the lines from the 80s, the 90s - they were beautiful but maybe it wasn't right to show them."

So the Sardinian designer, artistic director of the house since 2003 when its Japanese founder Kenzo Takada retired, decided to turn the clothes into something new.

"A jacket becomes a hat, a dress becomes a belt," Marras said. "It's like a journey around the world," he said. "It is also a tribute to all the designers from Kenzo's past."

The Kenzo retrospective followed the label's ready-to-wear show for spring/summer 2011 - a line of long, loose dresses in pale, exquisite prints, worn with futuristic Oriental-style platforms in bright green or pink.

A hooded dress in ivory with a green floral pattern was draped over the whole front of the body, leaving the back bare, while a blue jumpsuit was cut below the breast, with tiny spaghetti straps, worn with an orange brassiere.

A white gown with a rose pattern had drawstrings hitching up the arms and legs, creating a sporty look, while patchwork knitted dresses were part orange with a black stripe, part purple with orange dots.